Canadian track star Olga Kotelko started late. At age 77, a dozen years after retiring as an elementary school teacher, she began running, jumping and throwing competitively. Now 94, she holds 26 track and field records. As Bruce Grierson points out in “What Makes Olga Run?,” she has won some of these titles because she has few competitors in her masters-level bracket; she also enters more events than anybody else. (In one meet, he says, she might compete in six throwing events, three sprints and three jumps.) Nevertheless, this dynamo — who weighs 130 pounds and stands just over 5 feet tall — is an amazing piece of work. She’s also sharp as a tack: When scientists order up a scan of her brain, she quips, “I hope they find one.”
Grierson uses Kotelko as a springboard for an examination of the factors that allow athleticism so late in life: genes, body type, early life, diet, exercise, emotional health. There are a lot of insights, ending with nine rules for a productive long life: Rule 1 is “Keep moving.” Rule 4 is “Be a mensch.” Rule 9 is “Begin now.” For the others, read the book.
With Presidents’ Day coinciding with the Olympics in Sochi last week, GQ magazine’s blog paused in its usual coverage of style, sex and sports to post a vintage physical fitness promotional film featuring President John F. Kennedy. In it, Kennedy articulates a fact that remains true: “Our citizens are living longer. We want them to participate fully in that longer life. But they can only do so if they give some of their time and some of their effort to maintaining that vitality.”
Kennedy’s words are introduced by iconic comedian Bob Hope and accompanied by black-and-white footage of energetic girls in gym bloomers and guys doing push-ups in those little tight shorts. As GQ columnist Bill Bradley notes, we’re seeing “his vision for an America where everybody lines up in formation to do jumping jacks.” Kennedy doesn’t appear in the film; to see the commander in chief — speaking on fitness to a dinner audience including Gen. Douglas MacArthur — go to bit.ly/JFKfit. There he says, with vigah, that he hopes to “literally change the physical habits of millions of Americans, and that is far more difficult than changing their taste, their fashion or even their politics.”