Since the US Women’s Soccer Team seemed to capture so many people’s imaginations, I’ve been thinking how exciting it is that now little girls have many women athletes as idols and inspiration.

Having grown up before the days of soccer and other team sports for girls, my sisters, girlfriends, and I turned to swimming.  We spent hours in the pool each day in our thin tank suits swimming laps, then swimming for fun, and then again in the late afternoon, swimming more laps.  Our inspiration was Diana Nyad, the long distance swimmer who lived in Florida.  We devoured everything we could find about Diana. And then we grew out of swimming.

Then, today coming out of exercise class, I turned on the radio, took a swig of water, and there she was. Diana was giving a radio interview about her upcoming swim between Cuba and Florida.  Diana told the story of how, about 2 years ago, before turning 60, she decided to start training for one more long distance swim.  With a support team that includes meteorologists they are deciding when the window of weather will allow this historic swim – 60 hours, the longest swim of anyone, ever.

Over two years ago, I met my girlhood idol at a women’s heart event in Spokane, WA.  Diana was the keynote speaker.  You could hear a pin drop as she told her story of just missing the Olympics not even by a nano-second and what she learned from that experience – that is, to give your best in whatever you do so you never have any regrets.

After the talk, we met and bonded. It was a thrilling day for me. We stayed in touch.  Diana and her business partner, world class athlete and trainer Bonnie Stoll, contributed exercises for our heart-healthy booklet and website. I shared heart-healthy recipes from our newly formed Well Fed Heart.com that appeared on her web site, BravaBody.com.

Whenever we talked, Diana would update me – “Susan, I’m going to do something really big.  It’s coming together.  I can’t talk about it, but let me just say that I lost 15 pounds and I’m swimming again.”

Not long after our last talk, I too, began an exercise regimen.  There’s something about a pending new decade of life that gets a person revved up.  So there I am listening to the radio this morning, and as she spoke, I felt like she was talking not just about herself, but rather, about everyone of a certain age…women and men alike.   Her message was that it’s okay that we’re no longer the Thoroughbreds of our youth, weighing less and going faster.  Maybe now we’re more like Clydesdales, a little heavier, but stronger and made for endurance.

So, I ask myself, “How many people 61 years old do I know who put themselves out to literally risk being eaten by sharks to do something that no one has ever done before?”  The cheerleader in me wants Diana to be successful in her quest.  From the girl who once drew inspiration from her to the woman who is awestruck all over again, I cheer,

“Go, Diana go!”

 Susan Levy
Publisher, Well Fed Heart

Who inspires you to exercise?