I met the most fascinating woman while I was doing my laps at the pool. I saw her walk in. I could tell by her gait that she was up there in years, but she was in better shape than 95% of the elderly people that I see coming into the YMCA. She put on her cap and goggles and walked over to the lane next to me.
She said, "I'm trying to get up the nerve to get in."
I answered, trying to be reassuring, "It's not too cold today. It's actually really nice in here."
She said, "I'm not worried about the cold. I'm just trying to get up the nerve to dive in."
A minute later, she was in the pool and doing a lap of freestyle. She had a nice stroke and was a much better swimmer than most. Then she swam a second lap, doing backstroke.
She stopped about 10 ft from the end and said, "I'm just easing back in. I quit swimming 3 years ago when I was 86."
I looked at her in disbelief and said, "You're 89!?!?!?"
She said, "My birthday is next week, yes."
I said, "Happy birthday!" and then she got out.
I ran into her again in the locker room after I finished my laps, and she continued her story.
"On the day I quit, I won 3 gold medals. I used to win a lot of medals in swimming."
I said, "Were you on a Masters swim team?"
"Yes! It was wonderful. Of course, at my age, all I had to do was finish the race to win a medal. Not much competition in my age group. But now I need to get back in shape. I stopped because I was tired of it, and everything was hurting, but I see now that that was a big mistake! Everything has just gone to pot, and I really need to get back into it. So I need to start coming regularly again. I'm a potter, too. I make pottery, you know. My goal is to do a pottery show when I'm 92. Gotta have those long range goals, you know! My name is Emily, by the way."
I felt nothing but admiration for this extraordinary lady. Her infectious smile and positive energy were so refreshing. I immediately started thinking about what kinds of cool things I would be planning out at 89 years old.
She reminded me of another lady I read about recently, Ernestine Shepherd.
Ernestine is also in her 80's and is a competitive body builder who looks many years younger than her age. The most amazing thing about Ernestine, to me, is that she didn't even start going to a gym until she was in her late 50's! She started working out with her sister, who died suddenly not long after they had started going to the gym together. Ernestine continued going to fulfill a promise that she and her sister had made to each other that they would continue to work out as long as they were able to. Ernestine got herself a personal trainer, and within a few years, she was competing in body building contests! You can read more about Ernestine here.
Ernestine Shepherd, a truly extraordinary woman.
Emily and Ernestine are the first of a number of people whom I plan to profile because of the extraordinary lives they lead and the inspiration they give me. I hope you find them inspiring, too!
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