Standing in right field was not Pat Kelly’s idea of getting in shape. Softball is fun, but Kelly felt the urge to undam her athletic potential and just move more. So she took a course “Couch to 5K” and then entered a 5K.
That was better, but not quite her thing.
Then Kelly met Jonathan Pierce, who trains Olympic athletes and some other just regular, folk. He had her do some drills and watched her stride. Both discovered she was more a sprinter. A star was born, but Kelly wasn’t 15 years old, or even 22. She was a percolating star at 62.
That’s right. She was ripping the lid off mad skills at 62 years old!
A retired teacher who lives in San Diego, Kelly is now 72 years old and won a gold medal in the 60-meter dash at the U.S. Track & Field Masters Indoor Championships at the Armory in New York in March. She also won a silver in the 200 and a bronze in the 400. Kelly is headed to the National Senior Games in May with more ambition and is entered in the 100, 200, and 400.
Many of us feel stranded at 62, unsure how much to ramp up exercise because of the threat of injury. We heal slower and we don’t want a knee injury to turn into something worse, so some of us freeze ourselves in a block of ice. Kelly didn’t want to be confined. She went for it. And then she reaped the reward, which was youthful exuberance.
“I felt like that 10-year old again, you know, not thinking about anything else in the world, just running a race,” Pat said. “I love that feeling. That escapism.”
That escapism is not delusional. You can reach back to youth when you settle into the 100-meter blocks. You can find that old dance partner and become an irrationally self-assured kid again.
Kelly has some big-kid help. Pierce, whose company is Kinetik Performance, introduced her to soft tissue therapy, or Active Release Technique. It is the manipulation of the fascia that surrounds the muscles. It is deep stuff, as in reaching deep to the connective tissue that holds everything in place.
Kelly has the ART once a week, which is every Wednesday.
“It’s preventive care, soft tissue care, and I’m convinced that it has kept me injury free,” Kelly said.
“As we age, our fascias get crinkles, like a like a bedsheet would. And so it (ART) keeps the fascia smooth and pliable. It allows our muscles to go for the full range of motion.”
Kelly sees the lack of full-range of motion every day in society. Some people struggle to get out of their cars, she said. Pat sees people, young and older, put their hands on the restaurant table to get up and leave.
Move, Kelly says. Move and remove the regret that will come with inactivity.
Kelly is going to run the 100, 200, and 400 in Ft. Lauderdale. She thinks she will have to go under 17 seconds in the 100 just to reach the finals. In the 200 meters, 36 seconds or less is a goal, and she wants to go 1:25 in the 400.
Pat doesn’t view the races as freebies and just fun for the sake of fun. She is invested and driven and there will be real disappointment if she does not get to the finals.
Pierce constructs a weekly workout regimen for Kelly that starts on Sunday with a heavy track day. Last Sunday she did several 120 repeats to get the week started.
Monday was a light rowing workout. On Tuesdays she does hills, or longer dirt runs, in the morning. In the afternoon, Kelly will do weight workouts with deadlifts and Romanian squats and sled pulls and pushes. There is also quick-twitch work with bands.
On Wednesday, Kelly has her fascia treatment followed by a 15-minute acupuncture treatment. Thursday is track and it varies between a 100, 200, or 400 workout. Friday mornings is an indoor cycle workout, either aerobic or anaerobic.
On Saturday, Kelly rests.
“It’s definitely intrinsic at this point in my life,” Pat said when asked where the motivation comes from.
“I just love it. I love doing it. I love the workouts. I love the training. I love the people I have met, and I have two great workout partners on Sundays at the track. I look forward to seeing them.”
Kelly can go on and on about the joys of exercise. It’s what we all strive for: automatic pilot on a joyride.
“I call it my happy place when I’m when I’m training or especially when I’m competing,” she said. “It’s a feeling that is deep down. It brings me great joy to be able to do it. And I have a great appreciation that I’m able to do it.”
Kelly is one of 10 children, eight boys and two girls. She played football with the boys until she was 12 and then her mother told her that is not what young ladies did. But she continued with sports, especially softball.
The benefits of that waned in 2013 when Kelly said she started to put on weight. She had achieved All-American status because of her “hit-em-where-they-aint” approach at the plate and her speed, but she needed something else.
She did the “Couch to 5K” deal and then found Pierce. Last summer, at the USATF Outdoors in Ames, Iowa, Kelly won two gold medals and two silver medals.
“I retired from teaching after 40 years and had no more excuses,” she said of picking up the exercise routine. “I have all the time in the world.”
It’s like she is 16 again and has her life in front of her. A wonderful feeling, indeed. Exercise is the lifeblood of living.