Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete

Burr Daly, 81: Training in the Era of COVID-19

Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness goals.

Here’s an update from Burr Daly on his revised training regimen in 2020. If you missed Burr’s inspiring introduction, be sure to read it here. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here.


“I started training for speed walking just before the COVID-19 virus took hold. For twenty-five years prior, I had been a sprinter and jumper at the local level, and up to the national and international levels. Then, I got a partial knee replacement which ended my running career. I was just starting to work out on the artificial grass and track of the local high school and do my exercises in our local gym, when they both closed due to the virus.

So now, my training program is to bike and walk on my neighborhood roads and sidewalks here in Naples, Florida. The workouts and physical therapy in the gym can be replaced by exercise at home on a reduced level, with online exercise using soup cans for weights. The gym is now open on a reduced attendance level, but I am a high risk individual for the virus, so I have ruled that out.

What I have found to be the biggest obstacle over the last few months, is consistent motivation. When I was training for a track meet in the past, I would work up to my race pace gradually, months before a meet. Then, as the meet got closer, I would step up the pace. Preparation would include cross-training, biking to the track, and playing a lot of tennis. I was just getting back to tennis when the tennis courts closed down. I was used to fast, intense workouts, which my initial walking workouts were not giving me.

A Little Help from my Friends

My main motivator has been habit. It takes a long time to develop a routine and a training pattern. Twenty-five years of training for sprinting and jumping develops some pretty good habits! I have been very fortunate to have a lot of help along the way. At my first county track meet, I met a guy who was eleven years older than me. He became my mentor and encouraged me to go on to the Pennsylvania State Senior Games. He also helped me with my long jumping technique. In later years, another person at those same games encouraged me to go on to the USA Track and Field meets. At the time, I thought the meets were for professionals and people who had been on high school or college teams. (I never ran track in school.) I finally went, and ended up winning medals at national championships! It shows how much just a little help from one person can do.

I have also had volunteer coaches for sprints and relay teams for the Penn Relays with my Philadelphia Masters Track Club. Additionally, there were many years of hands-on help from the coach of the local Lely High School track team, as he let me use the track for my training. The coach told his team of students, ‘Burr’s age is up there, but in practice he never stops. He has been to many national championships recently. If he can do it, you can do it!’

Training with Technology

I am now working on — if not struggling with — establishing a plan, and sticking with that plan consistently. To offset these problems with motivation, I now have technological solutions that I did not have, or even require, in the past.

On my iPhone, the Runkeeper app allows me to track the distance, time, and speed of my walks and bike rides. It also tracks my calories burned. With my Garmin Vivosmart IV watch, I can track my heart rate average and high point. The Garmin also tracks the intensity of my overall daily activities. After my aortic heart valve replacement three years ago and my partial knee replacement in November 2018, it has been more difficult to raise my heartbeat to a very high level. One of my goals is to build up my body. Very recently, I have been able to get my heartbeat up to 95% of capacity on my 1500 meter power walks.

“I have been very fortunate to have a lot of help along the way.”

-Burr Daly

Besides building up my body to meet the rigors of power walking and speed walking, I am also working on completely healing from my partial knee replacement. I have found that power walking requires a great amount of oxygen capacity and speed walking requires even more. When I was a sprinter, I would run 100 meters. Now, the walk is 1500 meters. When I had the lung disease, sarcoidosis, I lost 30% of the capacity of my lungs. I also have asthma. Therefore, I have changed my initial goal to power walking.

I’m focused on taking two steps forward, while trying not to go one step back. My Garmin Vivosmart is very helpful. If I have been sitting too long, it beeps and sends me a message: ‘Get up, and get moving.’ That’s the same secret my former Penn Relays coach always told me, ‘Keep moving.’ ”

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