You can change your physical health by changing the way you exercise, eat, and prioritizing quality sleep. In doing so you can benefit your mental and cognitive health. The way you age is a choice. Who better to hear it from than the individuals who are thriving after 50. I had the pleasure of meeting several of them at the Huntsman World Senior Games in October.
I challenge you to read (and watch their videos) and not be inspired. They’re you. They’re me. Many of the interviewees started long after 50. Many re-started after 50. For active aging these are the experts in the field!
If you want to create a thriving second half the best time to start was 30 years ago. The second best time to start getting better at getting older is TODAY. As you read and watch, imagine your possibilities becoming probably if you begin NOW to make decisions not based on scales, diets, or burning anything… but on living and experiences.
The Only Thing You’re Too Old For is Surgery
Lee, 94, from Pacific Palisades, CA., in her 8thyear at the games was donning three gold medals for table tennis. She’d previously competed in badminton and when knee replacements meant that wasn’t something she could do, she went looking for something she could.
Her table tennis participation keeps her motivated to stay in shape. She’s also keenly aware of the need for enough protein and avoiding sugar.
You’ll be inspired(or embarrassed) to know she can do what she calls 20 “men’s” pushups at least once a week – and intends to start doing them daily. She admits she’ll cut back to 10 when she’s 95. I challenge you to do 20 and share how that goes in the comments along with your age!
Lee was full of gems of wisdom for aging actively. Given she had done the most research in the room, I included them all! She is active aging at it’s best.
“When you can physically do what you want to do you feel better about yourself
The secret is being … very positive in stuff you do.”
“You are never too old. Even if you have a problem…
the only thing you’re too old for is surgery… I don’t think there is such a thing as too old.”
From Under the Crown
Charlotte Ambrose, 84 is Miss Senior Universe Miss USA representing Poland and is an open-heart surgery survivor. She is a prior competitor in the Senior Games whose husband was inducted into the Huntsman Hall of Fame this year. Charlotte and her husband are so clearly a couple active aging together.
Charlotte has done track and field events, swimming, and race walking.
In response to it being too late or being too old, Charlotte shared these pearls:
“Never, never too old … staying as healthy as you can, enjoying life, life is worth working to keep your active body and your mind.”
“Training the brain as well as the body are two linked entities to celebrate.”
Patti Miner, 62, Ms Utah Senior America who medaled in mixed doubles tennis event together with her husband, shared this:
“It’s better to be seen than viewed.”
I’ll let you think about that one for a moment!
“Age is just a number. Keep making goals.
Refocus, don’t retire.”
Patti’s words echo Flipping 50’s mantra, “Rewirement not retirement.”
We don’t always have the choice, but I loved the fact that several couples attended and both participated either in their own events or as teammates. It’s another perfect example of surrounding yourself with others doing what you’re doing or what you want to be doing. Choose a partner you can choose active aging with whenever possible!
From “Muscleless” to Medalist
Jan Miller, 68, a swimmer from San Antonio Texas participated in nine events that resulted in seven first places, a second, and a DQ.
Jan first participated in the Huntsman Games in 2000 when she was 50 – the youngest of athletes who can participate. Jan was a swimmer as a child, an Olympic qualifier. Came back to swimming for closure. She’s planning to return when she turns 70 and is in a new age group.
She belongs to a team and five of them attended the games together.
Though she was a swimmer – quite a skilled swimmer as a youth – she was away from it for 10 years, and shared that last year she spent nine days in a mental hospital. It was then that she realized she needed back in the pool.
“I’m going to go swimming. I’m going to do something that’s active and be around other people who are active.”
To get in shape she began cross training with several activities. She coined a new term perhaps, as she described herself as “muscleless.”
If you use it, it will grow, even if you’re 68, or 78 or 96 (the oldest competitor in swimming). Jan’s got a powerful message about starting wherever you are.
