70 and fit as a fiddle
He has completed eight full marathons, clocking a personal best timing of 3 hours and 46 minutes, as well as an ultra-marathon that spanned more than 50 kilometres. All this, for someone who picked up running in his thirties! Today at 70 years of age, LB Senior Tan Yew King continues to maintain his body in tip-top shape. He shares with us about his fitness journey, and more!
If there was an exemplification of an exercise buff, Mr. Tan would fit the bill to a tee. In fact, exercise was exactly how he was led to join LB AAC @ Tampines 499C about three years ago, shortly after his retirement as a security officer. “I happened to walk past (other seniors) exercising at the pavilion outside the centre, which got me interested. The people there asked me to join, so I simply went in and signed up as a member (of the AAC) on the spot!” he recollects.
Finding Running Buddies
His passion for keeping fit didn’t start from a young age, however, as he only started to be exposed to regular running when he was almost 40 years old, under the positive influence of a group of friends who became his running buddies. “近朱者赤, 近墨者黑,” he remarks, quoting a Chinese idiom that means you are the company you keep. “When you get close to friends who love to run, you will carry on running.”
As he embarked on this activity, it was also important to have something to look forward to after a workout as a reward to stay motivated. For him, he never dreaded going for runs even though he initially found it exhausting to keep up with his friends. “I was very happy to finish my runs, because we would gather afterwards for coffee sessions and chats,” he explains. “And the more I ran, the more satisfaction I got, because I came to know even more friends.”
Going the Distance
Recreational runs soon turned into bigger challenges for Mr. Tan, as he and his friends registered for timed official races organised by various community centres or corporations, at locations ranging from Mount Faber and Sentosa to neighbourhoods like Ang Mo Kio and Tampines. He fondly remembers participating in novel race formats where runners received a lucky draw ticket for each lap completed. He also enjoyed receiving finisher T-shirts as well as the snacks and drinks made available for runners after each race, which was a pull for him to sign up for more such events over the years.
Mr. Tan recalls his very first full marathon about 30 years ago, like it was yesterday. “I finished with a timing of 4 hours 26 minutes,” he says without hesitation. “After that run, both legs cramped so badly I could barely walk! But soon I got used to running (full marathon distances).” So much so that he went on to complete seven more full marathons, as well as an ultra-marathon when he was already in his 50s!
Exercising for Health
Although the last marathon he took part in was slightly over a decade ago, Mr. Tan has not quite hung up his running shoes at 70. “I don’t do full marathons anymore, but I will go for regular fun jogs,” he says. “If you ask me to run another full marathon at this age, I could, but it would probably take me five hours now to complete it.”
For now, he is content with his routine of lighter exercises, which includes warm-ups as well as a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups, while limiting his jogging distance to around 3 kilometres each session. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he also goes down to LB AAC @ Tampines 499C to engage in centre-organised morning exercises alongside fellow seniors. And in the evenings, he ends off his day with some stretching along the corridor outside his flat to help keep his limbs nimble.
Exercising is Mr. Tan’s keen interest, but he is also doing it for the sake of his body’s well-being, and he encourages his peers to do the same. “Nowadays there are so many kinds of diseases. I hope everyone can do a little exercise each day (to stay healthy). It’s not good enough to be alive, but to be full of life as well! You can save money if you don’t see a doctor. Spend the money on eating nutritious food instead of medicine!” he quips.
When asked for some tips on running, Mr. Tan speaks with much experience. “Be careful, as many people tend to trip and fall over obstacles such as tree roots during their runs. And if you have any discomfort in your legs, or don’t feel too good overall before a run, then don’t force yourself, as you may end up with an injury.
“Even if you don’t run, you still can carry out workouts for your arms, or walk, or simply do breathing exercises. The key is to be active every day,” he says.
Keeping Active at LB AAC
For Mr. Tan, the merits of leading an active lifestyle – not just physically, but also emotionally, mentally and socially – have convinced him to bring his wife along to LB AAC @ Tampines 499C whenever possible. Besides attending the morning exercise programmes such as Zumba and aerobics, his wife also often accompanies him for AAC events like outings and meals. Mr. Tan is heartened to see more and more seniors going for the morning exercises, sometimes with numbers of up to 100 participants per session.
As for those who are still on the fence deciding whether to join in these activities and exercises, Mr. Tan offers these parting words, “When you come, you get to know one another. At first if you aren’t sure of the exercise moves, just follow (the instructor). After a while you will be familiar, and the more you exercise, the more interesting it becomes for you!”
Watch Mr. Tan being interviewed by Today Online on getting seniors to stay active: