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Did you know that most Senior Olympic athletes only began exercising or training on a regular basis after hitting middle age? Studies have shown that the “fitness age” of the average Senior Olympian is more than 20 years lower than his or her biological age!
Don’t let your body fall into disrepair after hitting the big 5-0! Despite the challenges that come with aging, becoming physically fit is an admirable, achievable aim. Let the stories of these impressive senior athletes inspire you to achieve your own personal fitness goals.
D. Paul Miller
D. Paul Miller, 99, a former Illinois Wesleyan University professor, recently received an impressive four gold medals at the National Seniors Games in Alabama. Having broken a bone in his ankle two weeks prior to the competition, Miller rallied for the Games, winning the long jump, discus, and 50 and 100-meter dash events. Encouraged by his son to participate in the long jump, Miller actually set a national record in the 100-104 age division for the event. These awards can be added to the more than 200 medals Miller has won in Senior Olympic track competitions. A positive attitude and discipline have made Miller a lifelong champion.
At the age of 19, Vivian Stancil was struck blind by a rare disease. She rallied, becoming the first blind educator in the Long Beach, California school district. In her early 50s, Stancil’s doctor informed her that, at 320 pounds, she was unlikely to make it to the age of 70. Instead of letting this proclamation frighten her, Stancil decided to take action. After realizing that running was too hard on her knees, Stancil decided to try swimming. After overcoming her fear of water, Stancil discovered a passion for the sport. To date, she’s lost more than 175 pounds and won over 100 medals in swimming. Outside of the pool, Stancil runs a sports organization that provides free swimming lessons to both children and adults. “You can be whatever you want to be, if you put your mind to it,” says Stancil.
“Jumpin’ Joe” Johnston, a retired physical education teacher, first tried pole vaulting in his youth. In his 40s, his father questioned when he was going to quit the sport. Now in his 70s, Joe still hasn’t quit! Joe has managed to set world records in both the 60-64 and 65-69 age categories. He also won gold in the 2013 Senior Games and has a national ranking in the heptathlon, a challenging competition that combines seven different track and field events. Johnston continues to train in the “Joe Dome” he built in his backyard. In addition to training regularly, Johnston offers free lessons to vaulters of all ages. What is Johnston’s secret to success? “Keep on doing it.”
As a high school student, Kay Glynn was a standout athlete, breaking records in the long jump and 60-yard dash. At 48, encouraged by her children, she returned to the world of track and field, taking up others events, including pole vaulting, at the age of 50. Since then, Kay has become a regular presence in the world of senior athletics. Now 64 and a grandmother, Kay has managed to vault her way over every hurdle that has stood in the way of her success, including two hips surgeries, rotator cuff surgery, and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. A lifelong fan of acrobatics, Glynn loves sharing the joy of physical activity with others, cartwheeling her way through life. She continues to compete in track events on the state and national level, setting records and winning awards. Kay encourages others to engage in the forms of physical activity that are most enjoyable to them. Some of the secrets to success are simply putting on your shoes, getting moving, and making fitness a priority, she says. With no plans on stopping, Kay Glynn is an inspiration to us all!
In Conclusion: Though most of us aren’t planning on becoming athletic phenoms, all of us can strive to maintain or improve our levels of physical fitness. Put on your walking shoes, dust off your bike, pull up a fitness video on YouTube, or visit the gym today. Before you know it you’ll be seeing an improvement in your strength, endurance, flexibility, and confidence!
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