From Mom to Ironman
Allison LaField, 55, also from San Antonio, Texas, has been swimming all her life. She departed for a while to focus on family. She started again as an adult whose children were growing up. Swimming led to biking, which led to running and then bringing them together for triathlon. She mentions casually that she does Ironman distance (a total of 140.6 miles consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run done all in one day).
She swam six events. The back and fly are her stokes. These, by the way are not the “easiest” of strokes!
Swimming is an individual sport. Yet having a team means something even in a sport where it’s you getting yourself to the finish line. The take home message here echoed so many times at the Games (and in Flipping 50) is surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to be doing.
“It’s never too late. Swimming is one of the best sports for anyone over 50. You don’t have to be a swimmer or have any experience swimming.”
Juggling Coach and Competitor Roles
Susan Ingraham, 59, coach and competitor in this year’s games from San Antonio brought five athletes from her team.
Susan made an important distinction about “masters sports.” Masters sports aren’t associated with ability. It’s only an age-related label that ensures you’ll be with like-minded adults who share similar life experience.
Will you be the newbie? Likely not. Many adults over 50 are coming into the sport (swimming) from a sport that they’re now limited in by an ankle, shoulders, or knees.
Are your shoulders a limiter for swimming as you age? Hear Susan’s response!
The motivations for being a part of the team and being at the games vary from the opportunity for competition to weight loss to the social connections.
A year ago Susan created a video promoting the positive message and mission of the Huntsman Games. A woman saw it and was inspired so much that, Patty who had lost 75 lbs. on her weight loss journey that began in 2016 when she was 54 and 276 lbs., decided she too could compete and swam at the 2018 games.
“Even at 55 you can set new goals and get healthier, get active, and get some new goals in your life.”
And as you’ll hear in other stories those new goals can come in your 60s, 70s, or in your 90s.
“We should be challenging ourselves.”
A take-away here is this: share. Talk about and promote what you do, what you want to do, and your journey. You don’t have to be there yet. If you fear it’s bragging, consider that not telling your story is missing an opportunity to share with someone that “yes, you can”message that only you can share. We all need a “if she/he can do it, I can do it” message.
It’s Her Time
Debbie Pederson, 61 has been swimming competitively for less than two years. Like you perhaps she knew how to swim. She’d been a swim mom for years and so naturally when an Achilles problem limited her jogging swimming was a naturally easier-on-joints-sport that she was familiar with.
She wanted to stay healthy. Actually she wanted to get healthier than she was. At a time when many people are still thinking of “slowing down” active aging is quickly becoming a better choice.
While you might be thinking competition feels uncomfortable, it’s actually the fact that it is uncomfortable that is part of the attraction for Debbie. She shares how much that push outside her comfort zone is a part of why the team and the competitive environment is important for her.
Debbie’s adamant response to the thought that someone might be too old:
“No way! Go for it. Find a good coach, a master’s team, and just get in there and start swimming!”
Bonnie, together with her sister and sister-in-law did a triathlon, calling themselves team RU Kidding.
Feeling a little intimidated by triathlon or competition in general? You’re not alone. Bonnie shared,
“I was scared to death and it was a blast.”
They are influencing family members who want to get off the sidelines and participate. It’s that kind of environment. Few if any at the venues around St. George who were watching this year aren’t inspired with an “I can do that” attitude. It’s contagious.
Three months ago Bonnie could only swim one lap. At her triathlon debut she swam 25 laps no problem. Her sister couldn’t do anything but can now walk or run 5 miles.
Behind the scenes off camera, Bonnie shared that she was motivated to do the whole thing herself next year.
Try asking a scale to motivate you to do that. Watch this family event from swim to bike to run here.
The event is safely done in a pool and the collaborative, supportive environment is world class. Where in some races, indeed there may be some real heated competition, here you’ll see athletes turning over to backstroke, taking their time, enjoying each step. Often slower athletes are heard saying they get their money’s worth that way.
