When speaking with women in their 40s, 50s and 60s about what it takes to stay fit while getting older, these three qualities were mentioned across the age groups – recognition, acceptance and adjustment.
Recognition: Deanna Koscielny, 41, of Marquette had children at a very young age, was always on the heavy side, smoked and besides hiking and an occasional aerobics class, never exercised until she was in a serious car accident in her mid-thirties. Luckily, her injuries were minor, but the accident confronted her with the reality that she only had one life to live. “You can’t take your health for granted,” Deanna said. “If I had not changed, I know I would now be on high blood pressure meds and probably have diabetes.”
Deanna quit smoking and started biking with a women’s bicycling group called Women Shifting Gears. She not only very much enjoyed her first mountain bike ride, she also connected with many other women in the group. Soon she had exercise routines and new friends. Over the years, Deanna became very fit, competing in races and challenging herself with different types of activities, including running a marathon this spring. Her job also changed – she now teaches others how to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle as part of a Marquette General Hospital program.
Acceptance: Marion Johnson, 53, of Ishpeming, was just entering high school when Title IX was introduced, and consequently ,women’s sports. As a result, Marion participated in track and field and quickly became a successful sprinter. With her priority of raising children, Marion remained active throughout her 20s and 30s by introducing her children to outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and swimming. As she entered her mid-40s with her children grown, Marion was able to shift her priorities back to her own activities with health and longevity now her primary goals for exercise: “As you age, you want to be fit to enjoy life.” So Marion stepped it up with road riding, mountain biking, running, and intense Cross Fit training. She not only enjoyed the results of the training but thrived on the workouts as an important part of her daily routine. Now in her 50s, Marion recently experienced a setback, tearing her meniscus while running. She is still working through her recovery following surgery and realizing she may have to rethink her workout routines and perhaps scale the intensity back a bit. “It’s a reality check.” Marion has accepted that the unexpected injury requires she make some adjustments in her active lifestyle. Rather than quit, she will learn new ways to stay active and injury free.
Adjustment: Janet Koistenen, 61, of Gwinn has been an athlete all her life. As a child, her father encouraged her to be active outside, and as she grew older, she became a competitive runner and cross-country skier. Nowadays, Janet sees her sports as a way to have fun and to enjoy nature, so she is still very active in her 60s. However, over the years she did have to adjust some of her routines. For instance, after running on pavement for many years, knee pain prompted her to switch to trail running. Although trail running is often much more irregular than running on pavement, Janet said the softer surface makes it easier on her body. She also began adding bicycling and swimming to her routines. Mixing up activities, Janet said, contributes to her staying healthy enough to still run, swim, bike and ski regularly to this day. She even competes here and there, including the Copper Harbor triathlon, the Copperman, this August.
Adjusting to change, especially adjusting her mindset, has not been the easiest thing for Janet. About five years ago, during a cross country ski race, she realized it was time to change the way she was going about the sport. She said during the race she felt very competitive, thinking about beating the others. “I wanted that attention,” she explained. “I was doing it for all the wrong reasons.” Janet recognized she had forgotten to have fun with it, so she stepped away from racing and instead focused on teaching others. Teaching prompted further insight. Janet began surrounding herself with younger generations, whom she helped improve at sports and whom in turn motivated her to stay active, a win-win situation. Now Janet encourages folks her age and older to stay fit by being active with younger people. The Marquette area offers endless opportunities for generations to mix and exercise. A good introduction might be to start a sport with a grandchild or join a local sports club.
All the women agreed that no matter one’s age, fitness and a healthy lifestyle is achievable. It may take a bit of a leap for some, but very often that first step leads to not only a happier but also a longer life.
Miriam Moeller is a former journalist and creative writer. She currently works at Northern Michigan University in the International Programs Office. She loves biking, skiing and her dog Marla.
Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012.