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At 100, Still Running for Her Life

May 2nd, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Healthy Living

I’m officially out of excuses to not get off the couch & go! – Ashley

“You see so many older people just sitting around — well, that’s not me.”

On a cloudless Sunday afternoon in April, a 100-year-old woman named Ida Keeling laced up her mustard yellow sneakers and took to the track at the Fieldston School in the Bronx. Her arrival was met without fanfare. In fact, no one in the stands seemed to notice her at all.

It is possible the spectators were distracted by the girls’ soccer game taking place on the field. Or perhaps they were simply unaware that Ms. Keeling is a reigning national champion.

When she runs, Ms. Keeling occupies a lane all her own. She has held several track-and-field records since she began racing in her late 60s, and she still hasthe fastest time for American women ages 95 to 99 in the 60-meter dash:29.86 seconds. In the week to come, she plans to compete in a 100-meter event at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, where she hopes to establish a new standard for women over 100 years old.

“You see so many older people just sitting around — well, that’s not me,” said Ms. Keeling, who is barely 4-foot-6 and weighs 83 pounds. “Time marches on, but I keep going.”

Ms. Keeling was not always such an accomplished runner. As a child growing up in Harlem, she preferred riding bikes or jumping rope. With Title IX half a century away, there were few opportunities for girls, let alone black girls, to play organized sports. When she did run, it was always to race, never to exercise.

“I was pretty fast as a girl,” she said. “What makes me faster now is that everyone else slowed down.”

When the Depression hit, Ms. Keeling’s athletic inclinations receded into memory, supplanted by a series of jobs washing windows and babysitting for neighbors. Her family, who for years lived in cramped quarters in the back of her father’s grocery, was forced into even more humbling circumstances when the store went out of business and her father began peddling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart for a living.

“I learned to stand on my own two feet during the Depression,” she said. “It taught you to do what you had to do without anyone doing it for you.”

Shelley Keeling, left, and her mother, Ida Keeling, on a balcony in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Ms. Keeling’s resilience only deepened with time. After her husband died of a heart attack at 42, she was left to raise their four children on her own. She moved the family into a one-bedroom apartment in a Harlem housing project and took up work sewing in a factory, all the while contending with the abuses and indignities endured by black women in mid-20th-century America. As the civil rights movement took shape, Ms. Keeling became an active demonstrator, shuttling her children to Malcolm X speeches and boarding a predawn bus for the 1963 March on Washington.

“I always understood from mother that you die on your feet rather than live on your knees,” said her daughter Shelley Keeling.

Over time, that resolve was gravely tested. While serving overseas in the Navy, Ms. Keeling’s older son, Donald, developed a crippling drug addiction that he struggled to shed even after returning home to Harlem. His habit ensnared his younger brother, Charles, who had served in the Army. Ms. Keeling watched in horror as both boys, barrel-chested charmers who friends joked looked like superheroes, withdrew into the world of drugs.

Ms. Keeling stretched her legs in her daughter’s living room in the Bronx last month.

In 1978, Ms. Keeling received a call from the police informing her that Donald had been hanged. Around two years later, the phone rang again: Charles was dead — beaten in the street with a baseball bat. Both killings were suspected to be drug-related; neither was ever solved.

“I’ve never felt a pain so deep,” Ms. Keeling recalled, her voice lowering to a whisper. “I couldn’t make sense of any of it and things began to fall apart.”

A stretch to improve Ms. Keeling’s blood flow and flexibility.

As Ms. Keeling fell into a deep depression, her health began to falter. Her blood pressure shot up, along with her heart rate. The image of her once-vital mother in such despair shook the younger Ms. Keeling. A lifelong track-and-field athlete whose trophies fill an entire room of her apartment, she intervened with the means of healing most familiar to her: running.

“It was trial by fire,” recalled Shelley Keeling, 64, who has coached track and field at Fieldston for 21 years. “Based on where she was emotionally, it just had to be.”

After some coaxing from her daughter, Ms. Keeling, then 67, registered for a five-kilometer race through Brooklyn. It had been decades since she had last gone running. The two women took off together, but the younger Ms. Keeling soon darted to the front of the pack as her mother drifted far behind. After a suspenseful respite, she was relieved to see her mother scamper across the finish line, barely out of breath.

