Live Long and Prosper

Mary Ann Browning, CEO and founder of Brownings Fitness, offers power points for strengthening and maintaining your best body and perfecting your summer glow.
The Browning Method combines strength training, cardio and nutrition. Photo: Garrett Carroll

Purist: Mary Ann, as a woman over 55, as you age and muscles diminish, what are some of the things women should be focusing on in terms of prevention?

Mary Ann Browning: Firstly, do not be afraid of building muscle. I can assure you, as you get older it becomes impossible. You can only hope to maintain what you already have. Focus on balance, back strengthening, glute strengthening, and keeping your heart fit too with short intervals. Think powerful.

What are some of your dietary recommendations for older women?

Be very conscious of the sugar in all of your foods. Definitely increase your protein, but don’t be afraid of complex carbohydrates. Your body burns these first for energy. If you don’t have them, you’re going to use your muscles instead. Be careful of intermittent fasting and all of these fad diets. If they worked, we would all do it and look amazing forever. If it’s not sustainable, don’t do it.

At your age now, having done marathons and IronMans, what activities can women do, and what is the importance of moving and getting the heart rate up?

I would love to run still and if I could, I would do it. But short intervals, 15 to 30 seconds of a run, a bike ride, a hill incline, anything that gets your heart rate up is important. Walking really is the closest I’ve found, with strength training to be the holy grail. I have tested with clients increasing their steps for two weeks, eating almost the same food, who walk on an average 4,000 to 10,000 steps, then increase to 20,000 steps and they have lost almost 4 pounds. I know this may not be sustainable for people, but it does amaze me how moving, twitching, always doing little things does keep my body the way it is, even though I may enjoy tequila and sourdough baguettes.

How important is flexibility as we age, and how can we keep limber and avoid injuries?

Unfortunately with flexibility, there’s only so much you can stretch your muscles before they will tear. Having someone stretch you on a regular basis is very important, if you’re not going to do it yourself. And make sure you have active stretching as well as static. For example, being able to do leg kicks to the front, side and back will help keep your hips loose, and that is so important. Being able to pick your legs up as you go, which means your glutes need to be strong, will prevent you from stumbling and falling.

How do you describe the Browning Method?

The Browning Method is about building muscle in places you don’t have, to burn fat in places you do—combined with the right nutrition and cardio plan, for you not only to lose weight but change your body shape. (Anyone can be a “skinny-fat” person.) With over 30 years experience in the business, certified not only as a strength-training trainer, but Pilates and yoga, running, swimming, biking coach, and my background as a principal ballerina allows me to cover every area that a client may have—including their nutrition, as I have a nutrition degree. The results that I have achieved are a testimony that my method works, and has for over 30 years. People lose weight, change their body shape and sustain it. There’s no quick fix. There’s no holy grail.

How do you balance a meal at your favorite restaurant when you want everything?

I tell people you have to pick your battles. For example, I love carbohydrates, so if I’m going to go out and have some bread and pasta, then I’m definitely not going to have a huge [serving of] protein. I’ll save that for my next meal. And I will add vegetables to the pasta.

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