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Fitness advice from super seniors

Athletes competing in this year's National Senior Games discuss their strategies for staying fit, healthy, and motivated.

Athletes competing in this year's National Senior Games discuss their strategies for staying fit, healthy, and motivated.

This year, competitors over the age of 50 from throughout the country will convene in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the National Senior Games (NSG), the world's largest multi-sport event for seniors.

This biennial event has 20 Olympic-style events including outstanding amateur athletes. These "super seniors" are from a variety of different backgrounds. Many have spent decades training in their sport, while others have returned following a lengthy hiatus. A handful has resumed their endeavors only recently.

Despite this, they encounter the same hurdles as you do: finding inspiration, overcoming injuries and setbacks, and determining the ideal training regimens to accomplish their goals. Three accomplished athletes were interviewed about what they've learned along the way - and what you can learn from them.


Philipp Djang, swimming


Djang, 66, has 34 gold and eight silver medals to his name and has set 21 NSG records in four age divisions.

Every day, move. Daily, do something that exhausts you. I make exercise a daily ritual, similar to brushing my teeth. Additionally, it does not have to be the same activity every time, as variety is the spice of life.

Locate a village. I get a lot of joy and happiness from seeing my pals at the pool and gym. When a group of people has a common experience, the shared link has a synergistic effect on the group and can serve as the foundation for lifelong friendships.

Recognize the differences between types of pain. There are numerous forms and severity degrees of pain. The best type of pain is the burn that results from attempting as hard as possible. A severe pain, such as a sprain, feels quite different. Distinguishing between them and determining how far you can safely push yourself is a necessary aspect of gaining a greater understanding of how your mind and bodywork.

Alternate your workouts. Periodization is critical to my training. [Periodization is the process of altering variables during exercises in order to maximize performance and keep the body challenged.] For example, I vary the distance and intensity of my swims — fast, short swims to develop speed and long, slow swim to work on technique.

Love what you do. I establish competition goals and occasionally accomplish them. However, if I do not, that is fine, and there is no need for me to stop doing what I enjoy. To begin, always do something that makes you feel better.


Vince Obsitnik, running


Obsitnik, 83, has been running marathons since his mid-50s. He ran the Boston Marathon in less than four hours and a marathon in the Slovak Republic when he served as the United States Ambassador.

Plan your workouts. I schedule my training days on my calendar and then I'm done. There will be no turning back, regardless of how sleepy or unmotivated I am.

Stretch it. I am a huge believer in stretching prior to and following workouts. Someone introduced me to this approximately 30 years ago, and I continue to follow it. I have nine stretches that encompass the entire body, including upper and lower. Stretch lightly before your workout and more vigorously afterward. When you stretch hold it for approximately 30 seconds.

Put yourself to the challenge. Confronting and conquering obstacles fosters a life-long hope that anything is achievable with enough effort. Today, I consistently push myself by running every other day and competing.

Take control of your health. I've overcome five significant health difficulties and returned to running following each one. I took charge of my own health and was an active participant in the diagnosis and treatment of my condition. I've always questioned doctors until I was confident that we were heading on the right route to resolve the issue. Doctors told me ten years ago that I needed a hip replacement and would never be able to run again. This conclusion did not sit well with me. Thus, after extensive research, I chose to have my hip resurfaced rather than replaced, and I've been running pain-free ever since.

Brian Hankerson, track


Hankerson, 62, is an NSG age category record holder in the long jump, high jump, and triple jump.

Establish long-term objectives. Each year, I establish particular goals for the events in which I will compete. I then design a training curriculum to accomplish those objectives.

It is acceptable to take a break. Recognize the critical nature of rest and recovery. I've learned to distinguish between a lack of motivation and when my body needs rest.

Accept competition. I appreciate training with folks who are more skilled than me. For example, I frequently train and compete with high school and college athletes on the track and in the long jump pit. My objective is to compete with them, not to be intimidated by them.

Seek aid. I was frequently wounded early in my competitive career. I discovered that adequate instruction was critical. For me, this required training with appropriately educated, licensed and experienced experts.

Recognize that this process will take time. Be patient and do not become disheartened if you do not see results immediately. The very fact that you are exercising and training constitutes progress.

Information By Matthew Solan


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