Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

What’s the difference between Harriette Thompson and you?

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My search for interesting news regarding fitness and health began this week with Harriette Thompson, the 92-year old marathoner who completed her 16th race in May. That led me to learn about other amazing folks, including a runner who is 104, a 98-year old ranked tennis player and an 85-year old Ironman triathlete.  A cyclist who is 103 clocked a 10% improvement over his time when he was 100!  A 74-year old Japanese equestrian was the oldest Olympian in the 2008 and 2012 games – and not the senior Olympics, the regular Olympics! Another athlete at 87 likes to mix up her physical conquests, and won gold medals in the hammer throw, discus and a bronze medal in javelin at the Senior Olympics.  Some, like the 80-year old bodybuilder who began lifting in her 60s, won the first competition she entered at age 65. Others have made fitness central to their lives, like a 96-year old yoga instructor (still teaching) who used to be a cabaret dancer, and an 88-year old hockey player who used to play for the Barrie Flyers and still plays in tournaments. Staying in a plank position may not be your favorite thing, but a 57-year old former marine (baby of the group) set a new record. He held the plank position for 5 hours, 15 minutes with excellent form, texting and doing other tasks to avoid boredom while he did it.

Diana Nyad is another amazing human being. She’s not just the oldest but the only person to swim nonstop from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage – she just happened to be 65 when she did it.

What keeps these people ticking? After reading their stories, I realized they had a few things in common. They all had a cause, like Harriette’s cause of raising money for lymphoma from which her husband recently died. Or George Hood, the former marine and plank world record holder who dedicated the money he raised to the Semper Fi fund for injured service members. Another common characteristic was their positive attitude. One major standout quality was their own self perception of limitless ability.  To quote Harriette Thompson,  “I want to think, ‘I’m gonna do it. I don’t think I can’t do it, I’m gonna do it.’ And that helps, you know, to be positive,”

No one told these people they couldn’t do it. No one thinks or dares to say to these people that they are too old. No one would imagine that people of their experience and age could accomplish these feats. As one of my previous blog posts regarding longevity and self-perception on May 3rd points out, your self perception has a huge impact on your health and abilities.

They believe they can do it, so they make it happen.  What are you doing to make your hopes, dreams, and ambitions happen?

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