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Exercise — the ‘fountain of youth’

I’ve been chronicling the benefits of exercise for some time, and my readers understand better than most the wide range of rewards that workouts can yield.

The preventive effects of regular physical activity have led some to label it a “magic pill,” but it appears that, in some respects, it’s also a fountain of youth.

All I have to do is look no further than the recreation center to have the point driven home. When Benny Lohman, who will turn 91 years old next month, competed at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics earlier this month, she found herself to be the only competitor in the 100-meter dash. Where are her peers? Some are too frail to run, others are moving no faster than a shuffle. Benny is not only a spunky 90 years old, she’s also outlived many born in her time.

Jerry and Joann Sager are veterans of the Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics. I’ve watched them train, year after year, with great success. I’ve also witnessed illness stopping them in their tracks. But at no point did they allow those tough times to derail them from their exercise routine.

I’ve known the Sagers and Benny since my family and I moved to Pagosa in 1984. It’s been comforting to watch them grow older while continuing to enjoy all the benefits of an active lifestyle. It hasn’t been without struggle and, for all that, I applaud their tenacity.

Fran Brown, however, arrived in Pagosa only 3 1/2 years ago. While living in Pagosa, she was encouraged by a friend to join the recreation center — which she did. “I’ve met so many inspirational people who have made exercise a lot of fun,” said Fran.

A first time participant of the Senior Olympics, Fran is most enthused and pleased with her performance at the Games. She podiumed with a bronze in javelin and shot put in her age division of 65-69 (Fran is 68).

Fran shared this story. Ten years ago, this September, she sustained cranial injury from a job-related accident that left her with a large blood clot in her brain. The clot was successfully removed and Fran was told by her doctor:

“The good news is that in five years you can be normal. The bad news is you will never be as good as before the accident.” Being better than before the accident has been the motivation for Fran to be active and to stay active. On that note, Fran wants to start a pickle ball group here in Pagosa. If you are interested, call her at (970) 903-7373.

Anyone who has been a competitive athlete knows that our body conspires to slow us down with aches and pains as we age. So, it comes as somewhat of a surprise when Benny crossed the finish line of the 100-meter dash with a time of 29 seconds — four whole seconds faster than her gold-medal finish at the 2009 Senior Olympics. Benny’s placement in the 100-meter dash this year has qualified her to compete at the 2011 Summer National Senior Olympics in Houston, Texas.

Jerry and Joann Sager have been lap swimmers at the recreation center since the facility opened in the summer of 1987. In fact I first met them when we were all trying to swim laps in the “then” Fairfield hotel pool. It took far too many laps to crank out a mile in the petite pool, but the water was wet and we made it work.

Jerry Sager, like Benny Lohman, has outlived his competitors by being the oldest swimmer at the Senior Olympics in Greeley. At 85 years of age, Jerry is still a darn good swimmer. He placed first in all six events entered: 50, 100, 200-yard freestyle and 50, 100, 200-yard backstroke.

Joann Sager podiumed in all the events she participated in. For the 1,500 meter race walk, she came in first. In the 50-yard freestyle swim, Joann also won her race in the 80-84 age division. In the 50 and 100 yard backstroke, Joann finished a very respectable second. Both Jerry and Joann’s first place finishes have qualified them for next year’s nationals.

The senior Olympics is a fantastic opportunity for seniors to train and compete. All four of our athletes from this year highly recommend the event to any senior who may be interested. You won’t know your athletic potential until you choose to release the late bloomer within. As Fran Brown said, “I can choose to be happy and healthy or senile and grumpy.”

Wildfire plan

The Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association is planning on performing a wildfire defensible space forest treatment plan in a large greenbelt just to the west of the Vista subdivision. This greenbelt is Tract I, Vista and is the large 40-acre open space located between the Vista and Trails subdivision on the hillside north of Bonanza Avenue. The work will begin some time in the first or second week of July.

This is part of a long going effort of the PLPOA to treat selected greenbelts and open spaces over the past 10 years in order to reduce the threat of wildfires that could potentially damage homes and properties in Pagosa Lakes. Treatment plans include thinning out overcrowded and poorly spaced trees, reducing understory brush (primarily scrub oak) and limbing up dead branches on the Ponderosa Pines. When completed, the property will have a much more open, safe and natural appearance.

The association will work with the Colorado State Forest Service in determining the treatment plan in the target area, which will include somewhere around 15 acres of forested hillside located just west of and below Canyon Circle and Ray Court. This is near the area where a wildfire occurred about 10 years ago and came within 100 feet of several homes on Canyon Circle. The fire originated down near the bottom of Stevens Draw and quickly moved up the hillside; fast response from the Pagosa Fire Protection District was required to save those homes.

If you have questions or concerns about the proposed greenbelt treatment plan in Vista, contact Larry Lynch at the Pagosa Lakes Administration Offices, 731-5635 Ext. 4. Also, as a side note, keep in mind that conditions in the Pagosa area are very dry. Please take care with cigarettes and other flames and do not conduct any open burns without first contacting the Pagosa Fire Protection District (www.Pagosafire.com, or 731-4191) for the proper permits, rules and permission.