The Kidd is all right

CORONA DEL MAR — For octogenarian Judy Kidd, working at a family-owned health club keeps her feeling as young as she did in her 50s.

Once a well-known figure in the community theater scene, the 82-year-old grandmother has worked for 20 years at Shape-Up Fitness Center and Day Spa in Corona del Mar.

However, the former community stage actress can be seen more often wearing high-heeled pumps than tennis shoes, even when showing visitors around the club as its membership coordinator.

"If you love your work, it keeps you young," said Kidd, who is happy to be back on her feet and at the front desk after fracturing her lumbar in a fall two months ago.

"I've never fallen in my life, and I had to wait until I was 82 to finally do it," Kidd said, explaining that she has no intention of throwing in her gym towel and retiring anytime soon.

Kidd had earned applause and rave reviews in a 1967 production of "Guys and Dolls" at a Mission Viejo theater for her portrayal of Adelaide — no one would have guessed that it was the 41-year-old's stage debut.

"I knew how to dance, and I knew how to sing," Kidd said of childhood lessons that until then had never been put to professional use. "And I tore down the show. All in all, there were hidden talents that I never knew I had."

However, as Kidd's stage career was taking off a man 10 years her junior competed with the limelight for her affections. The two wed and she gave up the stage at his request.

"For love," Kidd said of a decision she never regretted.

She is surrounded by family at work. Her daughter is the club's aerobics director. Her granddaughter is the day spa manager. And her son-in-law is the club's managing partner.

Besides enjoying the fact that she is working alongside family, having access to a physical trainer gives her a healthy advantage that women didn't have 40 years ago.

"Women didn't lift weights," Kidd explained. "It wasn't that kind of era."

A lot has changed over time, said Kidd's son-in-law, Robert Burns, who opened the club in 1987.

Today's health club patrons emphasize the desire to be "healthy," rather than thin, and "functional" fitness techniques over free weights, as well as the value of a professional trainer, said Burns, who serves as chairman of the UC Irvine Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine Advisory Board.

"All exercise is good, but people have a tendency to get into trends where one area of the body is over-focused on," Burns said. "When there's only one thing you do, you risk it becoming abusive to your system."

The 11,000-square-foot club, which opened on East Coast Highway in 2002, has also undergone an evolution from its original location in Costa Mesa.

In addition to a full-sized fitness and strength training floor, the club now has a Pilates studio, nutrition counseling, physical therapy center and Far Infrared Saunas.

All of which helps Kidd continue feeling and looking glamorous long past her velvet curtain days.

"It's unbelievable," Kidd said. "The feeling of strength, power and loving yourself that you get …It does something for your ego. So many women don't like themselves, and you can tell that they're unhappy, but it doesn't have to be that way."

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