"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Fitness advice from super seniors

Athletes competing on this 12 months's National Senior Games share how they stay lively, healthy and lively.

This 12 months, athletes over the age of fifty from across the country will gather in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to compete within the National Senior Games (NSG) – the world's largest multi-sport event for seniors.

This biennial event showcases top amateur athletes competing in 20 Olympic-style events. These “super seniors” have a wealthy and varied background. Many have trained of their sport for a long time, while others have returned after a protracted hiatus. Some have recently picked up their efforts.

Yet, they face the identical obstacles you do: finding motivation, overcoming injuries and setbacks, and finding the most effective exercise routines to fulfill your goals. We spoke with three decorated athletes about what they learned on their journey—and what you'll be able to learn from them.

Philip Zhang, swimming

Zhang, 66, has won 34 gold and eight silver medals and set 21 NSG records in 4 age groups.

Move day-after-day. Do something day-after-day that makes you drained. I make exercise a daily habit, like brushing my teeth. It doesn't should be the identical activity on a regular basis, because variety is the spice of life.

Find a village. I derive great joy and happiness from seeing my friends on the pool and gym. When you've got a bunch of people that share an analogous experience, the shared bond creates a synergistic social effect and may form the idea of lifelong friendships.

Know the difference in pain. There are many sorts and levels of pain. Good pain is the burn from trying as hard as you'll be able to. A foul pain, like a sprain, feels very different. Learning find out how to distinguish between them and knowing how far you'll be able to safely push yourself is a component of higher understanding how your mind and body work.

Vary your workouts. The concept of duration is crucial in my training. [Periodization involves adjusting variables during workouts to improve performance and constantly challenge the body.] For example, I vary my distance and intensity—fast, short swims to enhance speed and long, slow swims to deal with technique.

Love what you do. I set competition goals, and sometimes I achieve them. But if I don't, that's okay, and there's no reason to stop doing what I really like. First and foremost, all the time do something since it makes you're feeling higher.

Vince Obsitnik, running.

Obsitnik, 83, has been running marathons since his mid-50s. He accomplished the Boston Marathon in under 4 hours and ran a marathon within the Slovak Republic, where he served as U.S. ambassador.

Schedule your workout. I put my training days into the calendar, after which that was it. No turning, irrespective of how sleepy or immobile I'm.

Pull it out. I'm a firm believer in stretching before and after exercise. Someone turned me on to it about 30 years ago, and I still follow it. I even have nine stretches that cover the upper and lower body. Do only light stretching before exercise, and save vigorous stretching for after you finish. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds.

Challenge yourself. Facing and overcoming challenges instills hope in life that anything is feasible if one works at it. Today, I continually challenge myself by running every other day and participating in competitions.

Take care of your health. I've had five serious health challenges and began running after each. I took control of my health condition and was an lively participant in diagnosis and treatment. I even have all the time questioned the doctors until I'm satisfied that we're getting into the direction needed to resolve the issue. Ten years ago, doctors said I needed a hip substitute and would never walk again. I didn't like this result. So, after loads of research, I opted to have my hip reopened, not replaced, and I've been running without hip problems ever since.

Brian Hankerson, track

Hankerson, 62, is the NSG record holder in several age categories for the long jump, high jump, and triple jump.

Set long-term goals. Each 12 months I make specific goals for the various events by which I'll compete. Then I create a training program to attain those goals.

It's okay to rest. Understand the importance of adequate rest and recovery. I've learned to acknowledge the difference between not being motivated and my body needing to rest.

Embrace the competition. I enjoy training with people higher than me. For example, I often train with highschool and college athletes and challenge them on the track and within the long jump pit. My goal is to face them and never be afraid.

Ask for help. At the start of my competitive profession, I used to be often injured. I learned that proper training is crucial. For me, meaning training with professionals who're properly educated, licensed, and experienced.

Admit that it takes time. Be patient, and don't get discouraged when you don't see immediate results. The incontrovertible fact that you might be exercising and training is progress in itself.

Photo: © Gina Palombit