“Sustain the creativity.” With Ming Zhao & Joan MacDonald

I try to put up good exercise videos showing that even an older woman like myself can train with proper technique and good intensity. I have not been doing this sort of training my whole life. I really am an average woman who worked hard and followed instructions and has had really achievable but amazing […]

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I try to put up good exercise videos showing that even an older woman like myself can train with proper technique and good intensity. I have not been doing this sort of training my whole life. I really am an average woman who worked hard and followed instructions and has had really achievable but amazing results. I want everyone to know that they can have this too. So, I think what I would say, as my personal advice, is to really focus on what your message is, what sort of value you can add to the world, and then go out there and do it.

At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s well-being, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep and preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving leaders and influencers who are practicing their own philosophies about how to maintain their wellbeing.

As a part of our series about “Social Media Influencers Share Their Top Self Care, Wellness, and Beauty Tips, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan MacDonald.

Women’s Best Ambassador Joan MacDonald lives to prove it’s never too late to make BIG changes to your life, even at 74-years-old. Four years ago, Joan was 198lbs, on medication for high blood pressure and had acid reflux. She had terrible edema in her ankles, her arthritis was extremely painful, and she had difficulty walking up and down stairs. She was tired, emotional and in desperate need of a change. Her daughter Michelle, a fitness trainer, came to her on the verge of tears telling her she had a choice to make — if she continued on the path she was on, she would need more medication, or she could take the opportunity to join an online group and train with her. She learned to use an iPhone, renewed her gym membership, bought a food scale and measurement tape, and the rest was HERSTORY. It was incredibly hard work and while there were many days she was in tears over trying to use technology, she never gave up. Today, Joan pays it forward to her 590K+ social media followers as a prime example of what it takes to prioritize serious selfcare and build up your mental strength.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory of how you came upon this career path and to where you are today?

Well, to be honest, my career as an influencer happened by accident. My transformation from being a very unhealthy 70-year old to a fit 70-year old was inspired by an urgency to get off medications. My daughter created my Instagram account for me as a way to help keep me on track, and to share my journey with others. My very first post was July 2017. It was a picture of me and my daughter, and I was celebrating my first real milestone, which was the completion of my first 6-month transformation. The next time I posted was October of that year. I didn’t know much about taking photos, or even navigating Instagram beyond the basics, so there would be long gaps between posts until I was with my daughter again. Things kind of took off when I posted a hip thrust video in February 2018 and it went viral. So many people were sending me messages telling me that they had seen me on some video compilation or other on Facebook, and Instagram, and even YouTube. Google ended up using that video in their 2018 amazing moments recap that launched New Year’s Eve. Since then, it’s been a bit of a whirl wind. I ended up on two magazine covers for D’Fyne Magazine aimed at the older generation. It was really an honor to be featured as someone who could inspire others to pursue better health. Then several more magazines and newspapers started to run interviews on my transformation. All of this attention really peaked in the fall of last year when the Daily Mail in the UK and the CBC ran my story. The Morning Show invited me to share a bit of my story, and The Social did the same thing this past January. This past year, my Instagram just took a life of its own. I was working with my daughter to put up good content that would help to inspire other people and keep them motivated, and I would spend hours answering all the messages and comments I would receive. Some days, I would put the phone down to do some work around the house, and when I got back to it, I had gained another several thousand followers. I just didn’t really understand it, but I did my best to keep up with it all. It’s really a full-time job, let me tell you. Since December 2019, I’ve been an athlete with Women’s Best, a supplement and activewear company, and it really does feel like a career now. I even had to hire a personal assistant to help me with scheduling interviews and keeping track of my calendar. I’m now in the process of launching my first e-book. I demonstrate all the exercises, and I’ve collaborated closely with my team of trainers to create a well-rounded at-home training program for beginners. I am including some of my favorite recipes and a 2-week meal plan, too. I’m excited and nervous! This is something that is very dear to my heart, as I have been receiving so many requests for this over the years. I hope it will help a lot of people to get started and get some real success!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Well, that would have to be my daughter, Michelle MacDonald, who was constantly pushing me to keep going. There were several times when I was ready to throw in the towel, but both Michelle and her husband would talk to me on the phone (they lived in Mexico and I lived in Canada) and calm me down and convince me that I could do it. Oftentimes, it wasn’t the training that was the issue, it was using my cell phone and navigating the mymacros app to plan out my meals. That was very frustrating for me. Now I find the cell phone much easier to use to take photos, upload videos and plan out my meals, but the first two years it was a real struggle for me. It’s hard to explain to younger people who have grown up with these devices, but I didn’t even own a cell phone until I started this journey, and it’s literally like learning a new language at 70. I remember one time, Michelle had to spend about an hour on the phone with me talking me through how to create a meal plan using the mymacros app, based on the nutrition plan she had given me to follow. I was in tears, but somehow, we were able to get it done, and eventually, over the months, I got better at it. I’m not perfect, but I try my best.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

Well, my daughter would spy on my macros (coaches can do that online) and she would see that I had written out these cookies in my later meals. Day after day after day I was eating these delicious cookies called “Coconut Chewies” from her cookbook, “The Best of the Basics.” She asked me why I was eating cookies so late at night. And I replied smartly, “Well, they are in your cookbook, so they must be healthy.” I remember she laughed at that and admitted that they weren’t too bad as they were sugar free, but she did want me to focus more on eating my vegetables, and not sweets. I still struggle with eating more vegetables, but don’t we all?

