Maxine Nelson is proud to show off her “guns,” raising her arms to flex her biceps for anyone who asks.
“Oh, she came with those,” said her personal trainer of about two months, David Green, at Iron Works Gym in Biloxi.
The fact that Nelson is this fit at age 79 is impressive. The fact that she also is battling Parkinson’s disease, as well as a rare disorder that causes sensory and reflex loss, is amazing.
“When I was 50, I swam across Sardis Lake Reservoir, with a boat there, just in case,” she said. “Four years ago this summer, I swam it again at 76. I had two of my grandchildren do half of it, too, with me. I wanted them to see that if you set your mind to it, you can do it.”
Fitness has been a part of Nelson’s life since her teens.
“I’ve been active most of my life,” she said. “I’ve been lifting weights and doing a lot of swimming since high school. Back then, there was no women’s swim team. I guess you would could say I’m self-taught. I would watch the men’s swim team practice and I would do what they did.”
Nelson worked as a lab chemist for years at locations such as the University of Colorado–Boulder and The University of Mississippi, and lived in Oxford until about two years ago when her husband died. Now she lives with daughter Sara Wood in Gulfport. Wood drives her mom to the gym twice a week for an hour-long workout with Green. The Parkinson’s has been part of her life for two years. Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP, began about 11 years ago, Nelson said
CIDP is a neurological disorder, Wood said. “It causes her to lose her balance. The nerves are stripped of their myelin sheathing, so the neurons can’t fire.” The patient becomes progressively weaker and sensory function in the legs and arms is impaired. Nelson uses a walker to help maintain balance.
“I was in the hospital almost three months last year,” she said. “While I was there I asked for a physical therapist.” In the process, she met Green, of Green’s Extreme Fitness, who puts her through a whole-body regimen both days she’s in the gym.
“She drops me off at the baby sitter,” Nelson said, joking with her daughter. “My mother always said, ‘This is what you’ve got. Figure it out.’”
So Nelson and Green use the weight machines downstairs and a couple of machines upstairs. There is no elevator. Nelson climbs up the stairs with Green monitoring every step; this in itself is a workout that is beneficial to her leg muscles.
“She is determined to fight this,” Green said. “She has a really great attitude.”
Nelson is a longtime proponet of a healthy, active lifestyle, but Green said that shouldn’t intimidate anyone.
“You’re never too old to work out,” he said. “In fact, as you get older, you need to work out.”