Naperville senior's fitness routine has her in running for national award
Pat Fuller suddenly is dealing with the trappings of fame -- at least at the grocery store and her church.
And it's all because of her workout regimen.
Fuller, 77, of Naperville, is one of 10 nationwide finalists for the Swanson Inspiration Award through the SilverSneakers fitness program.
Since word has gotten out about her nomination -- and the fact supporters can vote for her online through Monday -- she's felt the love. When she's picking up groceries or going to worship, friends and even strangers stop to offer encouragement.
"You wouldn't think so many people would be so excited about it," Fuller said, "and that really has been fun -- to see the excitement that others have."
The Richard L. Swanson Inspiration Award recognizes one senior each year for improving her or his life through fitness and healthy choices, while motivating others along the way. Voting is available at silversneakers.swansonaward.com/vote/, and as of Thursday afternoon, Fuller was in fourth place.
Staff members at the Naperville Park District's Fort Hill Activity Center nominated Fuller because she "exemplifies a healthy lifestyle and also encourages everyone she meets by her friendly demeanor and enthusiasm," Fort Hill Fitness Manager Kristina McGrath said in a news release.
When it comes to fitness, there isn't much Fuller won't try. She calls Fort Hill her "second home" and shows up at least three times a week, often staying for multiple workout classes and walking the track.
Fuller loves dancing, so Zumba is her favorite, but she also takes classes in high-intensity intervals, Pilates, weight lifting and yoga.
"It's amazing how the exercise is directly related to your wellness," she said.
"The body needs to move."
It was about three years ago when Fuller, who is in her 12th year of retirement from Morgan Stanley, really got going.
At a doctor's appointment, she learned she was at risk for Type 2 diabetes and needed to get her blood sugar in check.
"When the doctor mentioned it, that really was a clue to me," Fuller said.
"So that's when I really started to pay better attention to what I was eating, in addition to trying to focus more on getting into that gym."
When the Fort Hill Activity Center opened in August 2016, Fuller left a gym in Woodridge to join. SilverSneakers, a health program offered through some senior insurance plans, covered her membership, she said.
At first, she just circled the track.
"I don't like walking outdoors, even in the summertime, so that was really good for me," Fuller said.
"That's an aerobic exercise you can do until you can't walk anymore."
As she noticed results, including lower blood sugar and decreased sensitivity around the edges of her fingers, Fuller added more challenges to her workout routine.
A typical day now might start with a tai chi class at the park district's Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, followed by a trip to Fort Hill for a high-intensity class and a walk. She also competes in a Friday bowling league.
"Between the bowling and my schedule at the gym, that's pretty much the activity in my life," she said.
Park district Executive Director Ray McGury said Fuller's status as a nationwide finalist for the Swanson Inspiration Award speaks volumes about her dedication to her new lifestyle.
"She's certainly a great ambassador for Fort Hill, based on how she changed her life and her whole attitude to fitness and health," he said.
If Fuller wins the award, she looks forward to a party she says Fort Hill will throw in her honor.
Whether she wins or comes up short, she said she's always looking forward to her next Zumba session.
"I don't think there's anything finer," she said, "than getting out on the floor dancing."