Susan Simmons, who swam the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Victoria last year, speaks on staying healthy as one ages, March 22 at the Yakimovich Wellness Centre in Victoria. Travis Paterson/Black Press

Keep swimming: Strait swimmer giving seniors’ fitness motivation talk

Free presentation by Susan Simmons part of Embrace Aging Month

Susan Simmons is somewhat of an expert on fitness and motivation.

At age 52, she swam the Juan de Fuca Strait from Port Angeles to Victoria in about 10 hours, no small feat, especially considering she has multiple sclerosis.

“At about the age of 40 I was very sick. I found it very difficult to even walk a block,” said Simmons. “I thought, if I don’t do something, I’ll end up in a wheelchair.”

Her doctors told her not to exercise, but out of curiosity, she tried swimming. Her first attempt was 10 to 20 pool lengths.

She can now cover 70 kilometres without stopping. “Every year I challenge myself. It’s helpful to have a goal – I ask myself, is it possible?”

Simmons’ next goal is to swim the Strait twice – a 68-km round trip. “I’d be the first to do this. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I’m going to try,” she said.

“I use activity as a ‘disease management tool’, it’s helped me age well. I’m ableto do things I never would think I could do,” said Simmons.

In addition to working full-time and maintaining a swim schedule, Simmons has opened a non-profit, the MS Wellness Centre.

On March 22, Simmons will share her unique story in a workshop at the Hillside Senior’s Health Centre, as part of Embrace Aging Month. The free talk, entitled Curiosity, Possibilities and Community – a Way to Good Health! runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and will cover tips to stay fit and how to overcome mental and physical challenges.

“My story is not just for me, not just for MS, it’s for everyone,” she said. “Every person is worth the effort it takes to be fit and healthy.”

Not only will it offer tips on staying healthy as one ages, it’ll give seniors an opportunity to connect, as research indicates that social isolation can be detrimental to one’s well being.

“The social side of life is huge. Something as small as a hug or touch has healing power. Just knowing that someone cares, it’s very important,” Simmons noted. “It’s important that seniors have a place where they can meet and relate to others.”

For more information on the presentation or any of the many others being offered at the Yakimovich Wellness Centre, 1454 Hillside Ave., visit http://bit.ly/2FzR3XL or call 250-370-5644.

anna.james@vicnews.com

AgingHealth and wellness

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