Ken and Dawn Fyke haven’t slowed down in retirement — they’ve sped up.
Ken, 72, a retired health-care executive, and Dawn, a 71-year-old former nurse, use cycling, swimming and supervised workouts at the gym to stay in shape.
The aim of the couple, married 49 years, is not to live longer, but to live as well as they can for as long as they can. It’s about quality rather than quantity.
“By exercising, we know we’re not going to live longer,” Dawn said, “but exercising gives you more years without disability.
“My goal would be to exercise daily until the day I die.”
They’re both slim, healthy and fit. And aside from the obvious health benefits, exercise also makes them happy.
It’s a lifestyle and attitude the six participants of the Times Colonist Health Challenge — and a lot of others — would love to emulate. The 12-week challenge has passed the halfway point, and the participants are starting to see the benefits of a healthy diet and workout regime with personal trainers at various Greater Victoria gyms.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to look around the gym for inspiration, and at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, there are plenty of inspirational young athletes to admire, along with older, regular folk.
The Fykes admit they don’t know everything about fitness programs, but they know what works for them.
They ride their bikes twice a week from Cordova Bay to PISE — a 24-kilometre round trip — where they work out with assistance from personal trainers. Ken spends another day on long bike rides with friends, while Dawn swims laps at a local pool. Then on Sundays, the Fykes get together with cycling friends for an easy, social ride.
The secret to making exercise part of your lifestyle is to do something you love and find something that motivates you to keep up the pace, say the Fykes.
Their 12-year-old grandson has followed their lead. He loves to play sports, but felt he was gaining too much weight to be competitive, so he joined a gym.
“He’s really liking it, goes twice a week,” said Ken.
“And he’s losing weight and starting to look really good,” Dawn added.
Motivation can come from more than one place, Ken said. During a workout one recent morning, he learned how to use his glute muscles so his leg was stable, and not wobbling, during step-ups. He finds that by proper focus on muscle groups, he can eliminate the wobble.
“I wish I’d known all this when I was 20,” he said.
When you’re older, your body doesn’t react the same way to exercise. The physical changes are more subtle.
“Everything takes longer when you’re older,” Dawn said.
“You have to be careful not to work too hard and injure yourself. I think you are more vulnerable.”
Even with years of workouts behind them, it can be hard for the Fykes to return to the gym after interruptions, like their frequent holidays abroad.
“It’s easy to come back and say, ‘I’ll go next week,’ and then something comes up,” Ken said.
“But once you get back to the gym, you see how much you’ve deteriorated.”
Here’s their advice to anyone starting out:
• Set attainable goals;
• Appreciate your progress;
• Exercise with a friend;
• Schedule your workouts on the calendar and they’ll become routine.
Updates on two Times Colonist Health Challenge participants
Raechel Gray, a 38-year-old wife, mom and accountant, said she’s “really busy but surviving, so far! I’m hoping magically some more hours in the day will appear.”
After shunning fruits and vegetables all of her life, she’s now embracing them.
“I am not super strict about weighing food — I’m just trying to focus on making more healthy choices than unhealthy choices and watching my portion size.”
She hasn’t weighed herself, but has moved down a size or two in clothes.
“I am excited to see some results and can feel myself getting stronger,” Gray said.
Elisabeth Westlake, 58, is thrilled with her progress, despite a troublesome knee. When she’s sitting on the recumbent bicycle, “my stomach doesn’t hit the top of my thighs on the upstroke anymore!” she said.
“My clothes fit differently, my trousers are baggy and I’m getting close to going down a size in pants,” she said this week.
“My posture has improved and I feel taller.”
Her two children have offered to walk the Times Colonist 10K with her on April 28.
“However the race goes, I will be in the best shape of my life.”
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