Mariann Aalda is fondly remembered for her run as savvy and level-headed attorney Didi Bannister on Edge of Night, a role she played from 1981 to the show’s finale in late 1984. She has also played Lena Hart on the short-lived but fondly remembered Sunset Beach. In addition to being an actor, Aalda is an author and motivational speaker. She recently sat down with Soap Hub to discuss wellness and fitness.
Mariann Aalda: Changing The Paradigm on Aging
Soap Hub: How do you work fitness into your life? Have you always been active?
Mariann Aalda: For most of my life I was a “gym rat.” I kept a class schedule for my local gym on my refrigerator door and would average 5-10 classes a week, sometimes taking two classes a day: cardio, strength training, Pilates, PiYo, Zumba, Salsa, hip-hop. I loved to work out hard, the camaraderie of the people…and the music!
Soap Hub: How did you adjust your workouts during COVID and gyms being closed?
Mariann Aalda: During the early months of the pandemic, when my gym closed, I went into a funk. Too much lying on the couch watching TV and waaaayyy too many chips! I gained 10 pounds and went into an even deeper funk. Wearing sweats and “comfy clothes” around the house for months, I hadn’t noticed that I’d put on weight. But vanity kicked in when I had to leave the house for a regular doctor’s appointment and my clothes were snug. Fortunately, vanity is my friend…it gave me a reality check!
Soap Hub: Did anything turn it around?
Mariann Aalda: Yes. I have a smart TV, so one day I spoke into the remote: “YouTube aerobics” and a bunch of videos offering pretty much the same array of classes I used to take at the gym, popped up on my screen. I was used to being a front-of-the-class badass at the gym, so I was shocked at how quickly I got winded and had to rest. At first, I could only do 10 minutes…when I’d been used to doing an hour!
I stayed at 10 minutes a day for a couple weeks and built up to 30 minutes a day after about a month. And that’s where I’ve kept it, 30 minutes of cardio five days a week and 20 minutes of weight training — with bands and light weights — three days a week, working out to YouTube videos in my den. Even though my gym has opened back up, I haven’t gone back. I’ve found that this routine works for me.
Over the years, working out hard had been a habit, but as I got older, it really wasn’t the best thing for my body. I was taking a lot of ibuprofen to combat the resulting achiness and inflammation after my workouts. Now that I’m easier on my body, I don’t need the meds. Along with the 10 pandemic pounds, I lost an additional five I’d been trying to lose FOREVER. And I wasn’t even trying. These days, I feel fit, but more importantly, I feel healthy.
Soap Hub: Everyone is different and has a different journey — what advice do you have for someone who’s on a path to wellness; what are the first steps people can take to feel better?
Mariann Aalda: Be gentle with yourself. Don’t overdo it. Be consistent, even if it’s only five minutes a day.
Soap Hub: Do you have a “cheat” day? Do you believe in them?
Mariann Aalda: Nope. “Cheating” implies that you’re doing something you’re not supposed to be doing. If I have a craving for something, I indulge myself, no matter what day it is. I eat pretty healthily, but I believe in “all things in moderation,” which includes chips when I want them…or ice cream.
Soap Hub: Do you meditate?
Mariann Aalda: Yep. I do gratitude meditation. Several times a day, I have the awareness to take a big deep breath and say “thank you.” Not for anything in particular, but for whatever comes up in the moment that strikes a deep cord of appreciation in me. I’m a uterine cancer survivor — six years cancer-free — and with each passing year, I find more things to be grateful for and the fact that I get to BE here to experience them.
Soap Hub: What’s one thing that you’d like to work on – more water? Shut off the cell phone after a certain hour?
Mariann Aalda: I could probably develop better sleep habits. I don’t have a regular bedtime and if I wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes I’ll grab my phone and make notes for a project I’m working on or do postings on social media.
Right now, I’m working on a “Say Your Age!” campaign on Instagram. I’m inviting women over 40 to post pics with their names and ages in order to take a stand against ageism and change the narrative on women and aging. Anyone who wants to join in can DM their picture to me @sayyourage_loudandproud.
Soap Hub: What else keeps you busy now?
Mariann Aalda: I just turned 74, and most of the TV and film roles I’m asked to read for are disheartening. In comedies, the character is often the butt of some ageist joke, and in the dramas, she’s often physically frail or mentally infirm. Those are not the kinds of stories I want to tell about getting older. So, I wrote my own: Gettin’ Old Is a Bitch…But I’m Gonna Wrestle That Bitch to the Ground! It’s a one-women comedy that celebrates the vibrancy, vitality, and sexual viability of older women.
Soap Hub: Any final thoughts on wellness?
Mariann Aalda: Yes. According to a study done by Becca Levy at Yale University, folks with a positive attitude about getting older live — on average — seven and a half years longer than those with a negative one. So, when it comes to Wellness, I think that’s my best tip of the day.
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