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Take a running start into retirement: fitter than ever at 50+

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sylvia Yates on  a bicycle, Peter McCarroll on a boat, Tina Koniotes: Shoes bag and glasses

Clean living, healthy eating and physical exercise as a lifestyle choice have become big UK trends over the past two years. What might surprise you is that this trend is being fuelled by those aged 45 to 74, who are more likely to participate in sporting activities and fitness exercises everyday than those aged 25 to 44.

So with more and more 50+ fitness fans going public with their newfound zest for life, we met three Love Retirement readers who have found that freedom from financial commitments has also brought freedom to pursue their passions… and who feel fitter, healthier and happier now than ever before.

  • Transforming from Walkman runner to ironman winner
  • Fulfilling the lifelong dream of becoming a personal trainer
  • Rediscovering a teenage fashion passion through dance
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Sylvia Yates: Mum, triathlete and general superwoman

Sylvia Yates on a bicycle

"The commitment to keep going is worth it for the great feeling afterwards."

I like to think I started running in my 20s, but it wasn’t really until after my sons were going through school that it became regular. In my 40s, mainly to cope with a stressful job, I took to running up the nearby hills in Lancashire – and I loved it!

I bought some decent trainers and a pair of fell-running shoes and started cranking up the distances by running at lunchtime, popping out early in the morning and then flogging up a steep hill every Saturday. My Walkman was indispensable.

As my 50th birthday approached, I was thinking of ways to celebrate when a friend suggested a marathon. My dad loved marathon running. He had died the year before, so I ran London as a tribute to him. Triathlon seemed a step further – I tried a couple of races and was hooked!

The commitment to keep going when the water is cold, the wind is trying to get you off your bike and the rain is soaking you on a run is worth it for the great feeling afterwards – but coming first in my age group in my first half-ironman race was a pretty big incentive as well.

After retiring from my job, I had the freedom to get even more involved, so I joined my triathlon committee as the external publicist. I have been the club chair now for three years.

My advice for other 50+ fitness fans?

Believe you can do whatever you set your mind to doing. It will be hard work, but your sense of achievement will give you more pleasure than you can imagine. And if you’re rediscovering your fitness, it happens quickly in the early stages!

Peter McCarroll: PT (the ‘P’ stands for ‘Power’)

I had often thought about doing a sports-related degree when I retired, but hadn’t done anything about it. My inspiration came from the London Olympics, where I volunteered. The thrill of being part of such an amazing sporting event got me thinking about my own dream.

When I checked the criteria for the Personal Training (PT) course, I discovered it was the ideal mix of academic and practical work for me. Learning about anatomy, physiology, exercise and nutrition, and seeing how the theory can be put into practice, suited me perfectly. I didn’t need to start a second career after retirement; in fact, my financial security gave me the freedom to try something new.

The improvements have been more in terms of lifestyle, with physical fitness a fundamental part of that: I am stronger and more mobile than I have ever been; I eat well (most of the time!) and sleep better; I have more energy; it has boosted my confidence and mental wellbeing; I even found that my tennis skills improved.

Many of my instructors were in their late 40s and 50s. Older people often prefer using an older personal trainer – they feel more comfortable with someone who better appreciates the challenges and benefits that exercise brings to an ageing body.

The highlight has been seeing children who ‘don't like sport’ tired and smiling after active play, or an adult who never previously exercised excited about finishing their first 5k run after following a programme you devised.

My advice for other 50+ fitness fans?

If you want to be able to enjoy life and make the most of your grandchildren into your 70s and 80s, then try to develop an active, social lifestyle in your 50s – but it’s never too late to start!

Peter McCarroll sat on a boat

"I am stronger and more mobile than I have ever been."

Tina Koniotes: Toe-tapping like a teenager

Bag, shoes and sunglasses

"Dancing is much better than a workout for getting the heart rate up."

My friend and her husband wanted to learn jive dancing, but the classes they attended were short of men and she often had to dance with another girl while her husband danced with other people. So she recruited her own teacher, hired a room in a local pub and found six other couples – my husband and me included.

Originally, we started because we wanted to support my friend, but to our surprise we loved it. By the end of the first lesson we had signed up for a rock-and-roll weekend in Camber Sands later that year.

As a teenager, I was really into 40s and 50s fashion. When everyone else was wearing flares and platforms, I spent my pocket money on circle skirts and petticoats. The Rhythm Riot festival in Camber Sands is a vintage revival weekend where everyone gets into the spirit of the era by wearing vintage clothes and dancing their socks off – so I fit right in! Believe me, jiving in those swishy petticoats feels amazing.

Jive is a very energetic dance, but once we’d learned the basic steps we were flinging ourselves all over the place. It’s much better than any work out at the gym for getting your heart rate up. Plus, you can do it anywhere: we often have a jive in the kitchen if a song with the right beat comes on.

My advice for other 50+ fitness fans?

Dancing is a great way to get fit, let go and have fun. Learning the basic moves can be frustrating, but when you get to the point where your feet just go with the music, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Our interviewees may be approaching their peak physical fitness (or the peak of a hill run), but they all started somewhere. Whether you plan to spend your retirement trying new experiences, or want to postpone it with a new passion, the possibilities are endless. Getting active might not be the most obvious 50+ activity but, as Sylvia says, you improve quickly in the early stages – so get out there and try it. You might just find the hobby of a lifetime.

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