The Fast Track to Getting Fitter

If there’s a sport you loved in the past, take it up again! Yes, you can still do it—and the health and fitness benefits will pile on fast. Here’s why.

By Stacey Colino
fit weight loss swimming swim exercise
Thirty-two years after throwing in the towel, Terry Hastings Powers took up swimming again.
Photograph: Meredith Jenks

The game was surprisingly easy to pick up again. My skills were weaker but still there—for instance, I remembered how to catch and release the ball, but at first I couldn’t do it quickly enough. There was also a technical change in the game that took me a while to get the hang of. In the past, we would toss the stick into our nondominant hand to catch a ball on that side, but now, in a cool move that’s difficult to describe, you slide the stick into the nondominant hand.

My biggest challenges were the sprinting and endurance. In lacrosse you’re constantly racing up and down the field. The need to keep up with other players during a scrimmage motivated me to keep moving even when I thought I couldn’t do it any longer. Within a season, I had made great progress. Now I have much more speed and stamina when I’m in a game.

The team component is more vital for me at this age than it has ever been before. Discussions on the field about child rearing, job decisions, marriage and so on are priceless. But most of all, being on a team like this proves that when you’re in your forties, it’s not all over. Playing lacrosse now makes me feel powerful, not just on the field but in my life.

Allison Kimmich | 42
Montclair, New Jersey
Executive director of a women’s nonprofit

I really enjoy the challenge of setting a goal and achieving it. So last year, when I was trying to get more exercise and be a healthy role model for my children, I decided to run a fairly long race, something I had not done for about 12 years. I managed to find the right training program online (from marathon guru Hal Higdon, The goal was to gradually build up from three miles to 9.3 miles over eight weeks—and I really stuck to it.

I was amazed at how easy it was to train. The endorphin release definitely helped—it made me feel alive and exhilarated. And it was nice to operate in a different kind of mind-set than I do at my job. My work is very abstract, but when I’m running, concentration is required—focus on the next mile, then the one after that—and I’m not so concerned with the long term. I’ve been doing Pilates for the past three years, so I’m generally stronger, particularly in my core, than I was when I was younger. And because of the Pilates work, I think much more about my running form now. I concentrate on keeping my shoulders down and pulled back so my lungs can get the maximum oxygen.

Last November I completed a 15-Krace. Finishing those 9.3 miles in a better time than I had done while training gave me a terrific sense of accomplishment. I’d like to do a half-marathon in the spring—maybe the More/Fitness half-marathon—and to train for that, I’ll focus a little more on improving my speed. One of the unexpected pleasures of all this is that my 10-year-old daughter did a 5-K in early January. Now I know I’m being a healthy role model!

Jane Ward | 59
Washington, D.C.
Part-time ophthalmologist, graduate student

When I was a student at Wellesley College, I loved rowing with the MIT team on the Charles River in Boston. I continued the sport during my advanced studies at the University of California, Berkeley. But after that, I didn’t have time for the activity. Still, I always missed being on the water and the push of training hard for races.

Last spring, 34 years after I last rowed, I met a woman who encouraged me to come back to the sport by joining the Potomac Boat Club, a rowing club in Washington, D.C. Despite some hesitation over scheduling and the 5 am training, I gave it a try. I was a bit anxious about keeping up during the practices for the first week or two. And after the workouts I was pretty tired because I hadn’t been exercising that hard on my own. But I soon felt at home again in the boat. I love being out on the water in the early -morning—it’s both peaceful and energizing. I also enjoy the challenge of several women working together as a crew to coordinate each stroke.

First Published April 5, 2011

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