Let the Games Begin

Joyce Tobias discovered a love for swimming in her 40s and has been swimming ever since.

Northern Virginia Senior Olympics brings healthy competition and friendship to active, retired adults?

In September of this year, close to 1,000 of our local senior citizens will participate in the 35th Annual Northern Virginia Senior Olympics (NVSO), which is hosted at multiple locations around our local area. The largest majority of the participants are in their 70s. In 2016, there were even two who were over 100 years old! How inspiring is that?

With the tagline of ‘Living Healthy Longer,’ the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics has been a successful collaboration with Northern Virginia parks and recreation departments and sponsors since 1982, and has provided senior adults a means for fellowship and competition. To be eligible to participate, athletes should be 50 years of age or older as of December 31, 2017, and must live in the sponsoring jurisdictions.

The 2017 event begins on September 9 at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington, where the opening ceremonies, indoor track events, rowing, and sponsor exhibits will be hosted. Over the next 11 days of the competition, these talented participants will battle head-to-head in some tight races in locations throughout Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William counties.

The NVSO provides recommendations for different levels of participation in these games. Those who enjoy recreational physical activities are encouraged to pursue eight ball pool, bocce, horseshoes, ten-pin bowling, Wii bowling, yo-yo, cornhole, miniature golf, or nine-ball pool. The more rigorous physical events include tennis, badminton, pickleball, handball, swimming, shot put, discus, high and long jumping, running, cycling, rowing, basketball, volleyball, and golf. However, there are also some great competitive opportunities for those who may be stronger in the mind rather than the body. These include bridge, cribbage, Mexican train dominoes, scrabble, rummikub, sudoku, bunco, and mahjong.

Chairman Jim MacKenzie, who began competing in the games 13 years ago as a swimmer, developed such an appreciation for the event that he started volunteering when he could no longer compete due to medical reasons. He was selected to be chairman after making the step to join the NVSO Board. To illustrate the positive impact this competition has on participants’ lives, Jim passes along a few stories: “Last year at the running competition I was talking to a competitor. He was saying that over the years he has watched his grandkids compete in sports, especially soccer. Now his grandkids come out and cheer for him. I also talked with a lady competitor last year who gives her grandkids one of her medals when they do something good.”

A resident of the Regency at Dominion Valley, an active adult retirement community, since 2011, David Jerome has competed for the last six years in biking, ten-pin bowling, golf, pickleball, rowing, and cornhole. A former marathon runner with a 20-year Army career, David says he got hooked on biking about 12 years ago and can been seen on his 30- to 40-mile morning ride through Gainesville. At first he biked alone, and then with friends in the Heritage Hunt group he’s part of. But as much as this routine does for him in exercise, it also is a way to maintain friendships with his peers. “Near the end of the ride, we stop at a local location for coffee and friendly discussion,” he says.

Healthy, fun competition provides medals to participants.

In addition to the NVSO, he participates in cycling events in the Virginia Senior Games, National Senior Games, and Huntsman World Senior Games. When asked about the impact sports and the NVSO has on his life, he offers this: “As we age we need to stay active to live a full and better life…I find that exercising and volunteering on the NVSO staff  and with other organizations, as well as serving on committees in my community, provides purpose and makes life more enjoyable.” He advises other adults his age who are considering getting more active to “find some form of exercise that you either like to do or do not hate to do, and to start slow. After a fairly short period of time you will know if the exercise you chose and the amount of time you spend doing it are right for you…then you can alter what you are doing depending on how you feel.”

“I do it because I want my grandchildren to see that you can have fun and be healthy even when you’re old,” says Haymarket resident Joyce Tobias when asked about why she bikes and swims daily. While Joyce never competed in sports in childhood, she reminisces about the times while they were raising their seven children when she and her husband Thomas would load the kids onto bikes for a ride through the C&O canal trails. One kid would be in the seat in the front and one in back with sometimes another one in a backpack carrier.

Joyce began swimming laps when she was in her 40s, although she remembers always loving being in the water. She and Thomas began biking together in their 50s when they realized how much they both enjoyed the hobby. Then in 1999, after a health battle and a life perspective change, Thomas brought up the idea to bike across the country together—it was on his bucket list. Joyce credits him with the actual idea, but because she always wanted to do something like this she was on board without hesitation. After two years of training and one unsuccessful attempt that ended in a crash and injury, they completed the trip starting from Annandale.

It was about 7 years ago the couple began competing in the NVS in the cycling 10k and 20k, and the backstroke and freestyle swimming events. Joyce says they would have been competing for years before that if they have known about its existence. When a neighbor in the Regency at Dominion Valley told them about the event, they signed up and have even inspired more of their peers to get involved as well.

Nowadays, a typical day for the Tobiases includes a 12-mile bike ride or one-mile swim session. “Exercise makes me feel good,” says Joyce, and she credits it for the great health she maintains even into her 80s. “I do it the first thing before breakfast. It starts my day instead of my day revolving around it. It’s wonderful,” she says. Swimming is low-impact, can be done year round, and “it’s hard to hurt yourself swimming,” she laughs. Between biking and cycling, “one does my arms and one does my legs.”

She encourages other seniors to get involved with some kind of exercise because of the positive role it plays in hers and the opportunity it gives her to inspire others. She chuckles when she reports that she always get a medal at the events she competes in but claims it’s mostly because of lack of competition in her age group. Known to give her medals to her grandchildren when they win something, she is also bringing some to an upcoming family reunion to be given as prizes for fun games her family will play there.

Even if you are not participating in this year’s NVSO, consider attending an event and cheer them on!

The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics

Date: September 9 through 20.

Registration: To compete, registration deadlines are September 2 online, but August 26 if by mail.

Cost: $13 for the basic registration fee and $1 for each event.

Volunteers: There is a need for 150 to 200 volunteers for the events also. Those interested in helping can contact RSVP Northern Virginia at rsvp@volunteerfairfax.org.

Event Locations: Events closest to our local area are held at the Heritage Golf and Country Club in Gainesville, Vint Hill Village Green, and Manassas Park Community Center, but others are in neighboring counties.

For Information: www.nvso.us.


Christine Craddock
About Christine Craddock 127 Articles
Christine Craddock is a writer, editor, photographer, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is a faithful contributing writer for Haymarket Lifestyle magazine and has resided in Haymarket since 2006.

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