Continuing upon our senior games theme during July, Margery Fridstein, author of The Last Stop, highlights the athletic achievements of her friends who are long-time competitors in the Rocky Mountain Senior Games and other athletic events in Colorado.
Most readers are familiar with my articles on my senior living experiences, but this time, it is my good friends, Jan and Ted and their athletic successes as they age, who are the focus. For 20 years, my husband and I were great buddies with them in Snowmass Village, Colorado. We skied, hiked, played tennis, partied and traveled together. Then the time came when we both decided to move to senior retirement communities at a lower altitude. We each chose a community close to one of our children. Bob and I put our skis and hiking boots away. Though Jan and Ted may not ski and hike as much anymore, they are out there breaking other records.
At 88 years old, they are both accomplishing enviable athletic achievements. At the Rocky Mountain Senior Games held this past April in Greely, Colorado, Ted won seven Gold Medals and one Silver Medal, while Jan competed in a field of 42,000 participants in the BolderBOULDER 10K on Memorial Day in Boulder, Colorado. I remember each of them undergoing double knee replacement surgery about 10 years ago, but you wouldn’t know that based upon how active they are. Jan walks 6.2 miles for the 10K, while Ted’s sport is weight lifting.
I would not have known anything about either of their athletic successes at if I had not asked. Jan and Ted are both incredibly modest. Ted competes in the 85- to 89-year-old age group in weight lifting. He has attended this event annually since 2008, winning between five and eight gold medals every year. This year there were eight men competing in his age group, Ted being the oldest.
The state-wide senior games held in Colorado is called The Rocky Mountain Senior Games. An athlete in most other sports can compete at the National Senior Games if he or she has qualified at the state level but unfortunately, Ted does not have that option. Weight lifting is only offered in Colorado, so he cannot compete at the 2015 National Senior Olympics in Minnesota.
During his eight years of competition at the senior games, Ted has not only won in his age bracket, but also scores better than the men in the 70-year-old categories. And what is so gratifying to Ted is that the younger men encourage him to beat their records. He finds great comradeship at this annual event which is why he keep training and going back.
Ted does not have the stature of a heavy-duty muscle man. He looks much more like a retired school administrator, which was his career, than a body builder. I asked him about the history of his strength. He told me that as a kid he was always the youngest in his class because of promotions related to being a good learner. He found it hard to keep up in sports in school because he was younger and smaller than the other kids, so he just worked harder. He believes the need to work harder and compete with his classmates was the root of this old-age athletic competitiveness. However, he has been athletic all of his life starting out his adult career in education as a high school basketball coach. I asked if his kids were proud of him. He told me that they don’t say much to him about it, but he thinks that they brag to their friends.
How does Ted prepare? Ted’s gym is across the street from where he lives. He usually works out for an hour or two four times a week. His exercises include push-ups, sit-ups, bench presses, leg press and curls. I can remember seeing him working out at the Snowmass Club when we in Snowmass Village. There is nothing halfhearted about his work out. His recommendation to others who are training for weight lifting is preparing for a long period of time and not lifting anything heavy without proper preparation. He began preparing in January for April’s competition, and now he has slowed off.
There is a wonderful quote on the Rocky Mountain Senior Games website by John Byrne: “Getting older is fine. There is nothing you can do to stop it so you might as well stay on the bus.” In my opinion, Ted is more than on the bus—he is having a great ride on that bus!
Jan does not accompany Ted to his games. “That is his own thing,” she tells me. “I am very proud of him.” Instead, she focuses on her 10K training and is as modest in describing her training as Ted is about his. She takes three-mile walks several times a week and swims almost daily. She also goes to a water aerobics class. Jan was particularly proud of this year’s race because she was two minutes faster than when she competed last year, and there were only three women in her age group competing.
Jan told me about a disappointing experience they had when living in Snowmass Village. For many years they had participated in America’s Uphill, an annual winter event involving snowshoeing up Aspen Mountain. They usually won when they were in the 70s-age category group. When they turned 80, their application was turned down because there was no 80s group and they were not allowed to participate with the 70 year olds.
No question, Jan and Ted are extremely fortunate to have the strength and vigor to continue their athletic endeavors. There are probably a lot more of us who could be out there competing with and against them. They serve as role models, encouraging all of us old, old folks to keep in there as long as we can and make the old body work.
Written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist specializing in child development. Margery currently lives in a continuing care retirement community outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her senior living experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”