This 91 Year Old Track Star Will Be Your New Therapist

Olga KotelkoAttention gym bunnies and couch potatoes alike. Today we were all one. Because today is the day we put aside our differences and aspire to be Olga Kotelko.

Olga Kotelko is the 91-year-old Canadian woman setting world records in track and field. At 91, she doesn't just waddle around a track. She does sprints. And the long jump. Yes, at 91. And to think she only started this all at 77? It makes me want to stop typing this, now, mid-sentence, throw on my running shoes, and get outside.


Because some may see Olga Kotelko's story as one that depresses them. Here they are, in their 20s or 30s, and already facing the downward slump into obesity. They have too much to do and too little time. They have kids. And dinner to cook. And money to make. And they have no time to go to the gym. They are a third of Kotelko's age, and they can't imagine being in her shoes.

I can't either. But I'm taking on Olga Kotelko as my new therapist. I'm inspired to try today by the one-time single mom who decided at 77 to take up track, who spends her days swimming and lifting weights to keep herself in shape.

It's a sedentary life sitting in front of your computer blogging every day. It's made tougher by the cold of New York winters to get moving. I've made do with weekly Zumba classes to keep my muscles from atrophying into the shape of the criss-cross applesauce style of sitting I prefer.

But I've settled into the doldrums of being a working parent. I can't work out when there's a kid who needs to be in bed by 8. I turn off my computer at the end of the day only to help with homework, make dinner, do bathtime, read a bedtime story, and then collapse back on my couch, where it all began, for some much-needed me time with a book or the remote and a warm blanket. I've had the feeling more than once: "The rest of you can still get out there, but I've got bigger fish to fry. Just keep on running past me. It's too late for me."

But no more. The cold is bitter. The child needs someone to help her with her homework. But I have seen the light. Her name is Olga Kotelko. And if she can do it, so can I.

In reading her story, I was reminded of being a teenager attending Catholic Mass on Sunday mornings. Tired of getting up early every morning -- on the weekdays for school, on the weekends for Mass -- I would slump back as the parishioners kneeled, allowing my butt to rest against the pew. Too old to be spanked -- and too public -- my mother would nonetheless reach over and pat at my backside. I'd get the look that told me to straighten my back, kneel with no aid for the hind end. "Look," she'd say later, when we were alone, "at the elderly of the parish. They kneel. They don't need to rest their butt on the seat. You're young. You can hack it for 5 minutes."

If they could do it, so could I.

I can rise up off of my couch at the end of the day and say, "No, I'm not going to make dinner just yet. I'm going to get moving while it's still light out there. I'm going to dance around the living room to a Zumba song. Or play soccer in the backyard with the kid." I'm going to enjoy moving for moving's sake. I'm going to fall in love with a sport because it's fun, not because I have to.

It doesn't matter what I do. How much or how little. All that matters is it's not too late for me. Olga Kotelko proved it. And if she can do it, so can I.

Can you?


Image via Getty Images/Mark Nolan/Staff

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