“Good Lord, I thought that race was never going to end, but afterwards I felt free,” Ms. Keeling recalled. “I just threw off all of the bad memories, the aggravation, the stress.”

So began the sunset career of Ida Keeling, at a time when most of her peers were settling in for a future of seated yoga or abandoning athletics altogether. In the decades since, she has traveled across the world for competitions. She often races alone, the only contestant in her age group.

“Now I’m just chasing myself — there’s no one else to compete with,” she said. “It’s wonderful, but it feels a little crazy.”

Running gives Ms. Keeling a sense of serenity, she said. Her sinewy arms urge her body forward, each stride stronger than the last as she picks up momentum. Though she has developed arthritis and occasionally relies on a cane while walking, Ms. Keeling betrays none of her ailments as she runs.

To maintain her health, Ms. Keeling adheres to a stringent regimen of diet (“I eat for nutrition, not for taste”) and exercise (“I’ve got to get my hour in every day”). On a recent afternoon, Shelley Keeling led her mother through a routine that included push-ups, wall sits, shoulder presses and sprints back and forth on the balcony of her apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Ms. Keeling lives alone and says that self-sufficiency is a key to her longevity.

“I don’t beg nobody for nothing,” she said. “I wash, cook, iron, scrub, clean, mop and shop.”

Ms. Keeling exceeded the five push-ups that her daughter had asked of her.

Ms. Keeling eschews food products with preservatives, favoring fresh grains and produce, along with limited portions of meat. Desserts are rarities, and a tablespoon of cod-liver oil supplements breakfast most mornings. Despite her exceptional discipline, Ms. Keeling allows herself one indulgence. “This is putting gas in the car,” she said before downing a tall shot of Hennessy.

There are days when Ms. Keeling battles a surge of arthritis or a hint of melancholy. “I never want to go backwards,” she said. “I’m a forward type of person.”

As she navigated the track at Fieldston, a nasty cramp shot up her right leg, hobbling her gait. For a moment she seemed to hesitate as she let out a deep sigh and slowed her pace. But then Ms. Keeling dispensed with the pain the only way she knew how. She ran through it.


CHRI’s Church Media Coordinator, Trudy Connelly’s Weight-Loss Success Story!

February 1st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Healthy Living
Have you found it difficult to stick with a lifestyle change to meet a weight loss goal? If so, I hope my story will encourage you. Of course, anyone with a medical condition must check with their medical professional before making significant changes in diet or beginning an exercise program.Just like any change we want to make in life, it takes a decision to get started and, in particular, to keep going to reach the desired result. And, setting a specific goal is important. Resetting the goal is allowed.

trudy_beforeIn the past I’ve been sceptical about the effectiveness of making New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of January, or more accurately sticking to resolutions for the duration. But, I decided in January 2014 that I wanted to be healthier and lose 15 pounds, which would take me down from 145 to 130 lbs. I’m only 5’4″ so I was carrying extra weight that I really didn’t need and I want to be healthy well into my senior years, God willing. I really set my mind to the goal and was determined to work towards it. Possibly the added inspiration of seeing a couple of my CHRI colleagues very successful with their weight loss endeavours played a role. I also kept picturing in my mind the ultimate result of better health and looking better – and the potential excuse for a new wardrobe or a few new pieces of clothing at a minimum was pretty exciting.

trudy_fitbitTo make it easy, I started with some simple gradual changes. Firstly, I implemented a regular at-home mini-exercise program comprised of a 10 to 12 minute workout 4-5 days a week using an easy-to- follow video. I knew that if I started out with a lengthy intensive workout I would probably not stick with it. I did (and still do) my workout first thing in the morning which I found is best for me. Then it’s done for the day and I can focus on other things. I don’t particularly like getting up at the crack of dawn but the prospect of just 10 to 12 minutes earlier wasn’t too daunting. A few mornings it did take a bit of self-talk to get out of bed earlier than usual but most mornings I really looked forward to the workout. The routine was simply a 1-2 minute warm-up, 4 minutes of aerobics (simple jogging in place works), 2-3 minutes of core exercises, 2 minutes of free weights and a 1 minute cool down.

