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Secrets of an 82-year old triathlete

My journey into running a global business and triathlons as an 82-year old.

Larry Senn finishing first in his age group at the Hermosa Beach Triathlon. 

My name is Larry Senn. I am 82 years old, I’m writing this in my office where I run a company full time. This week is unusual, normally I am traveling around the country meeting with CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, running seminars for hundreds of people, and making new sales. This last weekend I competed in a local sprint triathlon and got first place in my age group, I do these multiple times per year and train almost every weekend. In a couple weeks, I’ll head to Northern Wisconsin with my 5 children ranging in age from 17-53 and my 5 grandchildren- there I will slalom waterski, ride dirt bikes, and jump on the trampoline with my grandkids.

How in the world do I do that you might ask?

My journey into being the man I am today in my 80’s did not come overnight, and I have now reached a point that the discipline I have created for myself is well worth all of the benefits I get- energy, freedom, fun, and success.

My journey into fitness started at a very young age when I joined a gymnastics class at the age of 7 when I moved out to California in the year 1942. My athletic career went through college, I was on the gymnastics team at UCLA and coached for a little while after that. However, after graduating college, I started a business and let life get in the way. Without having a sport, I did not dedicate enough time to exercise and with the stress of work and raising 3 young kids I found myself 30 pounds overweight.

Then in my late 30’s I read a couple books that really transformed the way I looked at my health. The first one was Ken Cooper’s book titled Aerobics. In this book, there is an aerobics test to determine what kind of shape you’re in. I went for a run around the block and felt like I was going to pass out- needless to say I failed the Aerobics test miserably. Around that same time, I went to the doctor and learned my cholesterol was a little high and I ended up stumbling on Nathan Pritikin’s original book The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise and this gave me tools to lower my cholesterol.

Those two events and books I read were enough to start the slow process of changing the way I thought about my body and my health. I started running and started cutting out things that raised my cholesterol like whole milk and red meat. I actually have not had any red meat since the mid 1970’s.

Next came another significant event in my life, I went through a divorce. This was devastating at the time as we had three young boys together, but this would turn out to be one of the greatest blessings in my entire life. Around this time is when I started learning the true value of emotional and mental health. I was introduced to a man by the name of George Pransky and he taught me the value of meditating and having a peaceful mind. It took a few more decades for the habit of daily mediation to catch on but it was an incredibly powerful seed he planted.

Running on a daily basis, eating relatively healthy, and being aware of meditation and a peaceful mind were enough to keep my health on a good track for the next couple decades. I ended up marrying my soulmate in 1980 and we have been married for 37 years. I was able to grow my business into a success, and then in late 1999 when I was 64 years old my wife tells me that she is pregnant with our second child. While I was extremely excited because we had been trying, I had a moment realizing, “oh gosh, I am 64 years old how in the world am I going to raise another child?”

This made me look even deeper into my health. I knew I had to do everything in my power to assure that I was around long enough to watch my future son grow up. I started adding strength training into my routine in addition to my running as well as bike riding. I also learned that flexibility is imperative as we get older so I started regularly stretching. At age 70 I did my first sprint triathlon and I have done well over 50 races now as well as the hundreds of practice triathlons I do for my training.

Right around the same time as I started doing triathlons my neighbor gave me a book called The China Study, which essentially stated that a diet consisting of at least 90 percent whole food plant-based vegan foods could effectively prevent cancer, heart disease, strokes, and other diseases. Since reading that book I have followed a mostly vegan diet, it is not always easy but whenever I have junk food presented to me I think of my now 17-year-old son who deserves to have a Dad around well into his adulthood. I am also very fortunate that one of my sons is a genius when it comes to wellness and he has had me on a vitamin regimen for over a decade now.

The last part of the puzzle is the inner health. About 10 years ago I started meditating every day. I have a practice where I put on a blood pressure monitor and over the course of 15 minutes of meditation I see how low I can get my blood pressure. It helps keep me centered and I have seen such tremendous results from it. Through business trouble, financial worry, and family issues, I have been able to stay centered and maintain an inner peace that I believe has greatly helped my health.

Today I have a life that many look at and could never imagine it belongs to someone of my age, including my doctors. I am eternally grateful for the life I have the opportunity to live thanks to me having a simple routine that allows me to take care of my body. It really is possible for anyone as long as you have the right purpose, motivation, and willingness. 

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