On becoming an “Active Senior”

Several years ago I was looking though the YMCA brochure that had come in the mail. After seeing all the wonderful activities in a section titled “active seniors” I said to myself, but out-loud, “I want to be an active senior.” My husband who had been in ear-shot acted like it was the funniest thing I ever said. I was still a few years shy of 50.

I have always believed that we should never stop growing, and learning, and must remain active. “Sharpen the saw” is one of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People according to Stephen R. Covey, and I couldn’t agree more. Whether we are talking mind, body, or spirit, if we don’t continue to feed growth, we die.

There are plenty of stories about “senior citizens” who have defied the norms and accomplished some amazing feats late in life. Runner’s World had a story about Julia Hawkins who not only took up competitive cycling at age 81, started running competitively at 100. Orville Rogers still weight trains and runs at 99 and didn’t start running until he was in his 50s. How about 107 year old Fauja Singh, who is thought to be the oldest marathon finisher? He didn’t start running until he was in his 80s. No excuses for the rest of us, right?

I will admit that in regard to some activities, I have said something to the effect of “that ship has sailed.” We all have physical limitations, and our desires change. Sometimes moving out of one’s comfort zone isn’t always necessary for growth. For example, standing out in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, which sounded like a great idea when I was 25, is the furthest thing I’d enjoy doing now. Running the Midnight Run in Central Park, however…

The point is, regardless of your physical limitations and changes to what we find enjoyable, there are always new things to try, goals to achieve, and desires to fulfill. The menu of items for “active seniors” involves cultural and artistic pursuits, ways to meet new people, classes to take, and exotic foods to prepare and taste.

Those are some remarkable stories from people that didn’t start until later in life. That said, while you are still young(ish) IS a great time to work on getting fitter and stronger so you can be active physically as well as mentally and spiritually. It’s never too late should be a reason to start now, not put it off any longer.

As I age (as a runner) my goals change. At (almost) 54, I do still have some time goals (like qualifying for Boston 2021 as I enter a new age group), but some days my goal is to just be out there moving. Running keeps me fit and it keeps me doing other healthy habits like strength training and remaining more conscious about nutrition.

Being physically fit, I have also found makes everything else in life a lot easier. My grocery store is just 3 blocks away and I walk. And I walk home with several bags of groceries. I can take the stairs if the elevator is too slow. I always beat the GSPs ETA on how long it’s going to take me to walk anywhere.  And I have on occasion fit into one of my daughter’s dresses (“that’s just wrong,” she says!).

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You don’t have to run marathons to be physically fit (although they are such an amazing accomplishment that they can kick start other goals you once thought impossible).  But you do have to move.  I’ll admit I’ve been struggling through this last half of winter. Getting out to run since getting back from the Surf City Half Marathon trip has been tough. I just joined the gym near me, so I have access, in addition to treadmills, to a pool. Lap swimming has always been my go-to cross-training and a way to keep moving when, for whatever reason, my running is compromised.

So, what are you doing to become an “active senior?” What are your goals and desires as you approach midlife and beyond? Let’s start a conversation and if you want to get more active, reach out to me.

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My Team Gilda Chicago Marathon Page

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