Today, women and men in their 50s are qualifying for the Olympic marathon! They are running ultra marathons and Ironmans in their 70s and setting world records in their 90s. Reading real stories of such women, the 37 year old me feels that life has just begun and ageing cannot be the reason for me to slow down (btw slowing down can mean different things to different people)! Infact, if my goal is to be an energetic and dynamic person in every aspect of my life, then fitness has to be an integral part of my life at every stage!
And because running has given me unparalleled access to people who won’t stop inspiring, I recently met Melba Pría, the Ambassador of Mexico to India. She is a runner, a triathlete and she is 59 (Turning 60 in January). We ran a 5k together on a rainy morning at 5.15 AM.
Melba looked fresh as she said, mornings were her favorite part of the day. She also mentioned how she had slowed down as a runner from her 40s but her endurance levels are at their peak now at 59!
For me – this was a big sign to write and inspire a huge demographic in their 50s!
So here is my quick interview with her on her routine, training, nutrition – through which Melba and I, hope to inspire men and women who have taken up age as an excuse!
Me: Do you have a background in Fitness? I heard you are a triathlete?
Melba : I have been a sportsperson my entire life. Since I was a girl, I was an athlete, I was a volleyball player and was in the National Team for Volleyball, I was a short putter, so sports, more than fitness, have been a daily activity for me and a way of keeping oneself healthy and sane. I have also been a swimmer, a diver, and a scuba diver. My siblings used to describe me as “she has done it all”.
At the beginning, I was an athletic triathlete: I jumped, threw, and ran. Afterwards, I was a triathlete for many years, with the modern triathlon. It was only when I came to India, where triathlons are not as prominent, that I took up running again in a large scale.
Me: When did you start running, what has your running journey been?
Melba : I have always been a runner. In my younger days, I was a dasher, and I did not really enjoy long distance running. For many years, I did not run, but sports have never stopped being an essential part of my life.
Me: How often do you run?
Melba : Three or four times a week.
Me: Are you training for any event?
Melba :Currently, I am training for the New York Marathon. Last year, I ran the Berlin Marathon, and I have been running marathons and triathlons for a cause. I run for cancer because I have lost many loved ones to that malady, most recently my brother.
Running for a cause keeps you focused, gives you meaning and allows you to do what you want to do and keep your friends involved in your causes. People have been most generous to the organizations that I run for. Last year, I ran the Berlin Marathon for the benefit of Indian Cancer Society and this year I will run the New York Marathon on November for CanSupport, an Indian NGO with the noble mission of providing home palliative care for cancer patients. You can help me run for this cause by donating here
Me: What is your experience of running in India? As a woman, what are your experiences?
Melba: Running in India can be challenging because of the weather, the lack of proper facilities and the quality of our air. However, I have found that it is also a way of meeting likeminded people, that are always very friendly. I have never encountered any problems as a woman runner. I would say that, on the contrary, maybe because I am older, people are surprised at seeing an older woman running, so when they see me, they smile and wave and are truly encouraging.
Me: What is your fitness regime? Do you strength train?
Melba :Yes, I do strength training at least twice per week. During the summer, I swim and I also do cycling to keep my regime interesting and fun. I practice yoga at least once a week and I do stretching every day. I like to mix it up and I think that is the main secret: to keep it varied and interesting.
Me: How particular are you about your nutrition?
Melba : I try not to overeat, I almost don’t take any sugar, unless it is in the form of chocolate. Proteins are very important on my diet and four months before a marathon, alcohol disappears from my intake. You must be careful with what you eat, but I definitely do not overfast. Eat good food, lesser quantity and you will be stronger.
Me: Today there are a lot of women in their 50s who want to stay fit and want to start running. What is your message to all the women who started their running journey in their 50s? What should they be particular about? (hydration , nutrition)
Melba : Keep it fun. Keep your enthusiasm about running, have small goals regarding the time and distance, be gentle to yourself. Compete against yourself. Set small goals for yourself and reach them. Your motto should be “I can do it”. It doesn’t matter what people say. It doesn’t matter what your size or shape is, or how much you have run in the past, just know that you can do it. Be consistent: know that you are strong.