Grandma Julie Ford says she’s determined to look – and feel – as good in her 70s as she did as a 20 something.
The 69-year-old does ab crunches in her bikini and loves flaunting her toned body in crop tops, saying she refuses to ‘become invisible’ as she gets older.
And as part-time PE teacher, she’s urging other women her age to get into exercise.
Julie, who is the founder of walking resistance band, Instepp, wants to prove that you can still ‘look sexy’ in your older age.
Julie, who lives in Eastbourne with her husband, Jerry Armstrong, 67, says: ‘I’ve done the “fabulous 50s” and the “sexy 60s” and now I am planning on doing the “super-fit 70s.”'
‘I always make sure I look sexy wearing things like frilly crop tops.'
‘I have spent my whole life showing off my body, not because I’m vain but because I feel good.’
From a very young age, Julie was always active.
She says: ‘I was never very academic at school, I just always wanted to be running around outside.'
‘From around 11 years old, I knew I wanted to be a PE teacher.’
But even outside of her job as a teacher, Julie has always enjoyed taking part in sport.
She says: ‘Outside of work, I taught Jane Fonda exercise classes in the 80s to adults, as well as playing hockey and netball, and running, cycling and walking.
‘I still run, cycle and walk but I had to give up netball and hockey a few years ago because I was busy on the weekends.’
Having her son, Matthew Armstrong-Ford, 33, and daughter, Kristina Armstrong-Ford, 30, in her 30s, didn’t curb her love of fitness either.
She says: ‘I kept working as a PE teacher but outside of school, I did weight training classes and dance classes.
‘The kids would either join in or get dragged along to watch the netball and hockey matches.’
While Julie loved the ‘buzz’ of exercise, she also found it gave her great body confidence.
‘I worked hard at being fit and healthy, so I could look good,’ she says.
‘I used to be known as the lady in the village who cycled everywhere with hardly any clothes on because I would only wear shorts and a crop top.’
In September 2016, aged 63, Julie was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer – but it didn’t hold her back.
‘It was a routine mammogram appointment and they spotted something and called me back,’ she says.
‘When they said it was stage two breast cancer, I couldn’t believe it because I felt so healthy.’
Undergoing one month of radiotherapy, Julie said she was lucky to ‘breeze through’ her treatment.
She says: ‘It’s still hard to believe I ever had cancer, because I felt so healthy throughout.
‘I didn’t want to give up my job so I timed my treatment around the autumn half term so I could keep going.’
While Julie got through her treatment relatively easily, her attitude to exercise did change.
She said: ‘When I went back to the gym, I just thought “I don’t want to be here”.
‘Life is too short and I only wanted to be outside and make every day count.’
Swapping the gym for long-walks in the countryside, Julie realised she wanted something more – and began to experiment.
She said: ‘I wanted something to keep my upper body strong and toned.
‘I tried using weights, but by the end of the walk I would look like an orangutang, because my arms would be so tired from carrying the weights.
‘I dug around the garage and found some rubber resistance tubes and an old wetsuit, and started trying to attach them to my shoes so I could hold them and create strain.
‘I went through about 30 different designs over the year until I found the finished product.’
Impressed with her creation, which is designed to tone and strengthen the body when combining resistance with movement, Julie launched her versatile walking resistance bands in March 2018, named Instepp.
She said: ‘I was so excited that I had made something that was so good – you can walk with the bands or move with them at any time, in any place, whoever you are.
‘I have used them by the sea in Croatia, or on a cliff’s edge in Cornwall or by a swimming pool in Mexico.’
Julie said her walking resistance bands have kept her in great shape.
‘They often say once you get to 50, you become invisible but I make sure that I am not,’ she said.
‘My friends jokingly tell me they hate me and ask, “Why do you look so good?”
‘I don’t know if I have just been blessed with ageing well or if this is what comes from being positive – but I think, if you feel good, then you look good.’
With Julie’s 70th approaching in February 2023, she is making plans to celebrate in style.
She says: ‘It’s weird thinking I’ll be 70 because I don’t feel it at all.’
As well as being nominated as a pensioner personal trainer by Inspired Villages, the later living communities operator and developer in the UK, Julie is also looking forward to training up the next generation of her family, after becoming a grandma for the first time.
The mega-active granny said: ‘My granddaughter, Freyja, is only 13 months at the moment, so she’s not quite running around the place yet.
‘But I can’t wait until I can take her out on the bike and she can walk or cycle with me.’
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