By Bruce Overstreet
This profile of people over the age of 50 staying active is close to my heart. But when it’s about your own parents, that’s probably the way it should be, right?
Myrna and Bob Overstreet have spent 56 quality years together. It’s safe to say that each and every one of those 56 years was a growing experience.
Their relationship was redefined many times over the years — that’s what happens when the variables change. Kids show up in the bassinet. Jobs change. Kids grow older and have challenges of their own. Major financial issues are confronted. Kids marry and leave the home a little on the empty side. More time seems to exist than they ever really wanted. And then the physical setbacks happen.
Through it all, priorities change.
For Myrna, 76, and Bob, 77, most of those priority changes have been positive. In their last ten years, their love for each other has grown stronger than ever.
When Bob had prostate cancer about 10 years ago, Myrna found answers in unconventional, naturopathic medicine. And when Bob had grand mal seizures and couldn’t drive for six months, he became more reliant on Myrna than ever before. Then when Myrna had open-heart surgery and struggled to regain her strength, her rock was there as he had never been. Finally, when Bob endured a hip replacement, they were both less than primed for continued physical activity.
But that is exactly what they needed.
So, as both struggled to get back to full health, Bob researched CrossFit Marysville (CFM) and decided that even though they were three times the average age of the CFM crowd, this intensive strength training was the answer for the two of them.
Bob paid for two memberships and gave Myrna a special Valentine’s Day present.
And together they attended 12 sessions that put both of them in the best physical shape they have been in since perhaps even the days of disco, Flashdance and Jane Fonda’s jazzercise workouts.
The important thing is they’ve done it together.
They had reason to celebrate their graduation from CrossFit OnRamp recently. As they finished up their last class, it was quite apparent that they both were significantly stronger than just a month earlier.
Case in point: One month ago, Myrna couldn’t do one sit-up. Today, she can do well over 45.
Case in point: The baseline Workout of the Day they did on Day #1 took 20 percent longer to finish than when they re-tested this past Thursday.
They are, indeed, both getting stronger.
When asked to compare the benefit of more intense CrossFit Marysville workouts to what they had done in the past, Myrna pointed out that the level of intensity is much greater than what one gets at water aerobics, yoga or any of those traditional slick senior silver special workouts that are catered for those who just want to go through the motions.
So, the gains Bob and Myrna have made justify the extra level of intensity.
They are part of the growing aging population that is shattering the myth that people in their mid-70s should be careful about not overdoing it. They are, in fact, part of the new normal.
Granted, they are the oldest people to ever show up at the doors of CrossFit Marysville. But my prediction is that within five years, there will be such a surge in this population doing CrossFit that CFM may be well served to have separate classes for seniors.
Just as Chris Crowley argues in his book Younger Next Year, strength training three times a week is critical to maintaining one’s current level of fitness — at every age. Myrna and Bob are setting the bar for all of those who are withering away, just like they were before they kicked it up a whole bunch of notches.
Now, Myrna and Bob will be able to keep up with their teenage grandkids when they take them on their week-long road trip this summer. Now, they will even have the energy to walk their great-grandkids one mile to Legion Park to let them play on the play equipment.
Myrna is thinking bigger than Legion Park in 2014. “We haven’t arrived yet,” she said. “We have plenty of work to do.”
Perhaps if they stay after it for another 20 years they may even be able to take their great-great-grandkids on outings. Who knows what will happen when you dream big and get after it. And, in the process, establish a new normal. Just like Jane Fonda did with those brightly colored leotards worn with legwarmers and over-sized Marl sweatshirts featuring matching belts and hairbands that became the workout fashion new normal back in the 1980s.
OK, so some things are good “new normals,” and some aren’t. Something tells me that strength training into one’s 70s and 80s is here to stay. Unlike those legwarmers.