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Pursuing fitness in San Diego

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It's hard to imagine a better place than San Diego for older adults to stay -- or get -- fit. Whether they want to take advantage of the unbeatable year-round climate or prefer to exercise indoors, join a team or go solo, they have an almost endless array of fitness options to choose from. Rowing is a great choice for early-risers who enjoy being outdoors and on the water. While gliding across Mission Bay, they can get an invigorating aerobic workout minus the body-jarring side effects activities like running can inflict. Graham Murray, a former long-distance runner, is a fan of the sport. He took up rowing 10 years ago at the age of 70. After joining the San Diego Rowing Club and taking a few lessons from experienced members, he was soon rowing almost every day. "Rowing is one of the best exercises you can do as you get older," said Murray, who recently moved to Colorado but still rows on Mission Bay when he returns to San Diego for visits. "You get a good all-over workout without putting a lot of stress on your body." Because rowers hit the water so early, they also get to experience the beauty and tranquility of Mission Bay before it's invaded by jet skis and speed boats. "You get a lot of interaction with the environment, especially when you flip your boat over," said Murray with a laugh. "Rowing is really fascinating when you're out on a beautiful course like Mission Bay. You can see all kinds of birds, fish jumping out of the water -- even seals." Murray also likes the social side of rowing. During the ritual of washing and putting away their boats, club members swap stories about their workouts and novices can ask seasoned rowers for advice. San Diego Rowing Club membership is open to everyone. Unlike Murray, 71-year-old Brad Snow hadn't been particularly athletic before retiring. But now he's a regular at the gym. His fitness routine includes weight training, aerobics -- and lots of yoga. Snow started taking yoga at Frog's Club One in La Jolla about three years ago and quickly got hooked. He takes six yoga classes a week and has noticed a big improvement in his flexibility. "I got into it mainly for the stretching benefits," Snow said. "Your balance starts to go as you get older. Yoga really helps with that, and it gives me more flexibility, which helps me in my other workouts." While the yoga classes Snow takes are for people of all ages, several studios and health clubs around town, including P.B. Yoga and Healing Arts, offer yoga classes for seniors or gentle yoga classes. These classes are ideal for those with special physical needs or those who haven't been active for a while and want to ease into yoga. For some, keeping fit later in life is a chance to return to a sport they once loved. Take 63-year-old Audrey Pastore, for example. The former high school basketball player thought her days of playing hoops were over until she joined a league for women 50 and older at the Mission Valley YMCA. The league features teams organized by five-year age increments, and welcomes both experienced and inexperienced players. The Y also has a league for men 50 and older who want to get back in the game. "Our players are a mixture of women who have never played before, or maybe they've played with their kids, but never on a team," said Pastore, who is also the director of the league. "Others played in high school, like me, or college. Our ages range from 50 to 88." Like Pastore, others who played basketball before find it rewarding to get involved in something they thought was part of their past. And some players claim their skills have improved with age. Other benefits reaped by members of the league include support and camaraderie. These can be particularly valuable for women coping with some of the life changes that come with getting older, such as the death of a spouse. "You see women's lives change right before your eyes," Pastore said. "Lots of them have a lasting transformation. We're like a little family -- it's very supportive." The women's 50 and older league plays year-round and competes at local, regional and national levels. Each September, it competes in the San Diego Senior Olympics games. Although the San Diego Senior Olympics have been around since 1988, according to Pastore, a member of its board, the many recreational and competitive opportunities it offers those 50 and older are not widely known about in the community. The organization's goal is to encourage older adults to stay or get fit through regular participation in sports and other athletic activities. "Senior Olympics has a sport for everyone," Pastore said. "It really changes lives when people get involved in a sport, whether they want to compete or just do it for recreation." Every fall, the San Diego Senior Olympics games draw hundreds of athletes from across Southern California who compete with their peers in 24 sports, ranging from archery to ballroom dancing. The organization also offers free clinics for those who want to try a new sport, and Healthy Lifestyle Luncheons featuring a variety of fitness-focused speakers.

Sports and Fitness Resources

Miscellaneous City of San Diego Park and Recreation Phone: (619) 236-6905 (for senior-specific activities) Web site: www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation

Rowing San Diego Rowing Club Phone: (858) 488-1893 Web site: www.sdrc-row.org

San Diego Senior Olympics Phone: (619) 226-1324 Web site: www.sdseniorgames.org

Women's and Men's 50+ Basketball Mission Valley YMCA Phone: (619) 298-3576, ext. 214 Web site: www.missionvalley.ymca.org

Yoga There are many yoga studios, as well as health clubs and recreation centers that offer a variety of yoga classes, including some specifically for seniors. Here are just a few:

Frog's Club One La Jolla Phone: (858) 456-2595 Web site: www.clubone.com

P.B. Yoga and Healing Arts Phone: (858) 488-7774 Web site: www.pbyogaandhealingarts.com

Radiance Yoga Phone: (619) 299-1433 Web site: www.radyoga.com

San Diego Yoga Studio Phone: (619) 276-8766 Web site: www.sandiegoyogastudio.com

Wavehouse Athletic Club Phone: (858) 228-9300 Web site: www.wavehouseathleticclub.com

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