trudy_appSecondly, I knew I had to focus on nutrition as the other important ingredient to reach my goal. The old adage “You are what you eat” makes perfect sense.  I have never been much of a junk food person but I do like to eat and eat frequently. How happy I was to learn that eating frequent small meals is highly recommended. Of course, what you consume during those frequent meals is key! Again keeping it simple was my approach. I didn’t want to have to spend much time counting calories or weighing food so I used a phone app that allowed me to easily enter the foods I ate at each meal & snack and then the program totalled the calories & percentage of fat, carbs & protein at the end of the day.

I took a weight management genetic test a couple of weeks into January to determine what type of diet best suited me specifically for optimum results. Results are divided into 3 categories: 1) carb reducer,2) fat trimmer and 3) better balancer. I received my results within 4 to 5 weeks. In the interim I did my short exercise routine and did my best at making better nutrition choices.   The genetic test result recommended the “fat reduction” program for me – with no more than 30% of daily calories from fat; 50 – 65% carbs, and 15% or more from protein. With that information in hand I simply adjusted some of my food choices to those with lower fat content (i.e. lower fat milk, cheese, yogourt) and focused on the good fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. I started to closely read the labels on food items checking for the fat & protein content and aiming for low sugar content as well.

trudy_yogurtThe genetic test result also indicated more vigorous exercise was in order. I wasn’t terribly thrilled with that recommendation, but to keep things simple (again) I just doubled the 4 minute aerobic portion of my program and added a little intensity. So, I was still doing a short routine of no more than 14 to 20 minutes max in the morning for exercise. On the fun side I purchased a “fit bit” wireless wrist band which tracks steps, distance and calories burned. I focused mainly on the number of steps per day and set a goal of 10,000 steps.   It became a fun game to see how close I could get to that goal by the end of the day. I wore the wristband all day so it calculated the steps from my early morning workout and all steps taken in the course of the day. As the weather warmed I started “serious” walking outside in the early evening and on weekends. On the days that I reached my 10,000 steps the wristband would flash a light and vibrate. I was simply competing against myself and it became great fun and the pounds came off. On the nutrition side, I discovered how tasty Greek low-fat yogourt is with fresh berries – just about as good as any dessert. I developed the habit of checking and comparing the ingredients listed on food labels in order to make better choices.

trudy_afterSlow and easy wins the race and by the end of May I had reached my goal and lost 15 lbs. I then decided to shoot for another 5 lbs which I lost by late June so I ended up at 125 lbs which seemed like a good weight for me.

Some may have preferred faster results but I was thrilled and it hadn’t been all that difficult. Most importantly I have developed the habit of a healthier lifestyle with regular workouts and good nutrition. The occasional treat isn’t a bad thing but I quite enjoy my regular diet. I eat frequently (i.e. morning and afternoon snacks) plus main meals. I don’t use my food app anymore since I have a good sense of what is best for me to eat. I regularly check the labels on foods before I purchase anything new. I don’t eat much bread but when I do I look for unbleached non-enriched flour and whole grains. And, I’ve maintained the same weight. Come spring I will likely pull out the “fit bit” again and do some serious walking just because it’s fun as well as a great exercise with the added benefit of fresh air.

If my story helps to encourage one person to pursue a weight management goal which they had given up on then I will be very happy. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy lifestyle in 2015.

By Trudy Connelly
Church Media Coordinator


Budget Cooking: Feed 4 for $10

November 3rd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Healthy Living
Cooking on a budget? Don’t skimp on nutrition! You’ll feel good about feeding your family these creatively delectable recipes:
Budget Cooking

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22 Facts About Sleep That Will Surprise You

July 1st, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Healthy Living
We spend about one-third of our time on Planet Earth asleep. That’s about 16 hours a night as infants, 9 hours as teens and 7 to 8 hours as adults.14-HHB-287-Adult-Sleep-Infographic_05.02.2014_FINAL


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