Swimming saved DeEtte Sauer's life.
In 1986, the 71-year-old Houston resident was dangerously fat. Her day of reckoning with her condition came while on a family vacation and, weighing about 250 pounds, she couldn't get in a boat with her kids.
"I was pretty disgusted with myself," Sauer says. "I'd let myself go and I was tired of being that way."
So she started walking. Then she started working out at a gym, where she spotted a notice about a new swim team. She decided to give it a try.
Bingo! That did it for her. Today, not only has she lost more than 100 pounds, she's competing in six swimming events at the 2013 National Senior Games, starting Friday in Cleveland. About 11,000 athletes age 50 and over will compete in 19 sports, ranging from basketball and bowling to track and field.
"Twenty years ago, if you told me I'd be doing [competitive swimming], I would have said you were crazy," says Sauer, now a trim 148 pounds. She swims at least four days a week and prepares fresh, wholesome meals instead of the calorie-laden cuisine of her native Louisiana. Her husband, George, 80, also benefits from her healthy choices. "There isn't a day when I'm not conscious of making the right decisions."
The mother of two and grandmother of six extols the rewards of her disciplined lifestyle. "It frees me to be energetic, healthy and have fun. Aging is not fun when you're not healthy."
While swimming helps Sauer deal with arthritis and keeps her in great shape, it also gives her an opportunity to travel and share her transformation story with anyone who will listen. She loves meeting other older athletes. They inspire her, especially those who are blind, undergoing chemo treatments or living with heart conditions.
"Now that's courage," she says. "It's about overcoming and not letting anything stop you."
Sauer is a fierce competitor herself. Although she has participated in biennial National Senior Games since 1987 and has won medals, the gold one has eluded her. Yet she keeps on stroking.
"I just want to do my best."
Photo credit: Tom Behrens
Also of Interest
- Swimming Just Saved My Life
- Beach Report: Best (and Worst) for Clean Water
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