On the outside, her wildly colorful mohawk and edgy tattoos set her apart in a crowd. But there is a lot more to Germantown resident Mary Steinkraus than meets the eye.
"She's an inspiration," said Wauwatosa resident Andrea Goranson of Steinkraus. Goranson has been a loyal member of the Tri-County YMCA since 2008, and can't remember a time when she didn't see Steinkraus working out and encouraging others around her to do the same.
"She makes the Y experience something worth coming back for every day," she said of Steinkraus, who turns 71 on Sunday, July 27, and hasn't missed a day working out since she made a life-changing decision 33 years ago.
"I remember one day when I was about to buy a size 18 something and I just decided I couldn't do it anymore," said Steinkraus. Instead, she quit drinking and smoking and took up exercise. "I think about sitting around doing nothing and that is what makes me tired. The way I see it, you've got to keep moving until you can't, so I just keep going."
Now a healthy size 8, Steinkraus has lived a story she will tell to anyone who will listen, including Goranson.
"She's always offering tips or advice to anyone who might be struggling," Goranson explained. That passion is one of a few reasons why she decided to take a part-time gig at the Y three years ago. That, and because she knows first-hand working out is only part of the puzzle.
"You worry about how you look all these years and you realize you're really not healthy underneath it all," she said. "I think people get caught up in looking at the whole picture when all you really have to do is start."
And when it comes to results, time will tell the tale.
"It's a long journey. The hardest thing for me is to get the ladies or gentlemen to stick with it who have 100 or more pounds to lose," she said. "The most important part of it is not jumping on the scale or looking in the mirror. Go by how you feel."
You could say athleticism runs through her blood, as she is the aunt to NFL left tackle Joe Thomas, of the Cleveland Browns. It's not unusual for Steinkraus and her husband, Tom, to make the drive down to cheer on Thomas during football season. In addition, the couple is planning to attend the Browns' training camp at the end of July.
But she's still a Packer fan at heart. It's hard to miss her around town, as she drives around in a pimped-up Packer-mobile, otherwise known as a Honda Element. Most of the decorating, both inside and out, was done by Tom, who Mary said has a passion for the Packers.
"Every time I drive it I feel like there's something new," Mary laughed. "And it's funny because everyone always knows where we are all the time. People will say they saw me at the movies or at the Y because they saw our car."
Married for 35 years, when they're not working out together or driving around town, the couple bonds over Mary's mohawk, which Mary said is another of Tom's masterpieces. It's a look she's rocked since 2002, and she will be the first to tell you what it's really about.
"It's just another way I live out loud," she said. "We're just average people having a ball with life."
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