Looking back on the last 15 years of my career, I realised that every person that had a part to play in my love of wellness and movement, as well as in my training, were all individuals mid 40’s and older! The gym that I started training in was owned by a wonderful man in his late 50’s at the time. He was (and still is) a buff, slab of a man with a wealth of knowledge about physique. He sparked my love of exercise and teaching. At the exact same facility, the aerobics classes were run by a group of instructors all in their late 30’s and 40’s with bodies of 20 year old’s! They gave class with more vooma than we had, at times some of the females instructed right through their own pregnancy’s (and often had their kiddies on the gym floor with them), flawless bods, rolling with their daily schedules like it was just how it was done! These women just had no end. To their passion, to their capacity and to their energy. It was infectious!
One particular woman always stood out, she had the most impact on my view of ‘ageing and exercise’. This particular woman was in her late 50’s at that stage. She was a tiny, toned ball of energy! There is just no other way to describe her. She owned that gym floor and not a soul in that facility didn’t fear her classes, they were mean as sin as doubly as effective. I did not know ‘aerobics marathons’ existed until I met this tiny little dynamite. She could ‘out step’, out Zumba, out kickbox anyone! To this day, this wonderful woman is still involved in classes (instructing and participating) and she is well into her 70’s by now.
In my early years of studies, I participated in many courses, but one particular instructor made a big impact, the course was run by another dynamo woman in her early 50’s who looked so good in a cosy that we were all ashamed to get in the pool with her! This dynamo was a force to be reckoned with, running multiple courses a week, giving spinning classes, training clients, travelling overseas to train teams, writing for well known publications..The list went on and on. Unstoppable, would be the first word that popped into my head when asked to describe her. To this day, as far as I can tell, she has only picked up the pace, not ever slowed down! The bod and the energy levels are the same, 13 years on!
In the past 15 years I have had the privilege of having these incredible people to look to for inspiration and guidance. I have either worked alongside them or under their guidance, they have taught me many many things but the most important lesson is the fact that movement is crucial to ageing well! When you slow down, your body slows down! Mindset is also equally important; think ‘old’ and you will feel ‘old’.
There are two types of ‘mindsets’ that I struggle severely to deal with. The ‘I’m too old to do that” and the ‘It’s too late for me to start now’! Blood pressure rising immediately! I won’t lie, when consulting with the 40 plus’s I prepare myself, like I imagine men would prepare for war. ‘Armour’ (check), battle mind set (check), game face (check), iron will (check), got it, good, now let’s go! A bit of a generalization/stereotype, but I do have to prepare!
I used to/do mostly dread a conversation with a 40 plus client because 9/10 times I am/was faced with the mentality that they are ‘too old’ to participate in certain movements or train in certain ways or ‘they can’t start now anyway it’s too late for them’. Hogwash! I want to bash my own head into my desk when I hear that. The reason we age is because we stop doing the things we did when we were younger! Think of your own childhood, how many times did you cycle kilometres to school and back every day and then still fit in a school sport or two before home time! Skipping was an activity that filled our break times, now it is a torture device used by Evil PT’s and boot camp instructors. Try do a handstand now, chances are you may collapse in a heap and your head may feel that it wants to explode, yet handstands and cartwheels were fun back then and something that came so easily!
People stopped doing all these things and as a result the body ages due to lack of stimulus. Somewhere along the line we developed this notion that once people hit 40, they need to slow down and relax. EEK! It’s that sort of thinking that gets you into trouble. There are no rules to what you can and can’t do at a certain age! You set the rules! Your body hears what your mind tells it. Ponder that thought! Hmmm..What is your body hearing daily?
I think retirement is the most dangerous ‘objective’ for most people because it breeds a mentality that once you hit that age you need to just sit down and relax. You earned it, now time to chill! You work your buns off to amass enough money to retire and ‘live’ but by that stage you have the ‘sit and chill’ mentality and most often people just do exactly that..no excitement, no travels! Devastating to your health because most times your body just adapts to the lack of activity by grinding to a halt! I am adamant (mainly due to the fact that I have seen this scenario play out too many times) that once you succumb to that mentality it is a vicious cycle of lack of activity, lack of stimulus, lack of endorphins and eventually a settling into a depressive state of acceptance that ‘this is just how it is meant to be’. Your body is meant to get larger with each passing year and your injury count grows much like your waistline. More meds are consumed to fight the ongoing lack of energy, mobility, motility (gut movement), confidence and lack of joy, not to mention the increase in illness because your immune system has left the building. Naturally there are many exceptions to this rule and I am hoping that through this blog you will stay an exception to this rule and stand out amongst your peers when the time comes. Be a beacon of graceful ageing, an 80 year old that can still skip with their great grandkids, a 70 year old that can do a cycle tour holiday!
I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by phenomenal veterans (most of which will probably slaughter me when they read that title, and most run faster than what I do..so I can’t even make a getaway, help!), all of these individuals shine out in their own activity and spark inspiration amongst any and all that they come into contact with. One particular couple, Steve and Maureen (whom I am hoping will start their own blog of their adventure’s soon, nudge nudge wink wink because I know you are reading this) never cease to amaze and inspire me with their stories of adventure filled diving holidays, boating trips, hiking, biking, enthralling activities in their 60’s. This incredible couple are super active and their circle of friends include like minded individuals who could out run, out swim, out train most of us in our 30’s. Shame on us! Below are two stories of two such individuals that have never slowed down. Two amazing individuals that prove to all of us that you are never too old, and it’s never too late!
Excerpt written by Maureen.
