Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In this picture, you see some very fit Seniors who climbed Hannegan Peak last fall (click to enlarge). I wanted to write a post about how I got started exercising and went looking for some stock photos of old people exercising, when it suddenly occurred to me that I've got lots of those pictures right here in my own photo gallery. Everyone in this picture varies in age from the "baby" at 62 to the oldest at 74. More than half are over 70.

Although only seven of us made it to the summit, 17 Seniors went on this hike. If I were to do it again, I'm not sure I would choose to climb that last 500 feet, because it was just plain hard. But the reason I went for it is that I sometimes get what is called "summit fever" and want to see over to the other side. Now that I've done it, I don't need to do it again.

I started exercising on a regular basis in my mid-thirties, when I decided to stop smoking. As a pack-a-day smoker, I had tried several times to quit but I just couldn't. Climbing a set of stairs was impossible without stopping halfway up. I was overweight and very unhappy about the prospect of living for another thirty years or so in this rapidly deteriorating body. I bought myself a pair of running shoes and decided to train for a marathon.

Uh-huh, a marathon. I've been told that I don't know how to do things halfway. Within a week, I had shin splints, a painful condition that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. I went to a running store and talked to them about my condition and discovered that I was going about exercise in the wrong way. First of all, they told me to walk and jog, training myself in intervals, and until the shin splints cleared up,  just to walk briskly. This was NOT my idea of what a marathon runner does, but I listened.

Within a year's time, I could jog at a ten-minute-a-mile pace and finish a 10K race (6.2 miles). By the time I had done this, I was definitely hooked on exercise. I had lost weight, had no desire to start smoking again, and had actually run a race, and I didn't finish last! By the time another decade had passed, I could run a 10K race in eight-and-a-half-minute miles. But I never ran a marathon, since I found that I would get injured if I began to increase my weekly miles past 20 or 25. I continued to run for fun several times a week, usually on my lunch hour at work, until I was in my early fifties.

I had a serious pelvic fracture from skydiving at the age of 57, and I never ran again, except for an occasional mile or two just to see if I could. (I could, but I couldn't walk the next day.) Instead, I began to enjoy step aerobics, working out with my fellow exercisers on my lunch hour. We had an instructor who was a retired aerobics teacher, and she is still teaching on her lunch hours at my old place of employment.

Now I'm 67 years old and hooked on my exercise class at the YMCA, as well as my weekly hikes with the Senior Trailblazers. I would not enjoy my life nearly as much as I do if I could not exercise, and it's definitely become a habit. I like to exercise with like-minded people because I am energized by others. You are never too late to start making it a habit, and while I was thinking about this post, I found some good websites to help motivate you. Here's a small sampling of what I found:
  • Mature Health Online is designed for those of us who are older but still want to be fit and healthy. It covers lots of information, not just exercise. 
  • Promote Health and Wellness, written for everybody, not just us old folks, is designed to help you "live a healthier, more enjoyable lifestyle" with exercise plans, health news, and common ailments.
  • WebMD has this great "ten workout secrets" page where they talked to fitness experts to find out how they get the most out of their workout routines.
  • And the last one was pointed out to me through A Slower Pace (although this is not the article she pointed me to). The guy who writes this fairly new blog is 80 years old, and he posted this inspiring article: Marathon Meditations at Age 80
So Dr. Bortz (the 80-year-old marathoner) did get to run a marathon, actually 40 of them. I found this was not my path, once I started on an exercise direction. But the desire to get fit became a habit I am not likely to grow out of, as long as I'm able to move my body in some way, I'll keep on truckin'. I'd love to hear about your exercise wants and desires, if you are willing to share.


  1. Oh man...did I need this post today. For some reason I've been avoiding a routine exercise because of my sore knees. It seems repetitive motion hurts the worst. And I just love fast walking for exercise. I do a lot of heavy gardening though...up and down hills with a wheel barrel full of dirt, plants or compost, just about everyday now. I'm also into climbing my 10 foot ladder to paint the house I'm not exactly just sitting about. But my friends are walking daily at the nearby forest preserve...and I've been skipping out because of the knee situation. Any recommends for the knees?
    Thanks for the site links. What a great looking bunch in the photo...any single guys? ha! Can't help a girl for trying!
    I checked out the website that has the fitflop shoes and would love to get a pair of these...they look pretty cushy.
    Thanks for the much needed motivation.

  2. Thanks for writing about this subject and giving us those websites. As you know, I am walking but can't say I'm enjoying it. Today I pulled my WiiFit board out of the back of the closet and moved it to the living room in front of the TV. So far I've only walked around it like my daddy used to say "a calf looking at a new gate."

  3. What a beautiful summit. One can understand why it's the ultimate goal despite its difficulties. It's interesting to read about how you maintained your fitness over the years.

  4. It is interesting how you got started exercising and what motivated you at the time. The photo of the seven stalwart hikers is awesome, and the best part is that you are one of them!!

  5. I was once a fitness instructor....
    I also walked every evening, three miles. Since I have bad knees, it hurts to walk, I couldn't imagine doing the exercising that you undertake.
    I am in awe, I think it is so dynamic that you and your "seniors" go through life with such gusto.
    Amazing, simply amazing :)

  6. Hi, DJan, I am back from Hong Kong, where I had a lot of trouble keeping up with David's walk. I think I'll blog about it later today.

    Re: marathon training. I have blogged about it before, but it bears repeating. When I used to jog, I got severe chest pain and also had to use the bathroom. Bottom line: Doc told me running/jogging was too stressful for me and to try swimming instead. Nowadays, I do nothing...

