Meet Mark Newton. He’s one of the 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and he’ll be sharing updates on his health and wellness journey through the rest of this year. Mark, age 61, is a recently-retired high school journalism, public speaking, and English/Language Arts teacher. After a 35-year career, Mark has found a new way to stay engaged — both mentally and physically — through the sport of lawn bowling.
“Is that bocce?” the person shouts from behind the fence on the other side of the green.
“No, this is lawn bowling,” I answer — probably for the thousandth time. “It’s like bocce, but…”
“For many, it seems like the only exercise they get is jumping to conclusions. To be fair, lawn bowling is a lawn game like bocce (and croquet and badminton and horse shoes) — but it’s not. Lawn bowling is sport — physical meets mental, finesse meets strategy.
A Forgotten Game Sport
“My fitness area of interest is lawn bowling, a roughly 7,000-year old game — sorry, sport — in which larger balls are tossed toward a smaller one. The current history of the sport is roughly 700 years old, propelled by English athletes. Consequently, bowls — or ‘bowling the green’ — is a great fitness activity for all seniors in the Senior Planet community. All too often, lawn bowling is unrecognized and under appreciated as a viable fitness activity. And, that is precisely why I am happy to share the physical and mental health aspects of lawn bowling and other ‘games’ as a 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete.
“Lawn bowling offers several fitness benefits: stretching, strength, strategy, and teamwork.”
“I plan to bring recognition to all these sports, but particularly lawn bowling because it offers several fitness benefits: stretching, strength, strategy, and teamwork. Additionally, I want to demonstrate that these strenuous, but not necessarily vigorous sports, can be paired with other sports, games, and activities and combined to create healthy rigor and vigor goals. In fact, that is exactly what I have done during my fitness journey since I retired from teaching high school journalism, public speaking, and English/Language Arts after 35 years.
I Needed To Do Something
“At the time of my retirement, about six months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I weighed 255 pounds with a history of high blood pressure. I was active — hiking (a must in Colorado!), walking, yard work — but not active enough. I needed to do something. And, among many others, one great thing about retirement is that one now has more time to exercise (and, in my case, with variety), plan and craft healthy meals, research best practices, and engage in meaningful practice.
“As part of a lawn bowling club outreach program, they invited me to experience the activity. I am glad I did!”
“That’s where lawn bowling comes in. I had been exposed to lawn bowling about two years prior to my retirement. Walking around Denver’s Washington Park, I noticed the green and some participants engaged in some sort of (what I thought at the time!) ‘game.’ As part of a lawn bowling club outreach program, they invited me to experience the activity. I am glad I did!
“After some moderate success — like any sport, beginners have a steep learning curve, but my life-long experiences as an athlete translated well, apparently! — I was intrigued. In reality, I was intrigued enough to not engage with the sport for a couple of years. (Life, dang it!) But, retirement changed that…and as a frequent park-walker, I knew the club was active. Remembering my moderate success, I joined the club.
How Can I Help?
“I threw myself at the game. I became active in the club by volunteering for private events (where we taught skills and rules to guests), asked questions of my fellow club members during contests, digested the physical skills and mental approach of my opponents, watched video online, read about the history of the sport, reviewed other clubs, and studied the rules. After one season, I was ready for another. Then, the pandemic…
“The global health crisis created an opportunity for me to practice. And practice. And practice.”
“While challenging, the global health crisis created an opportunity for me to practice. And practice. And practice. With bowls being an outdoor sport, and my living in a moderate climate in Denver, I was able to lawn bowl safely and often; sometimes alone and sometimes with fellow club members, family, or vaccinated friends.
“My hope is that you, too, can find a game or sport or activity that will do the same.”
Those opportunities, coupled with my active and intentional engagement, and rigorous and sustained practice, helped me lose 35 pounds, and learn to love a game…wait, sport!…that provides physical and mental health, engages finesse and strategy, and builds and sustains friendships.
“My hope is that you, too, can find a game or sport or activity that will do the same. I know you can. I know you will!
“How can I help?”