Iron Nun, Olympics and Taking on Aging as a Sport

The ‘Iron Nun’, the 2016 Summer Olympics and our most recent book ‘Take on Aging as a Sport’ by Sharkie Zartman became a trifecta for motivation.

The ‘Iron Nun’, Sister Madonna Bruder, began running at age 40 to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit. Still going at age 86 she’s an example of how much exercise can positively impact our aging. Today, the Iron Nun is still competing in Iron Man competitions. What an inspiration!

“The only failure is not to try” — Sister Madonna Bruder, aka the ‘Iron Nun’

Take on Aging as a Sport

In anticipation of the Summer Olympics, we picked up “Take On Aging as a Sport: The Athletic Approach to Aging” by Sharkie Zartman. This is the 10th book in our Aging With Freedom Book Club.

Ms Zartman asks that we approach aging like an athlete.  What does that mean? What is the makeup of an athlete that we are to emulate?  

Ms Zartman believes “if we view aging with a positive mindset, take a proactive approach and take charge of our health and continue to seek opportunities for growth, our bodies will respond positively”.  OK, game on. I’m in.

“What usually works best is to focus on what we want, instead of what we don’t want.”– Sharkie Zartman

The Rules of Aging

The first thing that any athlete learns about the sport is the rules.  Here are Ms. Zartman’s rules of aging:

  1. All living thing age. It is a normal part of our existence.
  2. Every part of the body and mind is vulnerable to aging.
  3. You can live a healthy, fulfilling life at any age.
  4. You are responsible for how you handle the aging process. Doctors can only do so much.
  5. The rate of aging is related to lifestyle, attitude and genetics, and we can control two out of those three!
  6. Physiological and psychological conditions are more powerful than chronological age.
  7. People do not age at the same rate or have the same conditions. It is an individualized process.
  8. When it comes to winning at the game of aging, it doesn’t matter who you are—it matters what you do.
  9. Aging is a bitch. Respect, study, and understand the beast, or she will take away your quality of life.
  10. How we age is ultimately up to us. We are in the driver’s seat if we would just get behind the wheel and stop being a passenger or a back-seat driver.

Those are the rules. Now, how to play the game.

“They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself” ―Andy Warhol

Aging Like an Athlete

Ms. Zartman, once a professional athlete, is a college coach and instructor. She offers a lot of advice on exercise and diet in her book but our biggest takeaway is the role personal responsibility and self-disciple play in ‘aging like an athlete’.  All you can do is control yourself, your choices and your attitudes. To thrive in the aging game you will have to step up to the plate and take it on as a challenge — just like an athlete. It is a simple but powerful message. All of us would prefer that magic pill or motivating coach to get us up and going, but — it is up to us.

There is an epidemic of projecting our problems onto other people—like our family members and ancestors. Also, misery loves company, and these blamers and complainers usually hang out together. In sports, we call these people ‘losers.’ Most of the causes of aging are very controllable if we are willing to make changes in our lifestyle. And the good news is that it is never too late to change your lifestyle for the better.

The “no excuses” rule our coaches taught us applies in our aging.

Find Your ‘Club’ or Create One

Athletes typically enjoy hanging out with other athletes. Why? Athletes are ‘can-do’ type of people and enjoy the positive energy of others. “As we age, we need to make sure we surround ourselves with people who are positive and supportive of our goals. No one wants to hang around people who complain all the time, so we might need to seek out some new friends. One of the most common complaints that older people mention is that they are lonely and depressed. What we need is to join a new team, with people who have the same goals.” Find a good community of positive, creative, outgoing individuals. Be a joiner and an active participant. If you’ve never been an athlete, now is the time to start.

A new resource recommended in the book was Healthy Aging Magazine. Check it out at

“…aging is about challenge, taking charge of our lives and no longer taking our days for granted. It’s an honor to get to play the game!” — Sharkie Zartman

Our bottom line on the book, Taking on Aging as a Sport? It’s a fun, motivating read. It’s got enough meat to convince you Zartman is backed up by facts, not just opinions. But ultimately this is a motivational book with some “how tos,” especially on how to join a new, supportive team to win the aging well game. We highly recommend it. It’s helped us take what we know and put it into action — just like the ‘Iron Nun’


The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88 (4/26/2018)

When people ask me for advice on how to cope with aging, two suggestions come to mind. First, remember yourself as a child. Imagine yourself as that little person skipping along without a care in the world. Second, never stop being that child. It will help you be pure, creative and authentic.
I can still remember my mother more than once asking me, “Darling, can’t you act your age?” At this point in my life, I am glad the answer was no.

Sister Madonna Bruder