Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness goals in 2021. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here.
Mark Newton, 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. Learn all about Mark’s passion for lawn bowling here, and read on for his advice on what it takes to begin and maintain your own wellness journey.
Long before I became a 2021 Senior Planet Senior Athlete, I always considered myself an athletic person. All throughout my life I was active — though there were periods of time where I was more active than others.
Most recently, during my 50s and working in my last decade as a high school teacher, I slacked on consistent, rigorous, meaningful exercise. I belonged to a recreation center and “worked out.” I hiked in the Colorado mountains. I walked around the neighborhood and local park. I even ate salad every now and then! I was active — at least mildly — but I don’t believe I was engaged in a healthy lifestyle. In the end, I medicated for hypertension and was overweight.
Time for a Change of Lifestyle
When I retired at 60, I knew there had to be more. There was certainly more time, and more motivation. So, being that competitive athlete, I challenged myself to engage in a more healthy lifestyle.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic altered my plan.
Obviously, that challenge involved lawn bowling. It still included that rec center membership — which afforded me the opportunity to engage in a new and improved workout plan, and learn another new sport, pickleball. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic altered my plan.
Even with the pandemic, I still had those mountains and that neighborhood and its park. Despite many local restrictions, I still challenged myself to create a healthier and active lifestyle. There were quite a few challenges…and many successes! I believe these six observations guided my quest for a healthier lifestyle.
Get a smartwatch and use the health/fitness/wellness apps & functions
I use an Apple Watch; I”m a huge fan of the activity tracker and the health and workout apps. With the activity tracker, I have set and adjusted my three goals (move, exercise, stand). The daily goal tracking has kept me engaged and motivated. Sometimes, at the end of the workout or day or week, I do an extra few minutes just to make sure I achieve my goals, close my rings, and get my challenge awards.
With the workout app, I have been careful to identify and select the best workouts to achieve my goals. (While there is not a lawn bowling workout, there is a bowling workout, so I use that.) I also select “outdoor walk,” “hiking,” “pickleball,” and others – there are many workout options.
Use what you have, and download the Johnson & Johnson “7 Minute Workout”
This “fast, simple, science-based workout” has proven an effective way for me to work out when circumstances require a change in my workout schedule or location. With “72 exercises and 22 additional workouts that can be customized and modified to create more than 1,000 variations to help keep you motivated and moving,” I’m all in. I love its flexibility. Often times I modify a particular exercise to meet where I am that day for flexibility, strength, and energy. As a side note, I also have elastic bands, hand weights, a yoga mat, and stairway steps which allow me to create my own workout (often with yoga) and/or adjust others.
Splurge on some great shoes and gear
After trying and trying the standard brands of athletic shoes (all fine, but not exceptional, in my opinion), I finally settled on a brand that I love: Hoka. The most important thing to remember here is that taking care of our feet (which support our ankles, knees, hips, spine, and neck) is absolutely critical to our overall fitness. We tend to take shortcuts on our shoes (and gear) and we end up paying for it, all too often mitigating or outright restricting our journey. I realized that — despite my initial willingness to spend more on shoes — supporting my feet (arches) was absolutely critical. So, off to the local runner’s store for expert advice, guidance, and support for a shoe that would best support my physical being and planned physical activity. Finally, I was careful to select clothing, headgear, and headphones that supported me and my quest. Look good, plus feel good, equals play good!
Be creative and combine activities into “your thing”
Like I said before, I often create my own play. (You know, “workouts”!) I was certainly interested in finding sports and activities that would engage me and support who I am as a person and athlete. That quest ended up in lawn bowling — and pickleball, yoga, hiking, the 7 Minute Workout, and a few others. Often, I will walk a mile or so to the lawn bowling green. Or, on a walk around the park, I will stop in to bowl for a bit. The 7 Minute Workout and yoga became my go-to play events during the cold winter months. Planning my daily healthy activities — and meals, snacks, breaks, naps (sleep!) — motivates me.
Once you find “your thing,” move from “good” to “great”
I was fortunate to find lawn bowling and make it my thing. For me, there were several aspects about the sport that made it appealing. First, I love the camaraderie (even though I often practice by myself). Second, I love the mental aspects of the sport (there is so much strategy and skill adjustment). Third, I appreciate that while not a rigorous activity, it is demanding.
Other healthy lifestyle benefits
Once I bought in to the activity of the sport, I was intrigued to explore its history and rules. I engaged in strategy and purposeful practice. I volunteered when the club hosted events and taught lessons. I agreed to serve on the board of directors. That leadership service is engaging, and since I am the greens chair, I even get a little yard work in at the green before bowling!
Play with purpose. Play with passion. Just play!
More than anything, these tips provide a direction, a purpose. That purpose propelled me to a passion — a passion for lawn bowling (and other activities), a passion for fitness, a passion for health, a passion to play. All that purposeful, passionate play has been wonderfully healthy. I am a healthier, happier senior athlete.
…the quest for a healthier lifestyle is a personal one.
Indeed, the quest for a healthier lifestyle is a personal one. Some of us will explore activity. Some of us will search for a better diet and improved sleep. Some of us will be limited by ailments or location. But, in the end, each one of us has the power to find and embrace those challenges and change for the better. We — you! — can do this!
In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from SeniorPlanet.org by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!