At age 37, I lived in Reston, VA, and wondered about all those runners who seemed to be everywhere in town. It was the late 70s. I had two children ages14 and 12, and a full-time job as an English teacher. I had enjoyed athletics in my youth, especially dance. But at that point I was not exercising regularly and had started to put on a few extra pounds for the first time in my life. One spring morning, I put on my sneakers and went out to run. I ran down the street, which was a cul-de-sac and then had to walk home. Wow. This running was difficult. Because my generation of women had never been asked to run for conditioning, I was completely unfamiliar with how difficult it was. The experience was painful, but I kept coming back for more and gradually found I could go farther and farther with less discomfort. I was thrilled when I finally ran a whole mile. When I increased my distance to 3 miles a day, a friend invited me to go to a 10K race just for fun. I managed to struggle through the whole thing and the rest is history. I ran for over 30 years, usually finishing first or second in my age group. When I was 42, I completed a 67-minute hilly 10-mile race in Lynchburg, VA, and a 3:05 NY Marathon earning me the “Most Improved Runner” award from the DC Roadrunners that year. In my late 50s, I was ranked sixth in my age group internationally by a national running magazine.
Soon after that, I added cycling to my exercise regime, having somewhat burned out on road racing and the numerous concomitant running injuries than ensued. My husband, who was a triathlete, got me into cycling, which I loved from the beginning. After a few years, I realized that I considered myself a cyclist who ran, rather than a runner who cycled. I formed a new circle of friends through the Potomac Pedalers cycling club and continue to enjoy long rides (50-70 miles) with them mostly in the MD and VA countryside.
I eat mostly vegetarian with some poultry and fish. I love to cook and prepare copious amounts of leafy green vegetables, which usually fill up half my plate. I also eat lots of fruit, at least 5 servings a day. I eat a low fat diet and prefer it. I eschew heavy desserts, but I do love bakery cookies and dark chocolate chips. I try to allow myself to enjoy these treats only once a day after dinner. I drink lots of water, no sodas, and skim milk. I eat a huge breakfast usually of oatmeal mixed with bran, chia seeds, and walnuts. I mix fresh orange juice with pomegranate juice and take a tablespoon of mercury-free fish oil with it.
I usually work out daily. In addition to cycling 2 to 3 times a week for 25 to 60 miles, I take long walks, usually 6 miles. I had to stop running two years ago because of an Achilles tendon problem, but I am planning to get back to it. I go to spin classes in winter.
Yoga has become a big part of my life and keeps me limber. I wish I had discovered it earlier to avoid running injuries. I am now more flexible than I have ever been and can now touch my hands flat to the floor, stand on my head, and do back bends. It was wonderful to discover an activity in which I actually improved even as I aged. I do about 30 minutes of yoga every morning and attend power yoga classes with and without weights 2 to 3 times a week.
I love to climb mountains on my bike (or hiking), and one of my favorite rides is Mountain Mama, a century ride in Monterey, VA, each August. I have been on many bike tours to places like the Dolomites in Italy, the Pyrenees in France and Spain, the Austrian, German, Swiss and French Alps and the foothills of the Himalayas in India. I climbed Alpe d’ Huez, famous mountain of the Tour de France, this May.
My career was in middle and high school teaching, counseling, substance abuse prevention, and school administration. I always told students that a healthy life style actually calls you to it because you feel so much better by working out and eating well than the alternative of using drugs and alcohol and eating junk food.
After retiring from the Fairfax County Schools, I worked for 13 years in character education for two non-profits in DC. I used to commute to work 20 miles round trip by bike. At 70, I finally decided I needed to retire to learn to play the piano, paint, and do more dancing (Argentine tango and West Coast swing). I know I’m extremely active for a 72-year old, and I like it that way. It seems natural to me to keep on chugging and try not to think, “I’m old, I can’t do that.” I also spend a lot of time enjoying the performing arts: opera, jazz, theatre, ballet, and the symphony. For me, feeding the artistic spirit is another secret to a healthy life. But the most important secret is staying close to my family and cultivating lots of friends who like to do the same things that I do. An important one of those friends is my daughter who has joined me on several bike tours. Our next adventure looks as if it will be Nepal. Join us!