As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact, perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

I didn’t start out with the intent to make this a career, it just seemed to happen by accident. I think I’ve always tried to be honest, and to post content that will help people stay positive about their own ability to make a change. I try to put up good exercise videos showing that even an older woman like myself can train with proper technique and good intensity. I have not been doing this sort of training my whole life. I really am an average woman who worked hard and followed instructions and has had really achievable but amazing results. I want everyone to know that they can have this too. So, I think what I would say, as my personal advice, is to really focus on what your message is, what sort of value you can add to the world, and then go out there and do it. The more authentic you are, the more people you will reach, and don’t try to imitate other people. Be you!

Can you share with our readers some of your strategies you’ve used to build an engaged, loyal, and large online community?

I would pay attention to the questions people would ask me either in the comments or in my direct messages. I would also pay attention to what people really seemed to respond to and share with their friends. I could tell that people love to see transformation photos, so I always try to put those up on a regular basis. I think a picture says a thousand words, and nothing is so motivating as to see someone else overcome a huge barrier. I also know that people really love to see my training videos. I hear a lot of people including trainers telling me that they share these videos with their own mothers and clients. I use the insights on Instagram to track engagement to see what kinds of things really speak to my followers and do my best to speak from the heart.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive and care for oneself in three areas: body, mind, and heart.

You are a busy person with a demanding schedule, can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that help your body thrive? (Kindly share a story or an example for each.)

I make sure to drink my first liter of water when I wake up, and I flavor that with Women’s Best BCAAs and the True Beauty Collagen mix, which are now available in the US exclusively through The Vitamin Shoppe. My favorite flavor right now is Concord Grape. I take 5 of my Women’s Best Omega’3 Fatty Acids at the same time, and 2 Women’s Best Multi-Vitamins. I firmly believe in drinking plenty of water and taking some good, basic supplements. It makes a big difference if done daily, over time.

The next thing I do is eat a balanced meal before heading to the gym. I love to have Greek yogurt flavored with some Women’s Best Fit Whey Protein or Isowhey Protein in Vanilla, and I like to top it with fresh berries and granola. This gives me plenty of energy to go hit a good workout and it’s very satisfying.

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind or heart to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

My other daily morning ritual is to take care of my mind. I use an app called Elevate that trains my mind and helps stimulate thought processes. Keeping my mind sharp is very important to me. There are a variety of exercises covering math, grammar, punctuation, reading and comprehension, and logic for example.

I also meditate in the morning with the app called Headspace. I’ll meditate for 10–20 minutes and it has really helped me feel calmer and more balanced throughout the day. I started using this app about 2 years ago when I was visiting my daughter in Mexico. I was very curious about it, though I had never done it before, and it just really clicked with me. They have really great animations that explain key concepts, they bring in experts in various fields from time to time, and the narrator’s voice is very calming and helps me to focus. It’s a really lovely way to start the day, and I highly recommend it.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I definitely think putting on some great clothes to go train in is a game changer. It makes you want to stand up straight and helps you to see how far you’ve come. I used to wear really baggy, unflattering clothes to the gym until Michelle insisted that I start wearing proper leggings and workout bras. Now that I wear Women’s Best, I just love how everything looks and feels. It really affects your mood in a positive way when you’re wearing colorful, fitted clothes in the gym.

I also have learned that taking a little bit of extra time in the morning to style my hair and put a light touch of make up on, makes an enormous difference. Humans have an incredible power to affect the world with their touch. When this is used in a positive way, it’s really quite amazing. I know this as an avid gardener. If I leave my garden even for a day, it goes a little wild, but if I can spend a half hour with it every day, it looks so lush and beautiful. I have learned to pay this same kind of loving attention to myself. As we get older, we can become convinced that this is no longer important. But I now think it is as important as ever to keep developing a loving relationship with yourself.

Lastly, smile! It doesn’t cost anything, and it helps other people feel good at the same time, too.

Is there a particular resource, a practitioner, expert, book, or podcast that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

I really love the book, “Think Like a Warrior” by Darrin Donnelly. I picked that book up while I was at my daughter’s in Mexico. She has her athletes preparing for competition by reading it. I needed something to read and so I thought I’d give it a try. I just fell in love with it right away. I read it so fast, I only put it down to sleep. It’s not a very big book, but it’s full of some powerful ideas or Life Lessons about how to approach challenges and live a great life. I recommended it to all of my followers just a little while ago. It makes me so happy to get messages from people who are reading it.

Do you have a story about the strangest, most bizarre or funniest wellness treatment that you’ve ever experienced?

I’m afraid I don’t. I’ve been lucky to only have great ones!

As an influencer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would really, truly, like to inspire all people who say they want to make a change, to go out and do it! You don’t have to be perfect; you don’t have to be a whiz at things when you start out, you just have to have a good plan and then get started. And once you get started, just don’t stop. Honestly, if I can do it, anyone can do it. Age, hormones, injury…none of these things are insurmountable. The biggest asset you can have is a deep belief that if you give it your best shot, you can make great changes in your life.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

It would be an absolute dream to sit down with Ellen DeGeneres. I find her sense of humor and her take on the world so inspiring especially in these current tough times. I think we could have some good laughs!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I spend most of my time on Instagram @trainwithjoan, although I am working on a YouTube channel as well with the same name.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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