By GMA TEAM, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Erika Rischko is an 81-year-old mother of two, grandmother of one and, surprising to even herself, a fitness influencer.
Rischko, of Langenfeld, Germany, describes herself as a “late bloomer” when it comes to fitness, but she now is inspiring people decades her junior with the workouts she shares on TikTok and Instagram.
“I am really honored and humbled that younger people are being inspired by me,” Rischko told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I love comments such as, ‘You are so inspiring, life goals, couple goals, can you be my grandparents?"”
“If I can change the stereotype of old people being boring or not being active just a bit, that makes me very happy,” she said.
Rischko, a homemaker, said she did not start regularly exercising until her mid-50s when her daughter signed her up at a local gym.
“As both kids were out of the house for the first time, I was lonely,” Rischko said. “The first five years, I was not as ‘addicted.’ Then, I slowly started to do more and even joined some three to four-hour spin class challenges and rowing competitions.”
More than 20 years later, Rischko said she works out twice a day, several days a week.
“My husband, who is also 81-years-old, goes to the gym with me during the week in the morning, but we do not train together,” she said, adding that she usually bikes to and from the gym so her husband doesn’t have to wait on her. “During the week, I also work out three to four times in the evening for an hour.”
Rischko said she joined Instagram in February at the urging of her daughter, who wanted her to share her workouts with family and friends.
When the coronavirus pandemic closed gyms last spring, Rischko then started taking part in fitness challenges on Instagram.
“The response was just overwhelmingly positive, which I have found very uplifting as I have been very insecure all my life,” she said. “And then my daughter discovered TikTok as some of the dance challenges were being featured on German TV and the app became very popular during the pandemic.”
Rischko started taking part in some of the fitness challenges on TikTok and quickly developed a following. Her videos on the social media app now have more than two million likes.
I would have never expected to get this many uplifting comments and followers,” said Rischko, adding that her daughter helps her film and post her workout videos. “Both apps [Instagram and TikTok] have helped me to stay up to date with technology and what the younger generations are up to these days.”
When it comes to her workouts, Rischko said she is always trying something different, a piece of advice she gives to her younger followers.
“I mix it up all the time, so that I get a different intensity and/or duration,” she said. “It is important to change your workout routine to get stronger and not waste your time.”
In addition to her active lifestyle, Rischko also credits her longevity to eating fresh foods, but not counting calories, rarely drinking alcohol and giving up smoking 30 years ago.
“I think my advice is fairly simple: Do not do anything extreme – there is no need to — and start slowly,” said Rischko. “Just eat healthy, but do not chastise yourself.”
“And figure out what works for you,” she added. “Find a sports activity that you enjoy because if you do not enjoy it you will not last, and if you are not as disciplined as I am, find a workout partner as it is not that easy to cancel on somebody.”
Rischko’s final advice is to start being active now.
“I just wish I had started even earlier, before I turned 55,” she said.
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