Take a trio of women ages 59, 50 and 56, and what have you got? A triathlon team. The best part is, Sue Wine, Corky Pike and Gwen Shipsky think you can follow their lead.
To see them is to believe. Each is energetic, rosy-cheeked and sleek, and not a one got involved competitively before her 30th birthday. For Shipsky, a fourth-grade teacher at Poland Union Elementary School and a grandma with two adult sons, it wasn't until her 50th birthday that she competed.
"I was physically active my whole life off and on," she admitted. "I was a dancer as a young child through to my twenties, but I quit when I began a family. I devoted my life to them and went to college. Physical fitness was 4th or 5th or 6th on my list.
"I was a swimmer, but for a time, I really didn't do anything," she said." Corky talked me into spinning [exer-cycle classes], then into going on a 150-mile bike marathon for MS." She was 50 at the time.
That was all the inspiration Shipsky needed. "I'd never stop now," she said. In the Ashtabula Sprint Triathlon, she swam a quarter mile in the waves off Lake Erie's Walnut Beach. "It opens up new avenues to you. We made new friends and became physically fit."
Said Wine, "Exercising also fights depression. You feel like you've accomplished something."
For Wine, who ran 5 kilometers for the triathlon, exercise was a way of improving what she saw in the mirror. "I'm not an athlete, but I've jogged since I was 35. I started because a friend and I read a book called "Aerobics for Women." It was all about the benefits of running and what it can do for you."
Wine and her friend started by jumping rope, wearing out after a disappointing two minutes at the start. They built up to 10, then hit 20. "We figured we could finally run, but it was hard. It took four months to build up to a mile, then two, then three, and I've stayed there for time's sake," she said.
"My complexion got better; my circulation improved. I had more energy, and felt better about myself. I always felt like a weakling growing up," Wine said. Not any more. At 59, the Poland library clerk tries to make time to run daily, usually getting in four three-mile runs a week.
The Triathlon's last leg, a 12-mile bike run, was handled by Pike, mother of six (five grown and one pre-teen) and a personal trainer -- the only possible ringer in the gang. Still, Pike wasn't a lifelong athlete either.
"I'm 50, and I'm of the generation it was uncool to be fit," she said. In her 30s, she divorced, however, and when she lost the job of "wife, which I loved," she headed outdoors on a Sears Free Spirit bicycle for personal therapy.
"It was a slow evolution really," said Pike, who is now a semester shy of a degree in exercise science. "I rode around my block thinking it was a mile. I heard a city block was a mile, so that's what I thought."
A good deed
When her father, who has multiple sclerosis, asked her to cycle 150 miles in two days for an MS run, she figured she could handle it. What she later found out was that her practice in the neighborhood fell somewhat short -- the block was less than a quarter mile! Had she known, she might not have entered the race. "God is good that way," Pike said.
Why she thought cycling would be good divorce therapy stems back a way, though. Feeding a baby late one night, Pike watched, on TV, the Ironman triathlon competition in Hawaii. "I thought, 'Wow! How can they do this?! Well, they're guys,'" Pike recalled. "Then I saw a woman." It planted a seed.
A long way
Now, Pike participates in Ironmans herself, including one last weekend, and she credits cross training with limiting injuries. She's also a personal trainer at the YMCA. "I can honestly say I don't have the neatest house, but I would drop everything in a heartbeat to be outside and active," she said.
Wine, Shipsky and Pike don't see age as an impediment to staying active; on the contrary, they think it's an encouragement.