Allow me to introduce a “young man” who is an inspiration to many in the area. Jim Forrest is 81 years young, and he can run circles around most of us of any age. I told him that he is a legend in his own time! He laughed. I don’t think he believed me.
We visited at the local swimming pool where he was helping with Red Cross swimming lessons. He was wearing his swim suit; more his daily attire than any other clothing.
As long as I have known Jim, he has been a swimmer, a biker, and a distance runner. But he has not always been this active. I reminded him that he was young in spirit and health, but not a “spring chicken” any more. I am sure he liked that remark. I asked him when and why he got so involved in exercise?
“When I was 51 years old, my doctor told me that I needed exercise. I decided to do this for my health. So, I did,” he said.
“I started out exercising at the Fitness Center in the Eggleston building in downtown Larned, exercising on the treadmill, but after a while I thought that this seemed rather unnecessary when I could be doing this outside. I started to run out on the street. While working at the State Hospital, I met Jim Smith (an area runner) and soon we were running together. We would run 6 miles every morning.
“The first race I ever did was the 5K “Coon Creek Chase” in Kinsley, and I still have the T-shirt from that event. I then entered the Senior Olympics in Topeka where I competed and then qualified to go to Pittsburgh, Pa., Senior Olympics. It was fun to compete with people my own age from all over the United States. I later competed at a similar Olympic event,” he continued.
“And of course, I love to swim. I swim every day, every week day, usually seven days a week in the summer, and I swim 36 lengths or half a mile. I like to bike, too, and I go about 6 miles or more at a time.”
I asked if he does all these different activities in a day, and he replied that yes, he does.
I asked, “Do you get something out of this? Do you have a runner’s high? Why?”
“I do it for my health, and that is my main goal. I enjoy it, but I like to do it health-wise, because I think exercise is important and if you don’t exercise, you going to start having problems,” he said.
Then, I asked the BIG question of age, and he answered that he is 81 years old.
How unbelievable is that? He didn’t think it was unbelievable at all, but after all, the perception of age is not the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago. People can live longer, healthier lives, and reject this attitude of what one can and cannot do at different ages.
“I’ve been exercising for 30 years,” he said. “I stay involved. Here, at the pool, I enjoy working with kids and teaching them to swim.” Jim assists with swim lessons through the Larned Recreation Commission. “I used to lifeguard. They called us the ‘geezer guard’ back about four or five years ago.”
I asked lots of questions. After all, this guy and his exercise regimen fascinate me. “My running buddies are Bob Herter, Jim Smith, Phil Schreiber, and I swim with Renelle Kenyon. I go to the Fitness Center every morning at 5 a.m. and in the summer I am the only one there. But in the winter months, there might be as many as eight there and I have plenty of company.
“If you can encourage somebody to exercise, you know, they don’t need to do all the exercise I do, but to commit to exercise every day, keeps one fit — lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, strengthens your heart.”
Jim is an inspiration and a motivation for many of us to get up and move. So let’s get going!