    David wants me to get in shape for our next trip, when he anticipates we will do a lot of walking.

  7. You really are an inspiration. Keeping fit is essential to our health and you are living proof that it works. You look fantastic. I am amazed at your energy. I know people half your age that can not compete with you. Keep up the great work.

  8. I don't skydive or climb mountain peaks, which I would if they were in my back yard, but I do hike up and down the hills and woods that surround our home. I feel pretty healthy and active for 65...walking keeps me happy too!

  9. Lately I've been doing a lot of gardening instead of walking - many trips back and forth across the half acre yard, bending and stooping and crawling and up and down. I wear out faster than I used to and things take longer to do, but I keep at it, and I love the results in the way my yard looks. I struggle with the fact that arthritis and back problems are limiting me. I really need to lose weight so that it will be easier on my joints. I keep moving so that I can keep moving.

  10. I've always been somewhat sedentary, but since I've started blogging, it's ridiculous! MUST get back to yoga, walking, and a dash of light weight-lifting for arm strength. As I write this, I'm promising myself to start tomorrow.

  11. I've been wanting to get my act together and get back in shape for a couple of years now, but my body keeps betraying me! (bad back for a year, now the ankle sprain).

    I've finally started up at the gym again 2 weeks ago since my fisio gave me the green light for some easy exercises. Just the eliptical and bicycle without too much pressure so it's easy on the ankle, that and aquagym. In another week I'll add in some regular swimming and pilates (when my ankle feels stronger) and then I'll talk to the guy in charge of the gym to help put together a weights routine and see if I can avoid hating it too much... I'm more of a team/fun sports. I prefer classes where everyone is having fun together... not that easy to find!

  12. You're my hero. I love walking, and I don't own a car, so I walk everywhere. I don't have a regular fitness program, however, and I certainly don't hike the way you do.

    I'm going to check out those links now. Thank you!


  13. I get a lot more exercise over in England because I can get out more. Over here it is too hot to do anything much outside and I suffer for it. Also, the swimming pools want a monthly subscription just to go and get a weekly swim, so I don't do that either. I grump about that one! In England we can go and get a swim any time we like and we don't have to pay a subscription or join a club to do it. I'm not a clubby person. I prefer to do things on my own so it suits me to drop into the swimming pool whenever I feel like it not when someone else wants me to. I need to exercise more here now and I don't know how to do it! Help.
    Blessings, Star

  14. Great post DJan, perfect timing too. We did a lot of walking on our trip and I realized I have been spending too much time blogging and have let my exercise routine drop off. It's time for me to get back in shape.

  15. Jog on! Good for you. I am a great fan of exercise. I walk/jog four miles every morning and lift weights. I would be crazy without it and I wouldn't be able to eat. My metabolism checked out at the big M and I have to work at keeping it pumping now--65.

  16. I just finished all the posts I missed on your blog. I enjoyed looking at all the beautiful pictures you take while on your senior walks. As for blog fodder – taking pictures has changed a lot for me, now I take them with a view of placing some in my blog. When I came back from Baltimore I had 885 posts to read. Now I am down to 339 because everyday some posts are added. Some of the blogs I read I don’t ever place a comment – read them for fun or information. I have so much to read that I don’t have time to post. My last post was on 4th May, and that was while I was away, and the next should be soon, but my posts are long. The blogs I read are so interesting like yours – I always go back and read every one you posted even if I don’t comment. There is such a variety in blogs – I just read one from a friend in Botswana – when she came back home 3 lions were in the driveway – another one was a Dutch man living in Italy and foraging for plants – another one was a lady living in what used to be East Germany and recounting her experiences during the war – another one was a Dutch lady who was born in Indonesia and was placed in a prison of war camp, another one was a Brazilian ethnic Indian talking about prejudice (I had to translate it from Portuguese) another one was a French woman with great recipes and so on – it is fascinating. It takes too much of my time I know but then when we go on trips I walk a lot, like last week in Baltimore, we went all over with the kids’ stroller. About coffee – I love strong coffee but the doctor told my husband he needed to drink decaffeinated. I found some expresso decaf on line which is so good you can’t tell it’s decaf. Well I have to go and read the other 330 posts….

  17. You are amazing! First of all, that photo taken at Hannegan Peak is beautiful!
    Second, I'm so glad to hear how much you are enjoying living! What a thrill you must have arriving at the peak.
    Third, sky diving at 57 is on my list when I get there in 10 years. minus the hip fracture I hope.

    Do you go for massage therapy? I'm an MT in real life, ever since '94 to be exact. I really believe it makes a big difference in recovery from high impact expenditures.

  18. I wish that I was more like you!! I really don't like working out even though I know it's good for you!!I will work out for a few days and then quit and then start back again!! I want so bad to make it a habit!!

  19. I really got into exercise after I had my first kid; I needed to lose all that weight! I'm struggling now because I really want to exercise, but I'm having trouble finding the time. I prefer walking and Pilates and yoga. These help me feel in tune. I'm not sure I've got the stamina for the hikes that you do! I certainly don't have the time to join a class right now, though I could use that kind of regiment. I only hope to be as motivated and active as you!

  20. It is amazing how exercise becomes so natural a part of your life you don't even think about it anymore. I don't think I will ever stop being active either as long as I have the ability to do it. I swim laps and walk now, but I ran for twenty-four plus years. Ankle arthritis stopped my daily runs, but I kept going until several injuries made me realize I could not do it anymore. But...I miss it every day of my life.


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