Charles doesn’t mind letting people know he is competing in the 85-89-year-old category of the USA Track & Field National Masters Championships. “We need to stop the nonsense that we are too old to do anything,” he tells me during our phone interview.
For 24 years, Charles was professor of computer information systems, but his real passion seems to be staying totally fit, “mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
From mountain and rock climbing to running to race walking
Charles was a mountain and rock climber in his early adult years and with encouragement from his daughter, he started running at age 54 and “was ready to die after the first 50 feet!” His daughter didn’t give up on him and offered him her coveted Peachtree Road Race number for the annual July 4th 10-K race under one condition: he had to buy real running clothes. Before that challenge, he would go out and run under the cover of darkness because he was embarrassed about his poor running condition. He got the clothes and got hooked on running and has been running ever since. However, around age 64 he had knee surgery and turned to a new sport, race walking several years later.
I guess it was a good move because he raced walked his way to a gold medal in the 1500-meter finals this year even though his pace had “slowed” to 14-minutes per mile. “Race walking is based on form and technique. As a runner, my posture was lousy, but race walking demands a more vertical style, so my posture has improved.” In fact, he holds several medals from the track & field championships, from individual medals to team relay medals. His goal? “To get back to running.”
Smart training and smart eating
To meet that goal, he trains hard, but smart to avoid injury. He mixes interval training to improve his aerobic and anaerobic capacity, performs stretching, squat jumps, lifts free weights, and race walks within the course of a week. He also enjoys hiking up Kennesaw Mountain (elevation gain 1200 feet) in the Kennesaw Mountain National Park near Marietta, GA. To fuel his activity he eats simple, wholesome foods: lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and gets protein from beans, chicken, and occasionally beef. You might think he is crazy, but his “treat” is a big mixed veggie salad eaten with no salad dressing, so he can taste the crisp, delicious vegetables. He stays hydrated by drinking water, no sugar-sweetened beverages, just water.
In May, I interviewed Sally whose motto is “no challenge, no change,”and Charles lives that motto. “Challenging yourself brings those little ‘wow’ moments, whether it’s a physical challenge or a mental one, like completing a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture. I think we should all fill our lives with ‘wows!’ “Setting personal challenges is important because “you are in charge of your fitness.” People can encourage and support you, but you’ve got to be the one to challenge yourself and do it.” And, the more you do, the more you want to do. “If you use no energy, you will have no energy. The more you use, the more energy you will have. Bank accounts don’t work that way, but exercising does!”
He recommends challenging yourself with 5K races, because you will be among similarly motivated folks of all ages, genders, and fitness levels. “Don’t be concerned by initial failures, because you learn far more from failure than from success. It you succeed in all your ventures, you’re not challenging yourself enough.”
(Charles wants you to note that he is wearing his Atlanta Track Club shirt in these photos; they have been supporting him and his running efforts for 30 years!)
For more information on eating well, moving well, and being well as you age, check out Food & Fitness After 50.