At their respective ages of 92, 91, 97, 96, and 91, Roy Englert, Charles Boyle, Champion Goldy, Sr., Orville Rogers, and Charles Ross set USA Masters Track & Field records in the 4×100-meter, the 4×400-meter relay, and the 4×800-meter relay in July 2014. Also, Englert, around the same time, broke a 25-year-old American age-group record in the 5,000 meters. Yes, since these men were the first age 90+ to compete, they won by just finishing each event. Even though they had no competition, this fact does not diminish their achievement.
At the same meet, Irene Obera, for ages 80-84, claimed records in the 200-meter sprint, the 100 meter, 400 meter, 80-meter short hurdles, 200-meter hurdles, and the long jump (9’8”, if you’re curious). I neglected to mention, this was the first competition in which Obera ran hurdles.
For additional inspiration, visit the website of Olga Kotelko who passed away at age 95 in June 2014. At age 77, she began participating in track-and-field events. At the time of her death, she held 37 world records, wrote an autobiography, The O.K. Way to a Healthy, Happy Life and was the subject of the book What Makes Olga Run?
Welcome to 2015 and individuals who are shattering the stereotypes and myths of aging as well those surrounding health and fitness. So much for the beliefs of the “ravages of aging”—shrinking muscles, loss of flexibility, stiff joints, and comments such as “it’s all part of growing older.”
Most likely many of these older athletes were not necessarily focused on exercise earlier in their lives; their generation predated “the fitness boom.” Individuals like Kotelko, Obera, and the above men came of age during the Depression and World War II where the focus was on going off to war, your job, providing for your family, and raising your children as well as wanting a better life for them.
At that time, people like Jack LaLanne were notable exceptions; he is another inspiration for shattering aging stereotypes. For example, his website states: “Age 70: handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1½ miles.”
Since I’m growing older, my thinking about these athletic achievements becomes personal. Think of yourself in the future. Do you envision yourself competing in a USA Masters Track & Field event in your 90s? Could you even compete in such an event today? If not, how mobile do you think you will be 20 to 30 years from now?
Have the above individuals’ ability to shatter the stereotypes of aging and live life on their terms got you thinking? Take some time to reflect on your beliefs about growing older. Ask if they’re based on stereotypes and if so, are they holding you back? If you answer, “yes,” begin eliminating those beliefs that no longer serve you, and establish new ones that will assist you in living the healthy, positive life you desire and deserve.
I want us all to rethink our beliefs surrounding aging and how such thinking affects the quality of our lives. I am not advocating that we all lace up our running shoes tomorrow morning and hit the road for a five-mile run. Not all of us enjoy running. In truth, I don’t have the best knees, and for that reason, when I run, I do so on a treadmill. What I am advocating is making the decision today to get active and move your body on a regular basis.
- If you’re not currently active, what activity would you enjoy that would get you moving?
- What physical activities did you enjoy as a kid?
- Regarding exercise, what have you always wanted to try?
Maybe it’s walking, swimming at the “Y,” taking a martial arts class, or perhaps planting that garden you always wanted—think of the double reward of exercise plus fresh food and flowers from your garden.
Some additional points to consider as you think about an activity you would enjoy:
- Do you like indoor or outdoor pursuits?
- Do you prefer exercising in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings?
- Do you like silence or using music to motivate you?
- Do you enjoy working out on your own, with someone, or in a class/group?
You get the idea.
First, choose an activity you’ll enjoy, and one you will do with consistency. Consistency is the key. As you begin, what’s the better choice: doing a daily ten-minute exercise routine that fits your current schedule or being unable to honor your goal of exercising forty-five minutes a day? Your ten-minute program (which could easily be done at home using your bodyweight) might just be the catalyst for the transformation you desire.
We have the choice to be active or not. I know time can be tight. Review your schedule and see where you can find those extra minutes. How much time do you spend watching TV, browsing the Internet, talking with friends, or on social media? Begin by making small shifts with your time. How about a walk at lunch or after dinner? Perhaps taking the stairs instead of using the elevator, or periodically stand up during the day and do some bodyweight exercises.
Think about yourself today, at this moment. Don’t feel the need to compete with your younger self. Be realistic; please don’t try to relive the past. Who truly cares how far you could run or bench press in your 20s? Decide, from this point forward, you’ll make your aging process a fit, healthy, fun, and positive one.
By the way, who wants to participate with me in a 4×400-meter relay when we’re on our 90s?