For Barbara Gilliam, athletics have always been a part of life. Growing up in the north Mississippi town of Hulka, she was an avid basketball player and a star on her high school team. But when she entered Ole Miss in the early 1970s, her career came to an end.
“They didn’t have women’s basketball teams back then,” she says. “So many times I’ve told my husband that I was born 20 years too soon.”
Gilliam’s basketball career might have ended more than three decades ago, but her dedication to fitness and exercise didn’t. Throughout her years at Ole Miss and then at the Mississippi University for Women, she worked out regularly and stayed physically active. More than 30 years later, it’s a lifestyle that is paying off.
At 55, Gilliam is fit, strong and healthy. She works out daily at Health Focus and has a personal trainer who steers her through a routine that combines at least 40 minutes of cardio followed by 20 minutes or so of weight training and stretching.
“I really do it to stay healthy,” Gilliam says. “I’m rarely, if ever, sick.”
The cardio portion of Gilliam’s workout usually involves machines—treadmill, StairMaster, stationary bike or elliptical trainer. While she enjoys the intensity of a cardio workout and the stress it relieves, she has become more serious about lifting weights over the past couple of years, touting its benefits in preventing osteoporosis.
“We know so much more now about how strength training is important for your bones,” she says. “I want to be fit as I get older.”
Gilliam likes to hit the gym early, usually by 6:30 a.m. When business or other obligations prevent her from getting there, she makes sure to squeeze in a workout from home. Other than that, the secret to her fitness and good health come from watching what she eats and limiting her diet mostly to whole grains, lean proteins and lots of fruits and vegetables.
“I have hereditary high cholesterol, so I really have to watch my diet,” she says. “I eat junk on occasion, but not on a regular basis.”
Gilliam credits her healthy lifestyle with helping her succeed in business. It has only been three years since she co-founded with her husband RigPower, which sells specialty electrical supplies and equipment to the energy industry. He designs the equipment. She takes care of the books and answers to the title of CFO.
It’s a division of labor that works well. RigPower’s revenues topped $6 million last year and are expected to climb again this year.
“Dedication, hard work and focus are traits that describe my approach to business as well as my approach to physical fitness,” she says. “I’m a competitive, Type A personality and it follows through in fitness as well as everything else. I always strive to do the best I can.”