Client Spotlight: Susan McElwain

Client Spotlight: Susan McElwain


Meet Susan McElwain, a longtime RedBird client and enthusiastic part of our community since the start! After a successful career in the IT industry, Susan now maintains a contract business for writing projects–but her favorite job is caring for her wonderful husband. She and her husband met 37 years ago in Cairo, Egypt, and over the years, they had many adventures–backpacking, hiking, and traveling extensively. Her current passion project, one originally started by her husband in 1999, is to finish photographing the 254 Texas courthouses by the end of 2016. She’s photographed 230 so far–only 24 more to go!
Susan is 66 years old and came to RedBird through a chance encounter with Lee, our Founder and President. She was working out at a gym and happened to get introduced to Lee and struck up a conversation. From that chance meeting forward, Susan has been a RedBird regular. She started with Lee’s classes at the Y,  then privates in the RedBird loft, then the reformer, then Elisabeth’s classes, then Elisabeth’s Primal and now classes with the RB teachers.
Susan has chosen to stay at RedBird all these years because she knows the instruction and anatomy details are effective. She sees the results in her own body and in other clients. Susan feels committed to Lee and Elisabeth and to their business goals and objectives.  She thinks the camaraderie within the clientele builds a sense of community, and she’s happy to be part of it.  “I cannot imagine my life without RedBird,” Susan says, “It’s fun to be a RedBird.”

1. We all face challenges when it comes to being our best and healthiest selves. What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you overcome it?
I think one of the biggest challenges is to realize that there will always be challenges when it comes to health, fitness, and wellness.  At some point–for me it was in my twenties–a challenge is to define yourself regarding fitness and wellness, so that when challenges arise, you have a concept of yourself that keeps you afloat.  People are surprised when I tell them that I weighted 107 pounds in the third grade and was 160 pounds in high school.  I grew up on a farm. My mother made butter and baked breads, and we butchered beef and cured hams and bacon.  We never overate, and my brothers and I were constantly working or playing, yet I was heavy.  My first challenge was to lose weight. The second was to maintain the weight lost, and the third challenge was to run for health and fitness. The fourth challenge was to stop running after 27 years.  The challenges continue. Some are harder than others because some are age-related and body-use related, but even when I reached my acceptable Christmas weight in June, I still think of myself as fit, active, and energetic. 

8-year-old Susan

2. What is your favorite RedBird memory or moment?
The title of Pilates “elder” was applied to people who were original students of Joseph Pilates, creator of the Pilates Method of Exercise.  Because I’m a RedBird elder, my memorable moments have to do with its business growth. Two events stand out: 1) The opening of the current studio and seeing all three rooms filled with clients taking classes, and 2) The evolution of the RedBird Teacher Training Program.  Lee and Elisabeth spent hours defining themselves and the RedBird methodology,  and that effort produced a top tier program based on anatomy instruction, movement theory, and classic Pilates methods.  I encourage any RedBird client who is serious about the practice and believes in the art of teaching to explore the opportunity of becoming a RedBird trainee.
3. From whom or what do you find inspiration–for work, working out or just facing the day with a positive attitude?
I am inspired by ordinary people who do great things, such as a young child who starts a program to feed the homeless, or the stylist who sets up shop on the streets of San Francisco and offers free haircuts.  Their deeds restore my faith in love and humanity.
I am inspired by my husband who is marching toward his 95th birthday.  He is truly the last leaf of his family tree, has given up everything physical he loved, and yet his amazing mind (and wife, that would be me!) keeps him engaged with life, and his optimism supplements his limited mobility.
I am inspired by my heritage.  Patrick McElwain came from Donegal, Ireland in 1768 to Philadelphia and settled in York County, PA and started farming.  The McElwains expanded into Maryland, and my family’s farm sits on the Mason Dixon Line, the house in MD and some of the farm land in PA.  I find great strength in the land and what it produces.  I didn’t play sports or attend dance lessons growing up, so I’m not a natural mover. However, I am a product of hard work, discipline, and commitment , and those assets work well in maintaining fitness.    
4. What advice would you give to other women who are struggling to start or maintain a fitness routine?
Bobbi gave good insight in last month’s client profile.  I have three things to add: 1) Where you choose your activity is important because if the place is not convenient, you won’t make the effort to get there.  2) When is important because the activity must fit into your schedule, and  3) What is important because if it’s not fun and you don’t feel better, quitting becomes an easy way out. 

5. What’s your favorite quote?
“It’s not trespassing when you cross your own boundaries.” – from the label of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch
6.  Do you have a favorite recipe you could share with the community?
Cooking is a hobby of mine.  Here’s one for you.

 Susan’s Polenta
Preheat oven, 400ᵒ

  • Polenta – buy tube in any grocery store
  • Sauce – meat or plain, use 15 to 18 oz. jar for whole tube
  • Optional add-ins, red/green pepper, onions, shallots chopped fine or sliced mushrooms
  • Cheese(s) – provolone, parmesan, mozzarella – your choice
  • Herbs, spices, garlic powder – I dust the rounds with garlic powder, smoked paprika and an Italian blend of herbs.
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Whole tube will make 14 rounds, 7 stacked pieces.  Either use all or refrigerate the rest. Use entire bottle of sauce if you’re using the whole tube so the polenta rounds do not dry out.
Build rounds like lasagna and bake until bubbly with cheese melted. 
Sauce, polenta, cheese(s), dust with garlic powder & herbs, repeat.
Four rounds, 25-35 minutes
For 7 rounds, may need to bake for 40-50 minutes.  I’m not exact about the time. 
I’ve served this as a side with a meat and asparagus, and I’ve served the rounds as the main entrée with a crisp salad. 

(1) Comments
  1. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and inspiration Susan. RedBird is RedBird because of clients like you. We love you much.

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