Judy Cooper Lyle grew up a farm girl, but early on she knew she was destined for the stage. After acting and directing in high school, she went off to college in Valley City, North Dakota, where she tried out for the chorus line in 1965. Never mind that she had no dance experience and she was the only non-sorority girl -- she became the central dancer for the annual spring men's music society, complete with big headdresses and sequins. Although she'd always been tall, slender and fit from farm life, she loved the way the two-hour daily practices made her feel. Now 66, she's maintained both her fitness and her life on stage as the founder of the Urban Spectrum Theatre Company.
DIVING IN "I transferred to Moorhead State to get my degree in theater. I specialized in costume design and directing. Coming from a farm, my parents couldn't afford swimming lessons, so when I transferred I started taking swimming lessons. That started my wanting to stay fit, because doing all those things made me feel so good that it stuck with me."
IT'S FUN TO STAY AT THE ... "I've been going to the Blaisdell YMCA for 40 years. I bike, walk on the track, do about eight different machines and lift free weights. And now that I'm over 65, my supplemental insurance covers SilverSneakers; I don't have to pay."
GOOD GENES "[Exercise] keeps my mind active, and I just feel better. It gives me more energy to do all the millions of things I do. My mother lived to be 95 and she smoked for 72 years. I figure with those genes and the fact that I don't smoke I should maybe break 100. I'll have to live till at least 104 to do all the things I want to do! I have so many plays and designs in my head, I make myself tired thinking about it. So I have to keep this energy up."
WORKING IN WORKOUTS "When I'm doing a show, it gets kind of crazy. This week I'm getting ready for three shows at the same time, and it's also a busy time of year for my design work; I'm creating one design a day."
SURGERY? NO THANKS "I had a torn rotator cuff a couple of years ago, but surgery was not appealing to me. The doctor referred me to a physical therapist and said, 'Well, if you're ready to work -- we can't fix the tear but we can train the other muscles around it to compensate.' It took me a good six months, but [I did it]."
ANTI-AGING REMEDY "I'm on my feet all the time; when I'm directing, I can't sit. I'm up on the stage showing [actors] what I want them to do. I love being around young people; over three-fourths of the theater company is under 30. I have friends of all ages; my oldest friend is 92. I have learned so much just being around [my older friends]. And I have young women in my group who say, 'I want to be like you when I grow up.'"
ROCK ON "I don't deny how old I am, but I'm not going to sit around and say there are things I can't do because of how old I am. Staying active keeps you young; I'm always mistaken for being at least 10 years younger. You're never going to see me sitting in a rocking chair unless I have to. I will fight it every step of the way."