Find Your Inner Olympian and Get Fit At Any Age | Reader's Digest

Find Your Inner Olympian and Get Fit At Any Age

Let the Olympic games inspire you to reach your own fitness potential. These ordinary folks did!

By Kathryn M. Tyranski
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    Triathletes Jane and Jean Diaz

    Jane and Jean Diaz, 47, are identical twin sisters. Jean is the older twin by a few minutes and together they compete in triathlons. The twins always cross the finish line together. They say that training and competing in the triathlons has not only made them better athletes, but better sisters.

    Jane's doctor told her she had high cholesterol and needed medication to get it under control. She asked him to give her three months to get in shape instead. She had her mind set on triathlons. The payoff? Jane lost more than 20 pounds and avoided cholesterol medication. The sisters are now seasoned triathletes and in the best shape of their lives.

    On June 15, 2008, Jane and Jean participated in their latest triathlon. This time, they brought along their two older sisters Lena, 55, and Sharon, 53. That triathlon was the first all four Diaz sisters competed in together.

    Beckie Page Motivates Others

    Beckie Page, a native of Pennsylvania, took up beach volleyball when she moved to warmer climates. Beckie says, "I love fitness. It's become a lifestyle for me. At work, I do my best to motivate my clients and coworkers. I always use Monica's line from Friends, 'Jump on the exercise train and I'll be your conductor!'"

    Beckie's enthusiasm for fitness demonstrates that the healthier you are, the more satisfied you are. A survey by AARP found that 64 percent of Americans aged 50 to 79 were more satisfied with their lives when exercise was a regular activity.

    Barry Erbsen

    Erbsen, 67, is a lean, mean biking machine! The semi-retired dentist of Studio City, California, gets up every weekend to ride up a 5,000 foot mountain. Before taking up mountain biking, Barry was a marathon runner.

    Barry says mountain biking, "is just fun -- being in your 50s and 60s and being able to keep up with most 30-year-olds." He says when he does go out to ride on his own, he looks out for the occasional mountain lion. Although he's never seen one, he resolves to say, "They're shy!"

    When he's not biking, Barry spends a lot of time in his orchard and gardens. He also goes to the local gym to train with weights during the week. You lose 10 percent of your aerobic capacity and muscle mass every 10 years after age 40. With regular exercise, these declines can be minimized.

    Judy Moerlein and her Hiking Friends

    The Hillside Hike Bikers are pictured above with one of the group's co-founders, Judy Moerlein. Judy, 77, has lived in Alaska for over forty years. She decided to take up hiking and biking when she was going on a sightseeing tour of Alaska that would require a lot of activity. The rest is history. Every week a group of about 20 women go hiking and biking.

    Judy hikes on Tuesdays and cycles on Fridays. She's kept up this routine despite two knee replacements, a spinal fusion, some arthritis, and even cancer.

    While 85 percent of people over 65 have a health problem that might deter them from exercising, in many cases the exercise can help the problem.

    On hiking, Judy says, "It's invigorating and it's the most wonderful kind of activity that one can pursue because you stay in the house enough. You don't have to stay indoors forever, and it's better to balance lots of reading, lots of gardening, and lots of other activities with the physical."

    94-Year-Old Jim Hammond

    "I never competed in my life before this," says Jim Hammond. This spry 94-year-old from Minnesota has won multiple gold medals in the National Senior Games and has even set a few world records in sprinting events. Hammond challenges himself when exercise begins feeling easy and works diligently to stay in shape. The next National Senior Games is in 2009 in San Francisco. Hammond's goal is to set national records at that meet. "I work out from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. five days a week," says the senior sprinter. His routine is a combination of running and weight lifting.

    Surfer Rex Patton, of Atlanta

    Rex Patton is not shy! This 57-year-old of Atlanta took up surfing around 10 years ago. How'd he learn? With a bunch of 12- and 14-year-olds! He says, "It was a little disconcerting, but I didn't care. Those things don't bother me, I was there to work for myself and it was pleasing to watch these little kids." Patton tries to get out to his beach house in Vero Beach, Florida regularly to keep his surfing skills fresh.

    Patton says surfing is a visceral feeling that's hard to put into words and that it allows him to be creative. The sport demands a surprising amount of shoulder strength that Patton maintains through weight lifting two to three times a week. Pilates and yoga help him with flexibility and balance.

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