August 12, 2023 4 min read 8 Comments
Bruce Underhill has added aerial silks to his range of activities from break dancing, to playing the piano...to long jumping and sprints.
By Ray Glier
Bruce Underhill, 78, won the gold medal in the long jump at The National Senior Games by .01 meters. He was able to win by the slimmest of margins, even with a slight injury, because Underhill conquered that contest between aching body and mind…
...42 years ago.
He was a younger man when he adopted a change of policy. He wasn’t going to talk himself into falling apart as he grew older. One ache would not be a reason to pull a fire alarm. Bruce actually started with visualizations and meditations when he was 25 and really put it to work in running when he was 36.
“So many people have age-related self-talk ready when they hit a certain age,” said Underhill, a teacher at a junior college in San Diego, who also took a silver medal in the triple jump at the 2023 National Senior Games. “You feel a little ache or pain when you're 40 you think ‘well, I'm not 20 anymore, I shouldn’t be doing this’.
“I decided to let every one of those thoughts go, and see what's possible.”
Sure, there are plenty of others who refuse to use old as an alibi when pain arrives, but Underhill takes it to another level.
In addition to track & field—he entered six events at the Senior Games—Underhill does turbo kick-boxing and break dancing and learned a choreographed jazz dance number. He can do headstands, as well as those more mundane endeavors like golf and tennis. Bruce also gets into mountain biking.
Here is a video of him lifting himself off the stage by his elbows.
Here is a video of Underhill at a talent show.
Underhill also has a You Tube of him break dancing...at 78.
We need to be reminded of what’s possible by people like Underhill from time to time. He pitches himself as a Singing/Dancing Math instructor, which gives you a clue about his contrarian behavior and why this sport deserves him.
The best lesson from Bruce’s story is he finds a way to work out when he doesn’t feel like working out. He navigates the negativity. Something aches. Something rubs the wrong way. But...he doesn't skip the workout.
This slightly eccentric man, who break dances, does the most casual thing to collect his energy.
Pay attention to this, please:
“I just start walking,” Underhill said. “And, little by little, all those things that I was feeling beforehand they start to disappear. And so then I'll just jog a lap.
“And then I'll do a little stronger on the finish and then I'll do a couple more. And then I do another jog, but now a little faster.
"Now I find that the last 100 yards I can go pretty quick. So, then, by the time I finished with that third round, all of a sudden, I'm on my toes and I'm, wow, a different person than I was an hour ago.”
Underhill’s breakthrough at 36—mind over body—was helped along by the yogis of India. They did not preach or scold. They demonstrated.
“They said, ‘We're just going to tell you what we do. You can try it out and if it works for you, great. If not, forget it’,” Bruce said. “And so that's what I did; I just did some initial experiments.
“I experienced some incredible breakthroughs. I was always trying too hard, whether it was playing the piano, playing tennis, or playing basketball. All of a sudden, I realized from that teaching that you're supposed to picture the way you want it to be in its ultimate form.”
And things became very fun when Bruce was released from his stubbornness to coax more from himself. Underhill’s whole wavelength adjusted. He had a go-to mantra: “I can see this; I can do this.”
It was the lessons in meditation that helped win that gold medal in Pittsburgh.
On his second jump Bruce felt that twinge in his left hamstring that gives us all pause. He skipped his third jump and got some therapy, which for Underhill is meditation. In the time when others jumped, Underhill went chill and made the hamstring less of a distraction.
He came back to the running board for his fourth attempt and hit the winning jump of 3.23 meters.
"I do a lot of meditation. I'm really into recovery. Stuff does come back," Bruce said. " I just knew I had to ignore anything that was happening and I had to kind of rise above it."
He will be 79 in November, which means he is on the verge of joining the 80-84 cohort and adding to his truckload of medals.
“They better watch out,” Bruce said of the competition.
With this guy, you can't help but watch out and watch what he does next.
That's Bruce far right showing his footwork in something other than the long jump.
Underhill winning a gold medal in the long jump at the National Senior Games in 2019.
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