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Judy Young is a force to be reckoned with in the pool. Just this year, she won seven first-place medals and set six age-group records in the seven events she competed in, including the 50-, 100- and 200-yard backstroke, and the 50-, 100-, 200-, and 500-yard freestyle.
But Young is not just any athlete. Born in 1926, she is a 96-year-old swimmer who doesn’t let her age keep her from winning gold or setting new records at YMCA National swim meets.
Young tells us she’s loved to swim ever since she was a kid. “My sons eventually joined me in the swim lane, and at one point we were even on the same team and competed together,” she says. Though she’s been swimming for over half a century, it wasn’t until the late ‘80s that she started doing it competitively, qualifying locally and eventually nationally. “And I haven’t stopped since,” she reveals.
Today, she says she swims regularly at her local YMCA, noting that she’s also been a volunteer at the Y for years, and was the secretary to the executive director from 1971 to 1987. “I go to the YMCA two times per week to swim, in addition to swimming competitively through YMCA leagues,” she says. “My focus is freestyle and backstroke, and I’m gearing up to participate in the 2023 Senior games—nationals are in Pittsburgh this year.”
How does she keep going at such a high level? Fortunately for us, she shared her top five tips for a long, fit life.
1. Do some kind of physical exercise every day
As the saying goes: Keep moving to stay moving. “Staying active is an absolute must,” Young says. “I recently had surgery and the doctor told me the reason I’ve been able to recover so quickly is because I’ve led a very active and healthy lifestyle.”
2. Switch between aerobic and strength workouts—and don’t forget to rest
Staying active doesn’t mean you have to follow a rigorous workout plan each and every day. Young says that making time for aerobic exercises (like swimming, walking, cycling, and rowing) as well as strength exercises (like weight lifting) make for the most well-rounded fitness-focused lifestyle.
Don’t force yourself to work out seven days a week, though. “My key to avoiding injury is staying active but being patient with recovery,” Young says. She says she was able to come back from a hip replacement in 2019 by diligently following her physical therapy program, and waiting to return to swimming until she got the green light from her PT.
3. Exercise outside when weather permits—particularly by walking
No matter your age, Young proves that regular hot girl walks can be beneficial. In addition to boosting cardio health, taking your workout outside increases vitamin D levels, which can work wonders for your mood—especially during the gloomier winter months.
4. Don’t forget about mental fitness
Your body isn’t the only thing you have to worry about staying fit as you age. “Strengthen your mind through playing cards, reading, or puzzles,” Young says.
(Looking for inspo? Ordinary Habit and Piecework Puzzles have gorgeous options that double as artwork and coffee table displays.)
5. Enjoy the process
Hard as you may try, you can’t hate yourself into a fitter lifestyle. If you despise the process, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to it. That’s why Young emphasizes the importance finding an activity you enjoy.
“My biggest piece of advice to any swimmer, or anyone looking to get into swimming, is that you have to enjoy it,” she says. “Swimming is great, not only because it’s easy on the joints, but also because it combines the best of aerobic and general exercise. It all comes down to my lifelong love of swimming and staying active—I continue to do it because I enjoy it.”
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