Older Athletes Slow Aging by Staying Fit

By Fred Mays
June 27, 2019
Terry Regan Gonzales

They say, “Age is just a number.”

I say, “B.S.!”

I’m 74. There are physical things I can’t do anymore, due to my arthritis: “century” rides on my bike, wrestling a kayak on and off the roof of my car.

The aging process is real. The only undefeated athlete is Father Time.

But you can slow the aging process by keeping yourself fit and healthy in your senior years. It takes commitment and dedication, but it can be done.

Terry Regan Gonzalez is 64. She runs marathons, bikes, and swims. She occasionally participates in triathlons, and she’s a new inductee into the Plano Pacers running club’s Hall of Fame.

John Howard is 53. He runs regularly and enters triathlons. The only number vital to him is his interval time.

John Howard

As with most older athletes, Terry and John experienced a period of inactivity before getting back into it. In both cases, they got their mid-lives active, again, by running.

“In my younger years, I was fast on the track,” Terry said. “A few years later, I joined the Texas Instruments running club as a ‘retiree.’ I was hooked again.”

After a knee surgery, Terry had to go easy on the long-distance running. But she has since competed in shorter sprint triathlons, even making the podium for her age group.

“I went through a time where I didn’t do any sports,” John says. “I started to really miss it, so I got into running at age 47.”

John now competes in triathlons with two separate clubs. He’s finished 28 half-marathons and one full marathon.

How do they cope with nagging age-related injuries?

“It does take a bit longer to heal,” John said. “Rest days are just as important as any workout day.”

Terry admits she’s quite a bit slower than before.

“But,” she added, “I would rather be slower and able to run, than hurt myself again and not run.”

Adam Napper is the owner of and a trainer at Circuit 31 Fitness, in Allen, TX. His advice to older athletes?

“Balance exercise and recovery,” Adam said. “If you don’t recover enough, you risk overuse injuries.”

Jill Beam leads a Drumba Class

He is a proponent of gradually increasing your workouts over time and building recovery time into your workout regimen.

Adam advises three rules to recovery.

First: Increase sleep duration and quality. Second, sprinkle in easy workouts. And, third, manage your stress.

For many older athletes, fitness is a slow process.

Jill Beam, Wellness Director at CC Young Senior Living in Dallas, TX, recommends exercising four days a week with a low impact, high-intensity routine.

“My philosophy is, life has no remote,” Jill said. “You have to get up to change it.”

She leads groups in Zumba and Jazzercise for cardio, and suggests Yoga and Pilates for stretching, balance, and coordination. She recommends at least 2.5 hours of exercise every week.

“You don’t stop exercising when you’re old,” Jill said. “You get old when you stop exercising.”

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