Women in the 21st Century are on the cusp of breaking new barriers in sports and fitness again, and one of the most stunning is conquering the stereotypes associated with age, which they are discovering in advanced age. Two women are outstanding examples of what is possible as they inspire a generation of both women and men. Marathon runner 92 year-old Harriette Thompson and 78 year-old Ernestine Shepherd professional body builder were introduced to their sport as older women.
Thompson’s new marathon record breaks one set by Gladys Burrill, who ran the Honolulu Marathon at 92 years and 19 days old. Thompson is nearly three months her senior.
Ms. Shepherd did not start working out until she was 56 years of age after not being comfortable wearing a bathing suit in a slightly pudgy middle-age body. Today her diet consists of six meals per day and a rigorous workout/exercise routine. Shepherd begins her day at 2:30 AM, runs 10 miles, works out at the gym for over an hour, teaches a number of fitness classes and then conducts personal training sessions.
Building muscles takes a long time, and she started out slowly that included simple aerobics classes in her routine. Once she began to see the effects of lifting weights, she decided to be the oldest fitness competitor. Like Thompson, she also began running marathons to increase fitness.
Shepherd is adamant that eating smart is the best way, and she has several small meals a day as part of a diet plan she formulated with her trainers. She consumes 1,700 calories a day, mostly comprised of boiled egg whites, chicken, vegetables and a liquid egg white drink. Additionally, she does not use performance-enhancing drugs or even supplements beyond vitamin D. Her diet might not be for everyone, but her focus on healthy foods is a lesson in discipline, consistency and restraint.
Follow a day in the life of Ms. Shepherd here on a YouTube video. She is amazing.
Senior women redefining age
Women hear the phrase “age-appropriate” many times during discussions of clothes, behaviors and hair styles. Likewise in past years, visualizing a woman in her 90s running a marathon or body building with the best at a local gym at 78 would have been unseemly, not age appropriate and even discouraged as outside acceptable decorum for a woman. Not any longer.
Women are challenging stereotypes and ageism. It’s time to retire the entrenched social dimensions associated with age. Traits that characterized all old people as sedentary, gray haired, hard of hearing, balding with poor eyesight don’t have to apply. If we can learn anything from Thompson and Shepherd it’s that one is never too old to choose fitness and a healthy lifestyle—even, like for Thompson, when life throws you a curve like cancer.
is retired and lives in Clearlake, California. She has three grown
children and one grandson and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services
Administration from St. Mary’s College in Moraga California. On the
home front Dava enjoys time with her family, reading, gardening, cooking
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