Rural Nebraskans Inspire Active Lifestyles

Kristi Dvorak’s article in the January issue of Nebraska Rural Living is very inspiring. Her story is enough to get even the least active among us to want to experience the runner’s high, amidst the beauty of the Nebraska landscape. It was really great to read about her journey of self-discovery, taking up running in her 40s and achieving a new level of fitness and confidence in her abilities. I thought it was fascinating that, as a rural runner in a small town where there is no local running group, she discovered a community of runners online and who helped give her support and encouragement. Kristi demonstrates how being connected with others can enhance the exercise experience. Smart phones also make it easy to track miles and routes. Her excellent article offers encouragement to anyone who is thinking of getting physically active.

I am behind the curve when it comes to technology. My wife and daughter and her husband all use one of those watch devices that keep track of steps, heart rate, hours of sleep, etc. I still cling to my basic watch with the stopwatch function. I haven’t been much for logging workouts or tracking calories. I took part in a boot-camp class once at the YMCA in Holdrege and was required to record daily exercise and diet. Tasha, our instructor, showed us an app and website, MyFitnessPal, which was free and makes it easy to keep a record of workouts and food choices. It has a database of about any kind of exercise you can think of, with calories computed. After you select one, say running 10-minute miles, it will come up every time on a personal list and all you have to do is input the number of minutes. The same for food: I typically have a banana, toast and coffee for breakfast. Once I found those items on the database, they pop up for quick selection on my personal list. If I succumbed to temptation and had a cinnamon roll one morning, I was able to find that and add it to my list to check off. The program does the rest, computing the calories burned and consumed by the day. To old guys like me who remember the days of using actual paper and pencil to record these things, technology can be kind of amazing. I know it is old hat to young people.

Seniors Who Don’t Act Their Age

It is always encouraging to hear stories about folks who have taken the step, at whatever age, to commit to exercising and are able to maintain it over several years. As a runner in my late 60s, I am long past achieving personal bests. I left that behind about the age Kristi is now. I never was great runner – basically a “mid-packer” – but I look at race-times I had in my 30s and 40s and marvel to think that my body could produce those results so long ago. As an older runner, even though I feel like I am pushing hard through those miles, I am way slower. It is a biological fact of life. And you know what, I don’t care, at least for the most part. What I have gained instead is the knowledge that I am able to still get out there and run, or bike or lift those weights, and feel pretty fit and healthy. Now that is a bigger deal. I think, than how fast you can run a mile. From a long-term health perspective, it is better to still be in the game, than to talk about what you accomplished back when you were in the game.

It is heartening to see older citizens doing the regular exercise routine: Walking indoors or outside, lifting weights,  sweating in exercise classes, pedaling the recumbent bike, or pushing through on the elliptical machine.

The other day I was talking to Maxine of Holdrege, a spry 92 year old who attends water aerobics classes at the local Y and is into fitness.  She was explaining that when she can’t make it to the class,  she practices the aerobics exercises in her kitchen. Now that’s motivation! Seeing her persevere couldn’t help but inspire the others in the class.  There was a recent article on the BBC website about some research that shows how important regular exercise is for older persons, including octogenarians. They tested a group of older cyclists who belong to a group that logs long distances on a regular basis and found that there were members in their 80s who had a T-cell count that compared favorably to people in their 20s. The more T-cells you have, the better able you are to fight off things like colds and flu, auto-immune diseases like arthritis, and even cancer. Usually this drops off sharply in old age, but not in these folks. The study reinforced what other research has shown: regular exercise not only helps people live longer, but helps them stay healthier.

I am really looking forward to spring, but every season has its own beauty to be appreciated. I admire people like the young woman who runs mile after mile on the treadmill at 7 minute-per-mile pace. Her running style is so smooth she can run while tethered to her tablet with headphones on a 3-foot cord. Me? My gait is ungainly and I am best off outside whenever possible, where the roads offer wide berth. I can’t say I like cold weather, especially on windy days, but there is something to be said about running or cross-country skiing on fresh snow and the feeling of taking on the cold and vanquishing those inner demons.

Tim Rehm, Cycling Enthusiast

How often do we find ourselves skipping out on a workout because we are too busy? Tim Rehm of Holdrege, who has his own business and runs a live music scene through his Rehmsworld website (see the article on Rehmsworld in the February NRL issue), still manages to get in serious miles on his bicycle despite his busy lifestyle. In a typical year, Tim pedals 2,500-3,000 miles, putting in more miles on his “short” outings than most of us would attempt over several trips. Every year, he plans in long distance, multi-day trips, often with his wife, Bev, on their tandem bike. They like to travel the Rails-To-Trails routes: former railroad lines that have been converted to pedestrian trails extending up to hundreds of miles in some states. They have done long trips on trails in Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. They also have gone on the week-long RagBrai trek across Iowa, an event that includes about 20,000 bikers. In case you are wondering, their tandem bike is no relation to the clunky balloon tire bikes you can rent in resort towns. Theirs is a high tech model that can get up to serious speeds when they wish to push it. Tim has several other bikes at his disposal, including a recumbent style.

Last summer Tim and some friends rode west from Holdrege along Highway 6/34 for several days to Wray, Colo., to see one of his favorite bands, the Steel Wheels, in concert. From there he took a 200-mile side trip up north and back over the state line to Scottsbluff to visit his daughter and grandkids. Most people would only go by car or plane to see the grandkids hundreds of miles away, but Tim wanted to show them there are other ways to travel.

If you are like me, cycling outdoors is something only done in this area of the country about 7 months of the year. When it gets cold, I go indoors on a stationary bike. Tim, on the other hand, finds ways to keep biking in the winter.  He likes to take his recumbent bike out for a spin. Note the photo Tim posted after he did 20 miles on a January day. This is a man who is serious about his commitment to exercise.

It really doesn’t matter if you prefer exercising indoors or outdoors, or if you like to do some of both. The main thing is to follow the lead of someone like Tim Rehm and keep at it. There are always a litany of reasons to not exercise: “It’s too cold,” “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” “I forgot to wash my favorite workout outfit,” etc. People like Tim Rehm find ways to overcome obstacles or don’t even consider them obstacles in the first place. You can do it, too.


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Mike VaughnWilliams

Mike VaughnWilliams spent his career in special education and has a passion for fitness, health, sports (especially golf), and for running marathons. He and his wife Susan live on a farm between Holdrege and Funk.

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