10 Sports Tips from an Icon: Kathrine Switzer


Back in 1967, when I would do no more than a jog around the park to enjoy the summer days, Kathrine Switzer was training for a marathon that would change the future of running for women. Against the wishes of Boston Marathon officials, she ran that year’s marathon and was the first woman to officially do so.

Mary Lou had the opportunity to meet Kathrine Switzer post 5K race at National Senior Games, Albuquerque 2019.

These 50-some years later, the 74-year-old Switzer continues to be a running icon, but also a journalist, a writer, and a proponent of women in sports. Now, as a proponent of seniors participating in sports, she is a member of the health advisory board to the National Senior Games Association.

Recently, USA Today published Kathrine Switzer’s 10 tips for seniors to stay in shape. I have linked that article here, but will add my two cents to her tips, whether I have used them, or not, to get active, and to stay active.

Let’s call them the KS Tips. Please read the links in the drop-downs of the USA TODAY article. Switzer has much wisdom to share there. Here, I’m going to begin with the introduction of each of her tips. I’ll begin with KS Tip #10 because it is one objection to exercise I hear frequently from friends and acquaintances.

My 2 Cents: So true. Not everything in life needs to be done in a particular order. Maybe life’s obligations for you were so overwhelming in earlier years that exercise or enjoying a sport were unthinkable. It’s a good idea to bounce this by your health care provider and start slow, but this just may be the time in your life for you to begin.

My 2 Cents: Humana is a sponsor of the National Senior Games and, yes, they have many resources. If they are available to you, go for it.

There are also many other health providers and insurance organizations that offer classes online and in person. If those aren’t open to you, you can find free online exercise programs. In many communities, yoga is offered in some studios free or on pay-as-you-can basis.

My 2 Cents: Switzer says to look at exercise as an investment in yourself. See your time to exercise as your time where you get to do rather than a chore you have to do. There is something joyful about breaking a sweat.

My 2 Cents: I have nothing to add here, except that I am aware from friends and family that weight gain or loss is a difficult issue. Personally, I’m simply doing my best to keep the sweet stuff to a minimum and going for all the delicious fruits and vegetables available this time of year to ensure I am feeding my body what it needs to support my exercise.

My 2 Cents: Everyone misses a workout. It’s not the end of the world. Life gets in the way. Just get back in the routine when you are able and carry on.

My 2 Cents: This may sound like a contradiction with #6, but on the busiest day, I find there are mini-activities that take the stress out of my day. While my coffee is on 30-second reheat in the microwave, I do a couple of standing pushups off the counter, or just stand on one foot for 30 seconds, then the other.

If your balance is feeling off, sometimes just a finger (or a hand) on the counter gives that extra security. If you’re on a phone holding for a service representative, there is time to drop down and try doing a plank for the first time. It may help with the frustration of the long phone hold.

My 2 Cents: I have friends who love running with others and working out in classes. It keeps them motivated. I sometimes enjoy that but am more prone to spontaneity and head out the door for a solo run or hop down on my mat for some stretches. Whether in solitude or sharing, whatever works for your exercise needs, go with it.

My 2 Cents: Yes, yes, yes. Whether it is the first time you’re walked around the block, or the first time you feel really comfortable in a yoga pose, let yourself feel the power of that movement and that accomplishment.

My 2 Cents: That is exactly where I keep my shoes. And my heart rate monitor. And my running belt. If you are not a runner, this would apply to whatever sports or exercise equipment you use. Keep that exercise mat and those weights (even if you are using a couple of soup cans) in easy reach where you will see them.

My 2 Cents: Setting goals works for me, even if they are minor goals. Changing up your exercises can be fun and keep you motivated. I’ve done that by mixing in upper body strength, which I find difficult, but achieving some minor goals just feels great. Not everyone has the same idea of fun. Do what is fun for you.

I’m hoping to hear more from Kathryn Switzer. We seniors are fortunate to have an advocate with her strengths. And she is one of us. I’ll end with one of Switzer’s quotes: “Life is for participating, not for spectating.”

Do any of Switzer’s tips speak directly to you? You’ve seen my feedback on her 10 tips. What is yours? Do you find exercise to be empowering? Please share below!

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