05 Oct 2022

Globetrotting artist whose work hung in London’s Tate is prolific painter aged nearly 93 thanks to 40 years of weight training keeping her fit

Globetrotting artist whose work hung in London’s Tate is prolific painter aged nearly 93 thanks to 40 years of weight training keeping her fit

A globetrotting artist whose work has hung in London’s Tate Gallery is still a prolific painter despite turning 93 next month thanks to 40 years of weight training and regular gym sessions which keep her super-fit.

Rising to fame as part of the New York Minimalist art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Jo Baer, 92, still enjoys a successful career 70 years after she first put brush to canvas – thanking good genes, walking and workouts for her dynamism.

Now living in Amsterdam, Holland, but a former resident of London, New York, California and Washington, USA, as well as Ireland, she took up weight training in the 1980s after gaining weight when she quit smoking at 50, saying: “I felt my thighs touch for the first time. That’s when I knew I had to do something.”

She added: “I was living in London 40 years ago and started visiting the gym after an Arsenal football coach told me I should be weight training.

“I used to watch the men at the gym and just copy what they did.

“Ever since then I’ve been to the gym or I’ve worked out at home, doing push ups and pull ups and bits.”

Living independently and still working and walking for miles each day, Jo – who is single, after being married and divorced three times, and has a 65-year-old son, New York writer Josh Baer – is in incredible shape.

And six months ago, after weight training on her own for decades, she engaged the services of a personal trainer at the UP fitness gym in her building.

She said: “Being 90 can be tough. My muscles aren’t what they once were, so I thought, ‘Why not get some help?'”

She added: “I’m in such good shape, I really shouldn’t b***h about ageing!”

Living in Holland since 1984, as well as hanging in London’s Tate Gallery, Jo’s work has been shown in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

She said: “I work on big canvases and count myself lucky to be able to continue working now.”

She added: “I live alone, go to the gym once a week, take long walks every morning at 7am, eat lots of protein and vegetables and work a lot on my art.”

“It’s a wonderful life and I think that’s what’s keeping me alive and in good shape.

“The only thing I’m really careful of is keeping my distance from people on my walks. If I catch something at my age, I won’t get sick,  I’ll get dead!”

She added: “Working out is helping me stay youthful. I’d recommend it to anybody who is ageing.”

A typical hour-long weekly gym session for Jo includes using resistance machines, free weights and split squats under the watchful eye of trainer Dylan Venema.

She said: “My trainer, Dylan, is marvellous. Considering my age, he listens to the things that are now occurring to my body that I have to take care of. Dylan helps me and listens to me, which is very good.”

She added: “Before having a personal trainer, I was using dumbbells and doing squats and things at home, but I could feel myself growing weak.

“My legs have never been that strong and on my daily walks I could feel that. My hamstrings felt soft.

“I couldn’t afford to lose the strength in my legs, so I decided to get some help. Plus, it helps to have someone who can stop me from cheating.”

She continued: “It’s a new experience and I’m enjoying it.”

Jo has no plans to give up her routine anytime soon, even though it would tire out most people half her age.

She said: “I will carry on for as I long as I can.”

She added: “There’s no secret to my fitness at this age. I have great genes, my dad was a celebrated golfer.

“I’m also used to taking care of myself and when I need help I go get it. Then I keep doing what works. I am my own master.”

And she is keen to advise other older people to keep moving.

She said: “The one thing I would say is to move. Always be moving.

“If you’ve been sitting for 20 minutes, get up and walk somewhere.

“I’m lucky that I have a big place and so I walk automatically. It doesn’t feel right to me to be sitting for long periods. I’ve always been active.”

Jo’s trainer, Dylan Venema, loves working with his grande dame of the gym.

He said: “Jo is a fascinating person to train. She has a lot of life experience.

“Obviously, at 92, Jo is not our typical client, so I have to train her differently than we would a ‘normal’ client. When I’m working with her, I have to take extra care she does not injure herself.

“When Jo first started, she had some bad lifting habits. Now we’re focusing on her technique and, as she adapts naturally and her technique is perfect, we will be trying to set some personal bests.“

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