By Liana Jacob
THIS SURFER CHICK in her SIXTIES is proving that you are never too old to pursue a career in FITNESS and has gone on to win Miss Fitness America even though she was the oldest competitor – and all this whilst juggling her duties as a GRANDMOTHER OF ELEVEN.
Self-employed safe beauty advocate and health coach, Sharon Mehalek (67) from Illinois, USA, has been in the fitness industry for over 40 years and was always active.
While she was in high school, there weren’t many options for women to participate in sports, so she became a cheerleader and was part of the pom-pom squad.
After graduation, she was employed as an assistant. Over the next eight years she had five children, Travis (45), Dayna (44), Natalie (41), Brad (39) and Gavin (37). Being a mother fulfilled her, but after her fourth child was born, she knew she had to stay fit; she joined a gym and began taking aerobic classes.
Once she had her fifth child, she decided to make fitness her career, starting by teaching group exercises at the gym. She has since kept in shape and taught various group exercise classes including; indoor cycling, barre, rebounding, kickboxing, pilates, yoga and strength classes in high intensity interval training (HIIT). She has also won a modelling competition and has taken the regional gold medal for both Miss Fitness America and National Aerobic Championships.
In 2016 she had her first surfing lesson and has since become proficient in the water sport, as well as slalom water skiing and snowboarding.
Her fitness journey came from a desire to set the best example for her children and 11 grandchildren who range from the ages of two to 18.
“I aspired to do something that helped others move as well as stay active myself. I first became a mum at twenty-two and had five babies in eight years and they are my pride and joy,” Sharon said.
“I’ve always loved children and knew I wanted to have a large family of my own. After my fourth child, I knew, to stay fit, I had to start doing more than running around a few blocks while my neighbour watched my four children.
“So, I joined a gym and started taking aerobic classes. Then I had my fifth child and decided if I could get paid for working out, teaching aerobics was a good way to start.
“I received my certification in Group Exercise, my certification in personal training and health coaching, and my fitness career blossomed from there; it became my passion and it all started simply as a way to stay fit while raising my five children.
“I left my husband at that time and was a single mother of five for eight years; I got a full-time job as a general manager for a corporate fitness management company.
“All this time I was still teaching classes, training clients and managing a centre; consistency is key in feeling good and looking your best.
“My career continued to become more and more fulfilling. I won the SHAPE reader Model Finalist award and competed in Miss Fitness America and National Aerobic Championship taking the Regional Gold in both, all the time raising my five children.
“I was remarried eight years after my divorce to my current husband who is extremely supportive of me. I was promoted to director of operations and I managed over forty centres at that time.
“Unfortunately, the company ‘owned’ me, treated me poorly because of my age, and it was time to do what I have always dreamed. I wanted to own my own company and share my passion of healthy living.
“I stay active in a variety of sports to this day. I absolutely love surfing (which I only learned four years ago at the age of sixty-three). I slalom water ski, and I snowboard.
“I am also still teaching group exercise classes in all formats; I do workouts at home when not teaching. I am a Schwinn Cycling Master Trainer, and I own my own safer, cleaner, non-toxic personal care product company Beautycounter.
“This company is my passion and dream; it encompasses everything I am about. After years of staying active, teaching classes, and eating right I found what I was missing.
“As you may have guessed this has been an amazing journey through life so far for me. My way to be healthy and fit after five children grew into a career that was truly my passion and a beautiful fit for me.
“As I faced obstacles and disappointments, staying fit was my sanity and my life saver. As the years passed and I continued my journey in fitness I realised more and more that to inspire people to lead healthy lives was not me motivating them, but them motivating me.”
Sharon, who has maintained a weight of 9st 13Ib and UK size 10, met her current husband at a gym and have since been working out together. She says that he has been supportive of her throughout her fitness journey and career.
“I have never changed my attitude of staying in shape and inspiring others since I was in my twenties because of how good I feel. It’s about my sanity as well as looking healthy. I feel good mind and body,” she said.
“I can move with my grandchildren; I am an active mum and nana and can do whatever my family is doing instead of sitting there watching them have all the fun.
“In 1996, I won my Midwest Regional in both National Aerobic Championships and Miss Fitness America. I was the oldest competitor.
“I feel wonderful. Of course, I would love to live life all over again because time flies but I am extremely proud of my children and grandchildren and watching them in their lives.
“I feel wiser and I know that I can always continue to learn more as I age. I will never stop growing and believing in dreams and aspire to continue to motivate and inspire until I leave this great green earth.
“I met my second husband at a fitness centre and I was remarried eight years after my divorce. My current husband who is extremely supportive of me and an amazing stepfather to our children and grandad to our grandchildren.
“My past clients say they were never in better shape than when they worked with me. I love helping people now and inspiring them and I still get compliments on how grateful they are for my tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle.”