Social Fitness testimonial with Shari Joyce, Grouper Social Ambassador

Shari Joyce, Grouper Social Ambassador

By Shari Joyce
Grouper Social Ambassador

As a single mom, raising my two amazing children was occasionally difficult. We made it through the teenage years and my children grew up and had children of their own. Due to unfortunate circumstances, my daughter faced difficult and unexpected challenges four years ago, and this took a toll on me. I had not yet learned how to listen and empathize with my daughter without owning the problem, and I allowed this to affect my mental well-being.
I began pulling away from social activity. I was not eating properly or drinking the right amount of water. I lost 22 pounds and reached the point where I couldn’t leave my home.

Then, COVID happened. This is going to sound strange but at the beginning, before we knew the facts and that people were very sick and dying, I was relieved we couldn’t go anywhere because I no longer had to make excuses to people. There are many people who know nothing about this even though they think they know me. I have always been seen as an extrovert and have been in sales, marketing and public speaking my whole life.

Through therapy and a kind doctor, I found support. I then turned to nature and at that time was living in The Woodlands, a district in Texas where there are 220 miles of walk and bike trails. That’s a lot for a small township of only 44 square miles. Walking boosted my endorphins. The gyms may have been closed but I found my own path to staying active.

After nearly 10 years in Texas I moved back to San Diego to once again be near my aging parents. But I remained with the same Houston-based company and worked remotely – not the best decision for someone who was struggling with being social. Once again, I had the excuse to stay home. 

I did visit Houston often, staying at my son’s home. Through my love of dogs I developed a special bond with one of his family pets, Maddie. In many ways, Maddie was like me: she wasn’t getting enough social interaction and she seemed depressed; my son and his family were too busy for Maddie. For nearly two years my son and I discussed having Maddie come live with me, and then the day came when he drove her to San Diego.

I thought this move would be about me benefitting Maddie’s life, but I did not realize how much Maddie would bring to my life. I made a commitment to Maddie to get her out twice a day. Our 10 minute walks became hour hikes as we both increased our endurance. Everywhere we went, people commented on how happy, sweet and beautiful she was. It was Maddie who brought about a new group of friends to me. 

With newfound confidence, I decided to take classes to become a personal trainer with a focus on seniors. After all, I was about to become one myself. I am now ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified!

I was beginning to feel greater satisfaction in my life, and I know that my social connections played an important role. With a desire to improve my health, I retired from my position and signed up for several classes through my Medicare Health insurance. I started with online classes and then, instead of working out at home alone, I began to enjoy group exercise. Not only has my strength and range of motion improved, but I have a sense of well-being. I have seen improvement in functional skill-related fitness components like agility, balance, coordination, power and speed. And I’ve made new friends!

These experiences support and reinforce my belief in social fitness, as I have experienced firsthand how participating in groups and activities with others improves physical and social health. I am living in absolute gratitude at how life has transpired for me.