Dr. Jeff Schmirkoff, 55, from Alberta, Canada was like many of us working long hours, eating late, and finally decided it was time to do something about it. He is now just four years into his eligibility as an active aging senior athlete!
Life’s a marathon, just keep moving.
I caught up with Jeff at the pool where he was waiting his turn to begin participating in the triathlon. In all he was doing 17 events at this year’s games! He describes himself as slow, and also shared that it could be a positive.
“Don’t train too hard then you wont’ get injuries.”
Jeff is clearly a doctor prescribing the right kind of medicine and taking a dose regularly.
“Get tired of being tired.”
Jeff also shared his acronym, GOTCHA:
This medication has side affects too: longevity, self-esteem, energy, confidence, and enthusiasm for life.
Off the Scale and onto a Starting Line
Diana describes herself as 67 and ¾ years young. She competed in seven events in this, her 14thyear at the Huntsman World Senior Games. She said it simply:
“You’re never too old.”
She’s transformed her life and her healthspan after 50. At 49 Diana weight 208 and she’s now at 146. Listen to how she chose her doctor!
A Reason to Return
Pat, 69, had just had an exhilarating 1:38 minute finish in the triathlon when I caught up with her. She’s a St. George resident (lucky her!) and she’s been at the games 8 times participating in the triathlon (made up of swimming, biking, and running). If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a dozen times! The winners here all feel the same way:
“You’re never too old”
Pat’s advice for beginners about how to start:
It Takes a Village
Volunteers make the Huntsman World Senior Games run smoothly and they were amazing! But it’s hard to sit on the sidelines as a volunteer or a spectator (often called “Sherpa” if you’re there for an athlete) and not be inspired to get in the action.
I caught up with one volunteer at the triathlon event and she has different plans for herself next year! We made a date to compete next year.
Lauren’s job was to make sure all the swimmers got started in the right order to begin the first leg of their triathlon. If you’re inclined to attend and want to volunteer (either instead of or in addition to competing – there’s plenty of time to do both), check out all the options Huntsman World Senior Games.
“I might do this triathlon next year because I do bike and swim…”
Active aging has many faces. One thing it has in common though is choosing to start something – to accelerate – not to slow down.
Before I Departed
Dr. Stephen Barrett, 85, is a retired psychologist and runs Quachwatch.com http://quackwatch.org/He won 3 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and a bronze in seven events he participated in at the Games this year.
He’s only been competing for 10 years, meaning he began his competitive swim career at 75. What might you be starting right now? Stephen mentioned swimming is a wonderful physical activity but it’s also social for him!
“Swimming is a wonderful thing for fitness… you don’t have to compete… just go for fitness.”
When I asked him, being the psychologist in the house, how staying active was for mental and cognitive health he replied,
“I’m not senile yet!”
The Huntsman World Senior Games and Flipping 50 share a common mission, right along with the International Council on Active Aging and other entities that exist to “change the way we age” (ICAA’s tagline). I first got a closer look at the games and the organizers when Kyle Case, CEO reached out to me. I immediately asked him to be a guest on Flipping 50. Not long after Huntsman Senior Games began their own podcast and Kyle and Jeff Harding hosted me on Active Life.
I wasn’t unfamiliar with the Senior Games but I had no idea that state-held senior games were a part of something greater with one important distinguishing factor. It’s inclusive, collaborative and supportive. You need not qualify to participate.
What every one of the athletes I talked to have in common was the fact they’re getting older without feeling older. They are choosing active aging. The rocking chair was made for kindling.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you think about getting older?
Are you inspired to learn more about the Huntsman World Senior Games?
If you’d like support choosing an event, starting to train, whether your goal is weight loss, feeling better, beating your own time or being a World Champion, comment below that you want to and we’ll post more about how to set your goal and go into action. The 28 Day Kickstart is a perfect place to start if you’re challenged with changing needs of your body right now. There’s no “convenient” time! Do it now! I’ll see you there!