Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (you get articles in advance online) features Canadian masters track athlete Olga Kotelko, who’s setting world records’at the age of 91.
Kotelko, who was also featured in the May 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest, has caught the attention of scientists who study aging. They want to figure out what makes her muscles so capable even at her advanced age. One theory is that it’s intense exercise’as opposed to the gentle, low-impact aquafit or walking that’s often prescribed to aging athletes’that keeps cells young. And while I’m sure some fascinating research will come out of these studies, what really interests me about Kotelko is her healthy attitude.
Kotelko generally competes with younger athletes, as competition is sparse in the over-90 age group. But she says it’s her competitive nature that keeps her going with her training and looking forward to meets. For instance, every year she selects a few events to focus her training on’and some she’s putting off until the 2014 season, when she’ll move into the next age category. And she’s hoping that more athletes her age will join the field, says writer Bruce Grierson. "She yearns, she insists, with semiplausible conviction, to be pushed. There’d be no talk of low-hanging fruit and meaningless medals if there were someone she could race close and beat in real time. ‘I’d love that,’ she told me more than once."
The lesson here is to make exercise a rewarding part of your life, not just a task on your to-do list. By finding a sport you enjoy, you’ll be motivated to keep training, even into old age. And if the reward for a life of regular exercise is to live as long and well as Olga Kotelko (she’s been in hospital just three times: twice for childbirth and once for a hysterectomy), then sign me up.