Senior athlete takes fitness to the next elite level

The importance of staying in shape often goes beyond just looking good.

When I was in my mid-40s, I made a collective vow to myself to get into shape.

It started with boot camps, progressed into running, soon marathons and ultramarathons followed.

Friends and family questioned my “sanity.”

I would have no part of it.

Through the process, I lost more than 20 pounds, and soon came to the realization it wasn’t just about running and “getting into shape,” but for my health and longevity.

I feared, as my parents before me, I would become sedentary and as I aged, would be unable to move. (It was quite a challenge for my mother to get my dad to go for a walk, even if it was just one block). As I age, I don’t want to be plopped down in front of the TV waiting for the Grim Reaper.

It was refreshing last week to interview Sooke resident Myrtle Acton on being a senior athlete (see story page 31).

Acton, 82, has broken half a dozen Canadian age-group records in track and field events.

She too didn’t get back into sports until later in life – age 64, and certainly did not harbour thoughts of breaking any Canadian records.

Her plan was to simply get active. She started walking and before long was competing in race-walk events, and followed that up in track and field throwing competitions.

As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever, according to numerous studies.

Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain independence, and manage symptoms of illness or pain.

Exercise can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging.

Yet so few people remain active after they leave young adulthood.

I fell in the same trap.

I was a very active teen playing in almost any sport I could, but once I left high school it became a passing fancy. I’d play softball or the odd game of road hockey, but nothing too serious.

Once my children came along my energies changed to their sporting pursuits.

It’s a common theme.

For Acton, it became her plight too, but she also knew when she got older, she had to get active.

“I truly believe keeping yourself active. You don’t need to get up and run or have to do marathons, but you have to stay active, that really is the key,” Acton says.

To regain her fitness in her 60s was one thing, but being able to turn it into gold medal podium finishes and Canadian records takes it to a new level. It’s one we should all aspire to.

Thanks for the inspiration, Myrtle.

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Kevin Laird is editor of the Sooke News Mirror. He can reached by email at klaird@blackpress.ca or by phone at 250-642-5752.