Even if you were healthy and fit when you were younger, there is no guarantee that you will stay that way today. That’s the bad news. But the good news is, even if you weren’t healthy and fit when you were younger, you can get to be that way today. That’s the message from Toronto baby boomer Susan Sommers, who first found her own inspiration to get in shape, then started inspiring others.
In 2007, at the age of 59, I completed my second full Marathon (walking for 7 ½ hours) and transformed my life. By the time I got to the finish line it had been taken down and the medals were gone (mine was mailed) and so were the cheering crowds. But it was a turning point in my health and fitness journey, and I celebrated my achievements of stamina and persistence against all odds. At that moment, I realized that I had never given my body credit for what it could achieve.
As a child, I was short and stocky and, for many years, controlled my weight through smoking and yo-yo dieting. At 40, I experienced three major changes in my life: I divorced, I quit smoking, and I started my own public relations firm. I also gained 25 pounds. Ten years later, I realized I had to find better ways to take care of my own body as I watched my mother suffer in pain, gradually losing her mobility to osteoarthritis.
The opportunity came in my late 50s, when I was hired as a Marketing Coach at a YMCA Business Centre in Toronto and received two free Y Fitness memberships. I started to attend weights classes, while my second husband Peter joined a Runfit group.
A year later, I entered my first race, a 5k in downtown Toronto. I placed first in my age group and my prize was a pair of socks and a certificate! I wanted nothing else. I was hooked. That summer, I signed up for 8 more 5k’s!
Since that first race, I have completed 30 races ranging from 5k to 42k (all walking!), co-authored two books including Love Your Body… Embrace Your Life!, and launched a new business, Power Source For Women. Since his own late 50s, my husband has completed ten races, including two Boston Marathons. He often joins me towards the end of my 10k’s to “bring me in.”
In March, 2015, I was a featured speaker at an International Women’s Day Celebration in Jaipur, India. Since then, I have delivered keynotes and workshops at many events in Canada and in the United States, where I challenge audiences to take risks and create daily fitness and meditation routines.
Through exercise, nutrition, and meditation, I have increased my body strength and flexibility. My goal is to stay healthy and active as I age. Today, I describe my body as a “well-oiled machine, sagging in parts and creased in others – but it is all mine!”