George Winship. His commitment is his willingness to share his experience with other athletes. This was the reason that Port Elizabeth City Mustangs – Triathlon Club was started in 2015 as a training squad for the East London 70.3 Ironman event. (He is the owner and Club Chairman)
George started off as a cyclist. “Cycling has been there right from the beginning – The first cycle tours I did back then was the Oostelig cycle tour during the 1980s”. “I have managed to rack up 22 Argus cycle tours and 12 Herald Cycle tours”. “Most of my running has been done here in the Eastern Cape. The few local marathons that have been held in Nelson Mandela Metro, I have done. The Two Oceans event was done at my first Ultra-distance running event in 2013”. Ironman events: “This will be my 6th Ironman 70.3 event as well as my 6th full Ironman event to date”
Recently completed a 5150 Olympic distance event. (This event will be held in Port Elizabeth on 02 April 2017 and both Pamela and George will be competing – they have not met as yet. It’s strange to know two people so well, who share the same commitment to their sport, who do not know each other!)
“The river mile has been done a few times but has now fallen victim to the Bell Buoy Challenge”
(Tuesday 21 March 2017)
“PB’s have always marked most of my sporting events. As running has always been my kryptonite, late last year I got a little help from a friend. 2017 running calendar has seen me do some of my best times, so far, on the short distances: it’s the long distance that still needs working on”
“Most of my inspiration has come from the folks I train with. From the young to the old, they are all out there. Armin Brandle is one of those senior fellows, tough as leather, who just keeps on going. So seeing my training mates reach their own goals is good for morale all round”
In addition to his dedication to assisting fellow athletes I have to add a few personal details.
George works full time, he is an entrepreneur and runs a successful on-line sales and marketing hobby goods and accessories business. He is a family man and a great friend.
`This is by no means a full list of his achievements at the age of 51 – merely a short version of why he is a person who motivates me to go out and enjoy my play time!
Life does not stop at 40 – this is merely the beginning of the journey:
Pamela Williams is an incredible 64 year old lady who works incredibly hard to fund her international sporting adventures. Being on the start line and reaching the finish line keeps her happy. This in turn inspires those around her!
She started her sporting lifestyle by joining a cycling club followed by a running club at the age of 38. Her initial motivation was as a response to the negativity from people around her. “Life stops at 40!”
Her motto is “Dig In” which aptly describes her goals which are to keep fit, healthy and enjoy travelling around the world to a variety of international events. Age is no barrier to achieving her ambition!
The motivation to travel as well as the love of feeling good and being totally fit keeps her actively involved in an assortment of international ultra events.
Her achievements include 25 Full Ironman, 30 Half Ironman 70.3 events, Olympic distance 5150 World Championships in Switzerland (the event was “too short” …)
3 Marathons In 3 Days – 4 completed, over 100 marathon distance (4.2 Km) runs, Borneo ultra Trail Runs (The Most Beautiful Thing) 4th one has just been completed and the 5th one will be later this year.
She has taken part in Ironman events all over the world including the holy grail of Hawaii, twice.
Upcoming events: Port Elizabeth Ironman will be on 02 April 2017 – she currently holds the course record for her age group.
This will be followed by another trip to South Africa in June for her 9th Comrades Marathon.
Next year’s plans include Comrades and the Busselton Ironman – all going according to plan these two will be the 10th of each event completed. A huge milestone in the sporting career of an inspirational athlete in the 65 – 70 age group!
Her bucket list has been filled, rewritten, filled and eventually discarded!
What more can I say about Pamela? She is a tiny little lady with a big smile. There are many more milestones which are not even mentioned here.
She broke her arm during a race on Mount Fuji and ran Comrades with her arm in plaster.
These two friends have motivated me to get back into competitive mode again.
I am not, and will never be in their league. However, I am considering something “special” for 2018 which will mark my 21st year of race walking – otherwise known as “being on the road”. This will be a personal challenge. With friends like Pamela, George and yourself to guide me along this journey I am confident that I will be able to achieve my objective.
Two close friends, two athletic clubs in towns on two different continents with so much in common!
There are so many fantastic examples of people chasing their dreams and ‘finding themselves’ later in life. These are a few!
Take for example the 80 year old female bodybuilder, Ernestine Shepherd. The octogenarian Baltimorean was born on June 16th, 1936. She didn’t start exercising until she was 56 years old but since then she’s gone on to win two bodybuilding titles. From 2010 to 2011 Shepherd was even declared the oldest competitive body builder in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. So what’s her secret? Discipline, determination, and good old fashioned hard work! She wakes up at 3am, she runs about 80 miles (130km) per week and she lives off a calorie-controlled diet of boiled egg whites, chicken, vegetables, and plenty of water. But the true secret to her success is simple: she never gives up. So remember that next time you’re procrastinating about going to the gym. Ponder that!
97 year old yogi’s still giving class! A 97-year-old New York woman is a yoga instructor who teaches eight classes a week and travels the world pursuing her two passions of yoga and dance.
Tao Porchon-Lynch, who will turn 98 next month, is a full-time yoga instructor at a studio in Westchester County, New York. The White Plains, New York, resident began practicing yoga in 1926. At that time, she said, “Girls didn’t do yoga.” “I saw boys on the beach making shapes with their bodies and thought it was a new game,” Porchon-Lynch told ABC News by email because she is currently traveling. “My aunt said it was, ‘Yoga and unladylike,’ and I said, ‘If boys can do it, I can do it.’”
70 year olds starting yoga or Pilates.
My own mother in law decided to start studying and get her degree at the age of 50! She now has her Honours in Industrial and Organisational psychology and has just started her own business at the age of 56!
There really is always a way OR an excuse.
I’m hoping that through this you will see that it is not only in your best interest to start moving and to keep moving but to also adopt a mentality of never slow down, that anything is possible (regardless of age) and that age is literally just a number!!! There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t or can’t start moving and enjoying a life filled with movement, adventure and vigour!
As they say, growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional!