I love to travel. Inevitably, someone always asks, “What’s your favorite place?” My answer is “the last place I visited,” so that means South Africa and Zimbabwe are at the top of the list. Travel brings so many riches, but one lesser mentioned treasure is the people you meet along the way.
Meet Irina, one of my travel companions for the 2-week trip to Africa last September. Spending time with Irina is to understand how her whole life is a big adventure that she embraces with enthusiasm, good humor, and a strong mind. She is living the principles of optimal aging.
At age 30, she came to the U.S. from St. Petersburg, Russia with her husband and 2 small children; a 4 ½ year old son and another son was just an infant. Her husband wanted to divorce and left her to fend for herself. Speaking no English and not wanting to disrupt her son’s life as he was settling into a new school, she decided to stay in the U.S. and figure out a new life. Fast forward 25 years, married to a wonderful man, she has designed a rewarding life of career, family, and travel.
She loves to be active, exercise, and to eat! She never diets, yet has maintained the same weight since age 18, of course, except during her pregnancies, but she quickly lost her baby weight by listening to her body. She loves sugar and you wouldn’t expect someone who looks like she does to start each day with a sugar-laden breakfast with cinnamon rolls and pancakes. After breakfast, she hits the gym and says that the “sugar fuels her morning workout.” She is listening to what her body needs for a strenuous workout. She played basketball in high school and college, and still loves to be in the gym lifting weights four days a week. For most of her life, she was active, enjoying everything. “Everything I do, I do it because I like to do it;” which is a good philosophy for life-long activity. Find something you love to do and just do it.
But, about 6 or 7 years ago, she noticed her flexibility was decreasing so she tried yoga, but didn’t like it. When she told a friend, she didn’t like yoga because she wasn’t very flexible, her friend responded, “That’s like not taking a shower because you are dirty!” The message was received and now Irina is on the front row of the yoga class twice a week, not worried about comparing herself to others. She noticed that her balance was the first thing to improve. “Flexibility and balance are so important as we age, it makes me feel safe to do the things I want to continue to do.”
While I mentioned she doesn’t diet, she does listen to her body and tries not eat after 6 PM at night. She has also embraced intermittent fasting; fasting for 24-hours two days a month to reset her body. Although the first time she tried it was hard, she says now it feels good and is very doable. Intermittent fasting can be done in several ways: fasting for 24-hours once or twice a month or eating 500-calories for two days a week. While the jury is still out if it is effective for weight control, some researchers think it can improve health by regulating our circadian rhythm, improving some biomarkers (like cholesterol and blood pressure), and improving sleep. During her fast, she drinks plenty of water or unsweetened tea to stay hydrated.
So, Irina eats well and moves well, but travel makes her be well. She loves everything about travel: “exploring new cultures, hearing new music, tasting new foods, and learning more about what I don’t know is very inspiring.” I watched her buy this dress in Africa and rock it in Zimbabwe! Her adventurous spirit shines in this photo!
Travel brings many new experiences and meeting new people is certainly one of them!
Chris Rosenbloom and Bob Murray are the authors of a new book, Food & Fitness After 50; available on Amazon. #FoodAndFitnessAfter50