October 01, 2022 5 min read 4 Comments
Photo: Dr. Schulman is all smiles with four medals from the Maryland Senior Olympics.
By Ray Glier
Carol Schulman is a doctor so she has a special reverence for exercise. She is not only a doctor, Carol is a retired doctor of pediatrics and she is here to tell you something about exercise.
Go run around like you are a kid again.
Dr. Schulman ran just one race in the National Senior Games in May. It was the 100 and she was next to last, the 16th best time out of 17 in the preliminaries.
You have never seen such joy on the face of someone next to last in a race.
For 24.72 seconds she was back in the dominion of her childhood, the sidewalk in front of her house in Washington, D.C. She is 77 now, but she swears she felt like 7 again running that 100 in Ft, Lauderdale.
“Absolutely, I felt like a 7-year old again,” she said.
Schulman does not see herself as one of those cast-iron Geezer Jocks who win armfuls of gold medals in the National Senior Games at 80, 85, or 90. Her running is more important than a medal. The children around Carol during her career taught her as much.
Carol saw the ones stressed by team sports as they got older. She witnessed the anxiety. She heard about the fear of failure. It gripped children.
But she also saw the delight of just running…and running…and running. No adult overlords could suck the fun out of just running.
“The joy I wanted to see was the little kid running. I didn’t want to see the pressure kids were under from their parents, among others,” she said.
So, go run, or try to do just a little gallop.
Here is the deal with Dr. Schulman. She is not faintish, or infirm, or lacks fortitude. Her stance on taking it easy on the kids might make you think she doesn’t have it in her bloodstream to take on a challenge, or she doesn’t see the value in being pushed.
Well, there is a marathon in New Mexico called The Bataan Memorial Death March, in honor of the U.S. servicemen brutalized by the Japanese in World War II in the Philippines. It is 26.2 miles of walking and running and jogging in the high desert of the White Sands Missile Range.
Schulman did that 26.2-mile march eight times.
In all, she ran 14 marathons. Carol also had a stretch in her life where she would do charity events and walk 20 miles a day for three days.
There is nothing incompatible or mismatched about a doctor who grinds away at 26 miles in the heat of a desert, or walks 60 miles in three days on cement, and a doctor who says take it easy on the kids in athletics.
The doctor, who had mostly competed in the classroom when she was younger, found the Senior Olympics a few years back. Growing up in an era before Title IX, she didn’t even know that you ran counterclockwise on a track. Then Carol entered a race, a one-mile thingy of power walk and just plain walking.
“I beat all the other old people,” Schulman said.
Then she started entering state games around her in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. She found a niche in the sprints, the 100 and 200. She took home medals.
“I loved it,” she said. “It transformed me. My body enjoys doing it and I can still get out of bed the next day.”
Schulman’s ascent to organized events is one of the fundamentals Geezer Jocks carry around with them, and that is knowing that you still can.
So walk out in the water, get up on your tiptoes, see how you do in the deep end.
“The big difference between me and the unbelievable people you have written about in Geezer Jock is that I have not yet taken it to the level where I could work on improving myself and I don’t know what the holdup is,” Dr. Schulman said. “I've never had any coaching. I've never had anybody tell me what I am doing wrong and what I’m supposed to do. I know I'm doing a lot of things wrong.
“So that’s my next frontier. It is an aspirational goal, perhaps, to one day get a medal in the national games. I need some training. The problem is these are really fast people."
There are genetics involved with these still really fast people, but there are also genetics involved in the constant pursuit of these 70-, and 80-year old really fast people. Indeed, genetics are not just having a gift of speed passed down, but also a gift of “can-do” that is passed down.
“There is a strong genetic component to how much you want to exercise and how much you enjoy it,” the doctor said.
In that regard, Carol’s touchstone was, and still is, her mother. The woman came home from the hospital in her 80s after a bout with pneumonia, Carol said, and what strength Mary lost with a lengthy hospital stay was made up in vim and vinegar. The hospital sent a physical therapist to the house, but the PT came with too low a bar.
Cautiously, gingerly, the PT asked Dr. Schulman’s mother if she could get up and maybe, pretty please, walk to the hall.
“She practically ran down the hall,” Carol said. “She came back to the sofa and said ‘How was that?’
“My mother was the fastest walker I have ever been around.”
Her mother, Mary, and father, Murry, were ping pong champions in the summer resort area of The Catskills in New York. They would play each other in the finals every year because mom was the women’s champion and dad was the men’s champion.
The journalist who is honored to talk to a doctor, quite naturally, hectors the doctor into some medical advice for the masses.
So what does Dr. Schulman prescribe? Well, it’s not the deep stuff she learned while in school at Harvard and Georgetown.
*The fitness trackers, those digital watches, can be a motivator by counting steps.
*Find a type of movement that agrees with you and you enjoy.
*Set that fitness tracker on your watch to alert you to stand up every hour. Make the thing beep.
*Have fun in the back of the pack and be ok with that.
“People need to get the message that we were made to move,” Dr. Schulman said.
There is a catch to these tips by the doctor. You cannot treat exercise as a once-in-a-while whimsy. It has to resonate...daily.
Make it resonate by making it fun. Act like a kid again.
Copyright © 2022 Ray Glier
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