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What?! Me an athlete? That’s complete insanity

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POSTED May 2, 2010 3:21 a.m.
I had a good laugh when I read the press release from the Manteca Convention & Visitors Bureau about the torch run opening the 2010 Manteca Senior Games next Saturday.

They had me listed as “an athlete and Manteca Bulletin editor.”

Calling me an athlete would be the equivalent of calling Jerry Lewis graceful. It isn’t going to happen.

I admit I was both flattered and a bit ticked when I was asked to run the opening leg that starts the torch relay on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Del Webb at Woodbridge and follows a 5.5-mile course that ends up at the new BMX track at Spreckels Avenue and Moffat Boulevard.

Flattered that they thought I was in shape enough to do it and upset realizing that I am a senior citizen. My age doesn’t really bother me - I’m 54. But the entire concept that I’m old enough to qualify for an activity only open to those 50 and over - the torch run - is a bit unnerving.

If you get a chance to see some of the people competing in the Senior Games from May 8-16 at various venues around town, you will probably rethink what comes to mind when the words “senior citizens” are uttered. They are more than a few senior athletes in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s who would have more than a few teens gasping for air tying to keep up with them in everything from track to basketball.

And if you get a chance to talk with some of them, you’ll find not all have been lifetime athletes. Many at some point in their 30s 40, 50s, or even their 60s decided they were, going down the wrong path in terms of sedentary lifestyles and inactivity.

It illustrates the point that it is never too late to change your life - and health for the better.

I’m living proof. When I turned 29 I was tipping the scales at 320 pounds. I decided at that moment that I wasn’t going to turn 30 weighing 320 pounds - or more. Ten months later I was at 195 pounds, bought a bicycle and didn’t miss a day of cycling for 986 straight days. On my 30th birthday I rode 114 miles.

In the following 20 years I managed to edge back up a bit to 220 pounds. I realized at age 50 that two decades of doing aerobics and cycling with a bit of jogging tossed in had made me healthier but I wasn’t as healthy as I could be.

Burning all of those calories had given me an excuse to eat a lot of junk even though somewhere between 29 and 30 I made a decision to become a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  

Three years ago I reached 165 pounds. I hadn’t weighed that little since the sixth grade. I’ve been there ever since. I have also managed to get my blood pressure on the lower end of normal, get my resting heart rate at between 50 and 60, and made chronic issues such as colds and headaches virtually non-existent to the point I’ve only experienced about a half dozen of those maladies in the past two years. I also have virtually eliminated arthritic pain as well as pain from bursitis from a crack in my shoulder I suffered about 20 years ago crashing into a dog on a racing bicycle during a 45 mph descent.

The purpose of sharing this isn’t to brag. It is to underscore that you can improve your health - and lifestyle - regardless of your age.

Now there are those that mistakenly think I’m an athlete because I jog every day or I hit a group exercise class at In Shape two to four times a week where I jump and kick like a maniac. I may have stamina but I still don’t have coordination or the skill sets that many of those you will see competing in the upcoming Manteca Senior Games.

But then again in a lot of cases they do it for the same reason I do - it’s great fun.

 If you doubt that ask the women - and men - in some of the group exercise classes or better yet ask the 78-year-olds you’ll find competing next week. You will be amazed at how much fun you can have raising your heart rate and working up a sweat.

Would I compete ever in the Senior Games? Not unless they have competitive high impact aerobics.

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