Imagine the 65 year old woman on Medicare – and then throw away the image that is most often visualized. Unless you “saw” a lean, strong, bold, fit, focused and fun-loving athlete you missed a trend that’s fueling many athletes above a certain age. Runners, cyclists, skiers and “sporty”-women build more than hard abs or a toned butt. They build resilience by working through pain, pushing onward and knowing the hard work will pay off. They gain a social network and optimistic perspective on life and potential. Water athletes have another aspect to their active passion – water! Water in lakes, oceans, rivers and bays add a non-jarring celebration of the senses.
Each athletic endeavor enjoyed by the 65+ year-old can deliver amazing benefits when training and practice are balanced with good coaching, listening to one’s own body and a respect for current abilities. This is true for all athletes, but leaps in importance as we journey into those upper decades. But – WOW! – the benefits rock our world.
My primary sport of choice (when I am not skiing, hiking, cycling or playing outside) is standup paddling and surfing. In the course of meeting plenty of my peers at races, at the surf break and simply paddling in beautiful places I have heard so many stories of survivors – survivors of accident, disease, loss, life disappointments and challenges beyond measure. These stories were most often shared without a whine, but rather with a smile and sense of serenity. We water athletes know that regular and consistent exercise fights anxiety and depression better than drugs. The ability to cope with the stress is directly related to the endorphins we have in our body. Because we regularly tap those endorphins we are able to do it when stress hits. Research shows that highly stressful emotional events (which seem to come in quick succession as we age and simply live those extra decades) can result in a permanent suppression of endorphin levels. It just makes sense – stimulate those endorphins with fun on whatever incredible body of water you can find. Get the SUP Perspective instead of what the pharmacy can provide.
Who the heck is THAT in the mirror? Have you ever been shocked by the wrinkles and sags that are the inevitable surprise of aging? Plastic is not the route to increasing our self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined as being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness. Grab your paddle and fuel a steady stream of oxygen and nutrients to your brain to improve functioning. After a downwind cruise with friends or a training paddle across a mountain lake you feel ready to take on the world. As we gain those decades we need our self-esteem. No matter where you live there are professionals, clubs, groups and water that you can tap into as you develop into a water athlete. Watch that self esteem soar!
Getting older is not for sissies – you’ve heard that one and I bet you’re nodding “oh yeah!” right now. There’s a world of freedom in the journey. I recently threw my inflatable Naish ONE 12’6″ raceboard in a duffel bag and headed to Lake Las Vegas for the N1SCO World Championships. Was it because I am an elite racer and super -speedy? Heck, no. I write and tell stories. Did I compete with the rest of the wonderful water athletes aged 10 and teens through all the decades? You bet. My trophy? I finished the races, often in last place. I had trained and practiced. I AM a water athlete and i had FUN! (catch the video below and on the Elder SUP YouTUbe channel)
Racing is not the only way to feed your inner water athlete and suer-charge attitude and well-being. Just being out in nature, balancing on your board and paddling with your entire being is a treasure. Check out a recent Fall paddle in Central Oregon – then go find your stoke! This article is dedicated to so many who have inspired me – to name a few Peggy K, Suzie M, Nansee B, Dagmar E, Steve G, Ed S, Randall B, Dennis O, Gerry L … and the list goes on!