How fulfilling an old age we will live largely depends on how we live our lives today. Fitness is key. With many years invested in bringing up families or pursuing careers, many women reach their 50s and find that they finally have time to invest in themselves – and their own fitness. Many women in their 50s return to sports that they enjoyed in their youth. We caught up with Jane Turner, who has rekindled her love of rowing.
I am 52, and a few years ago after a long illness I was trying to come up with something new to invigorate my life. Failing to identify anything that inspired me, I thought back to the things that I had most enjoyed doing in my life – and one of those was rowing at university. I tentatively joined my local club, and discovered that I still loved it. The good news and the bad news was that I was mostly rowing with young women who were under 30. So last autumn, with several years experience under my belt, I set out on a mission to find other women like me who might be tempted back to the river. The upshot is that I now have a squad of 11 women around my age – and a cox of 68 who has years of experience but recently had a new hip! Our coach is 72 – but he also has a medal for rowing at the Tokyo Olympics.
Fitness and confidence in your 50s
What I have found is that it really is like riding a bike: once you get back in a boat it is like you never stopped. The biggest issue is fitness – but that is rapidly coming back week by week. The biggest problem is actually the lack of confidence: I have to use a combination of coaxing and bullying to get them to give it a try. I now know that once they get in the boat they will be hooked. And there is nothing to beat that look on their faces when they realise that they can still do it – and remember how good they are at it!
We take extra care of the things that affect us, particularly getting help in lifting the boats (which is the hardest bit and is often done when you are cold). Three of us are deaf, so it is a joy to have a crew and coach who work around that rather than getting bad-tempered. Other than that, once we are in the boats we are just like any other rowers. We are currently training to enter the Vesta Veterans Head of the River race on the Thames in London at the end of March. We are entering as a category D veteran boat – age 50 – 55. It is the National Championship in June and the World Championships in September. Who knows what will happen! We are all inspired by our coach, Arnold Cooke who is currently world champion at 72.
Rowing is a huge sport for older women around the world
It is only a small start, but rowing is a huge sport for older women elsewhere in the world as it is low impact. I hope we can inspire and encourage other older women to take to the water.
Rowing is great for fitness as it is a total body workout. The fact that we row on a river, also means that we connect with nature – it really is a lovely environment to exercise in, very ‘zen’ like! Being a team sport, you also build wonderful friendships. It’s never too late to start. I am a firm believer that we need to exercise more as we get older – not less.