May 21, 2022 3 min read
Ft. Lauderdale___ Barb Markelz, 68, didn’t have to recalibrate her physical fitness regimen in retirement. She has always been about movement, so retiring as a school teacher did not set her on a new path of exercise just because she had more time. It’s the same path, just wider.
“Movement is my way of life,” said Markelz, who lives in Fairfield, Conn. “I just think that the brain and the body are connected. And anytime you get moving it jump starts everything. Every day I move, I sleep well.”
Markelz should be sleeping well this week because of the wide path she is cutting in south Florida. She entered four events in the National Senior Games, Power Walk, Basketball, Pickleball, and Softball. It’s the sort of ambition you expect from a phys ed teacher who is the daughter of a phys ed teacher.
Her mother, Marion Lisehora, is 90 and competed in the 2022 Pickleball Tournament here. Barb's husband, Mark, also competed in the Pickleball Tournament (65-69). In the 2019 Games in Albuquerque, all five of Marion's children and Mark Markelz competed.
The whole family, it seems, is grounded in movement.
It’s why this perpetually positive person worries about the kids coming up. Their lives were hijacked by Covid, Barb Markelz said. Now they are spending too much time inside. More of them need an appetite for exercise, but they have an appetite for the computer screen, she says.
“They are not going to outlive us,” Markelz said. She shakes her head in dismay.
If they could just see the glee of their P.E. teacher this week maybe the kids would get with it.
Five minutes before the first pitch for the Noreasters, her 65+ women’s softball team, Markelz is softening up Bazooka bubblegum in her mouth, like she is 10 years old again. She is one of the team’s best athletes, but this opening game she is not in the field, but she is in the lineup as an extra hitter.
Still, Markelz is on her feet in the dugout, face against the chain link fence, cheering the players in the field, a lesson in togetherness the kids could use.
The Noreasters are formidable. They won their opener, 19-4, and their second game, 13-5, on their way to a 5-0 record. The core of this team, in younger age groups, won gold medals at the Senior Games in 2013, 2015, 2017, and the Noreasters added another Gold medal. Markelz was part of all four Gold Medal winners.
You can see the eagerness to make something happen when Markelz comes to the plate. Over-anxious, she lunged at a pitch out in front, swung the bat with her weight on her front foot, and popped out.
When she doesn’t get a pitch to hit her second at bat, she shakes her head, and takes her walk.
It is the kind of fervor we all need.
“The older I get the happier I get,” she says. “When I'm 70, I'll be happier than now because I'll be the babe (in the 70-74 cohort). And when you’re the youngest in the next age group, you kick butt.”
Markelz grew up kicking butt.
Barb was turning 14 years old in 1968 and made the varsity basketball team so 14 became her lucky number and she has worn No. 14 on her jersey, ever since. Markelz played varsity all four years in high school then played field hockey four years and basketball for two years at Eastern Kentucky University.
She showed up here at the National Senior Games, entered her first ever Power Walk, and finished 14th, another validation of her lucky jersey No. 14. Markelz cannot run out of ways to move. In February, she and her husband hired a personal trainer for just one day a week just to add weightlifting to their fitness regimen.
Barb's optimism is home grown. Her father, Anthony, was a farm boy and a veterinarian. When a man brought in a poodle whose eye had been gouged out in a fight and told the doc the dog should be put to sleep, the vet’s children begged him not to put the pup down.
Anthony stitched up the eye and FiFi became the family pet for 14 years.
We carry these lessons through life, lessons like Anthony Lisehora’s compassion for a dog and his daughter’s passion for movement.
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