National Senior Games

On a beautiful October morning, the twice weekly Humana walking group was joined by a new participant, marathoner Kathrine Switzer. They peppered her with questions. What shoes does she wear? (She is an Adidas athlete.) What does she eat the night before a big run? (She loads up on carbs, but has also been trying to eat more protein, such as nut butters.) How does she handle aches, pains and injuries? (REST.)

Kathrine acknowledged that at age 70 she was the young one in the group, which includes a walker who will turn 90 in November and a couple of participants recovering from surgeries. After they all walked together, Kathrine stood in front of an even larger crowd and talked about how the body continues to improve as long as it is challenged.

“Look at those of you I walked with this morning,” she said. “When you started walking together, maybe you couldn’t go very far, but now you’re up to a mile or two or three.”

Kathrine regularly runs long distances, but during her presentation she said the SilverSneakers® Stretch class at the Louisville neighborhood location “killed” her, in the best way. “At any age, the body can get better… the more you do, the more you can do.””

Her message was well-received. One 84-year-old in the audience told Kathrine she had recently started running again. Kathrine applauded her and every other person in attendance who was getting up and getting moving.

“Every time you take a class here or every time you walk with your friends, you come back and you feel much more optimistic,” Kathrine said. “Suddenly everything becomes more positive and optimistic. That’s the way to go into your life.”

One of Kathrine’s next challenges is the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 5. And she will have a new group of fans rooting for her from Louisville, Kentucky.

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Kathrine Switzer, who is serving as Humana’s health and well-being ambassador by participating in the National Senior Games, was profiled in this week. Switzer was the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, in 1967, and ran the race again this year at age 70.

She talked to TIME about her 50th anniversary, her upcoming participation in the Senior Games, healthy aging, making fitness a priority, and overcoming stereotypes.

“Switzer, who built a career on challenging gender stereotypes in sports, said she is now focused on tackling ‘the frontier of aging,’” TIME wrote. “She will participate this week in the National Senior Games presented by Humana, a competitive sporting event for men and women over the age of 50 where she plans to run the 10K road race.”

Switzer said, “The biggest tip is to realize you’re never too old, big, slow, unattractive — anything else — to be an athlete because the body always wants to be an athlete, and it will respond to any amount of work in a positive way.”

Read the full story here.

See other Senior Games coverage here:

Costco Connection article featuring 2016 Humana Game Changer Vivian Stancil

KNXV-TV (Phoenix) segment featuring Chris Wallace

WDRB-TV (Louisville) segments featuring Rose Roylo

WTVT-TV (Tampa Bay) segment featuring Robert Rusbosin

Montgomery Community Media article featuring Kathleen Fisken

WNCT-TV (Greenville, NC) segment featuring Fay and Irma Bond

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Gazettes Sports in Long Beach, Calif., recently profiled blind swimmer Vivian Stancil, 69, a 2016 Humana Game Changer who competed at the National Senior Games.

Learn more about her in this video.

Game Changers exemplify well-being through their spirit of determination, personal strength and unwavering dedication to their sport.

The newspaper reported: “In 2000, Stancil was over 300 pounds and developed a heart murmur. Her doctor told her that if she didn’t lose the weight she wasn’t going to make it to her 60’s so she had to make a change. Shortly following the conversation with her doctor she decided to make that change by learning how to swim.”

“I feel like I’ve been able to change so many people’s lives,” the newspaper quoted Stancil as saying about being a Game Changer. “I think this is pretty big and I want to encourage others that if I can do it, they can do it too. There are no excuses.”

Read the full story here.

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About 12,000 athletes, ages 50 to 102, competed July 3-July 16 in Minneapolis-St. Paul during the 2015 National Senior Games, sponsored by Humana.

The video above and the stories we have shared on this blog (see below) give only a glimpse of the dedication, perseverance and courage some of these athletes have shown as they overcome barriers to better health. All of them showed us that it’s never too late to change, never too late to feel the joy of playing a game you love, never too late to live a happier life.

Some of these remarkable athletes broke records and won medals, but even those who did not come close to a medal gave it their all, made some new friends and motivated us to get up off the couch and life a more active life.

Stories from the 2015 National Senior Games

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By Ellen Nason

Oscar Peyton didn’t compete in sports in high school because he thought he was far too thin for his 5’11” frame and didn’t see himself as particularly fast.

A five-inch growth spurt after high school boosted his confidence. He ran with members of his college track and field team for fun but still wasn’t interested in competing. When he neared retirement age from his job as computer specialist with the federal government, he entered his first track and field competition at the Maryland State Senior Olympics. He won the 100-meter and 200-meter races and decided he might have some speed after all.

Peyton said his average time for the 100-meter in his mid-50s was 11.51, slightly less than two seconds behind Olympic champion Usain Bolt’s average time. Bolt, who has been setting world records for years, is still only 28. Peyton is 62.

“It makes me feel like if I was born and raised around his time, I think I’d give him a go for his money,” Peyton said with a smile.

Peyton said even though he loves getting medals, it is not the main reason he trains and competes.

“The first reason and primary reason that I’m doing this is for my own health and well-being,” said Peyton. Even if he stops competing, he said he will never stop running, training and improving his health.

The Humana Game Changer encourages everyone, no matter what age, to “get off that couch, find something you love doing and stick to it.”

Tom Burkhart, 70, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Pickleball made its debut at the National Senior Games in 2013 in Cleveland with 350 participants. There are 650 athletes competing in the sport this week at the 2015 National Senior Games, presented by Humana, in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

What is driving the popularity of the sport?

“It’s fast-paced and it’s fun,” said Humana Game Changer Tom Burkhart. “Even when the players mess up, they laugh – not a LOT – but they laugh.”

Tom Burkhart loves the social and physical benefits of playing pickleball.
Tom Burkhart loves the social and physical benefits of playing pickleball.

Burkhart, a retired teacher and principal, said he learned about the sport accidentally in 1980 when he was looking for something for his middle school students to play besides the typical team sports. He found a box in the school closet, opened it and discovered a new love: pickleball.

“It’s somewhat aerobic, but easier on the body than tennis or some other sports,” said Burkhart. “I do the best I can and have been successful even though I was never really an athlete and was a bit too shy to participate in team sports. I think that is what draws some others to the sport. It also has social benefits…it’s just fun.”

Burkhart’s wife, Susan, says she does not play the game but supports her husband as pickleball “groupie,” and has been motivated to work out at a local fitness center because of the change she has seen in her husband since he began playing pickleball competitively.

“He coached for 30 years, but he is more of an athlete now in his retirement than he ever was before,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful thing for him. He’s active and involved … he just loves this game.”

More National Senior Games stories and videos:

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