Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Timmerman IS spirited energy

Poster boy for physical fitness closing in on his 100th birthday

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ON the verge of his 100th birthday and with his masters swimming medal totals at more than 160, Jaring Timmerman has become one of the provincial government's poster boys for senior fitness.

But the charming man slated to become a century old on Feb. 11 says while he likes the idea of being a role model for an aging population, his message of commitment, good diet and fitness is important for everyone, young to old.

Jaring Timmerman IS Manitoba's true spirited energy.

"They say it's an amazing feat, but you know, it's a funny thing," he said this week from the 11th floor of his seniors' complex in St. James, his wife Gladys sitting close by, gently smiling.

"You don't feel that way yourself. You think it's just more or less a natural thing. It's dedication. The more dedicated you are to a cause, the better you'll perform.

"Commitment, dedication. I give a talk sometimes to seniors and I made this acronym up myself which is GEDS -- Genes, Exercise, Diet and Spirit. And if you follow that and do it faithfully, you'll get along much better than you would without it."

We could find no statistics or studies to prove that more people over age 55 are participating in sports, but there are anecdotal signs everywhere.

Kimberly Weihs, executive director of the Manitoba Society of Seniors, said her group's 55-Plus Games attract an average of more than 1,400 competitors every year.

"It's not dropping off. It's pretty much stayed the same as far as participation rates go," she said. "I think people are more aware of the benefits of active living. Older adults are more informed and they're doing what's necessary to keep them in shape.

"If they know that an active lifestyle's going to help with their health, they participate more and keep active."

Timmerman plans on competing in several events at the 2009 Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in Etobicoke, Ont., in May and, if he can find sponsors, in the granddaddy of them all: the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney, Australia, next October.

The World Masters Games -- last held in Edmonton in 2005, where Timmerman won five gold medals in his 94-99 age class -- are described as the largest multi-sport event in the world, with upwards of 25,000 expected in Sydney.

Timmerman isn't timid about his expectations.

"I'm only trying out for the world events, the majors, you know? And I hope to break some records, world records, and that'd be great. And I think I can, because right now I'm beating the world records by quite a bit."

Those records are held by Tom Lane of San Diego, who died at age 103 in 1997. Timmerman, who's part of the province's Manitobans in Motion physical fitness campaign, said the times he's recording at Centennial Pool are faster than Lane's.

Timmerman expects to compete in the freestyle and backstroke in Etobicoke, which is a short-course pool (25 metres). The pool in Sydney, if he should compete in the World Masters Games, is long-course (50 metres).

"I'll tell you what -- I'm practising right now," said Timmerman, who swims three times a week and lifts weights on his off-days. "This backstroke, there are so many turns on this 25 metres and I've got to practise that turn. That's what I'm working on right now."

Last spring, however, Timmerman caught an ear infection in the pool and doctors became concerned it could spread to his brain. Initially, antibiotics weren't helping and he had to stop swimming. The ordeal kept him out of the pool for four months.

He's fine now, he says. His doctor says his heart is "perfect" and he's got Gladys as his manager "in more ways than one." Timmerman walks slowly but with confidence. In the pool, however, he moves freely, smoothly and deliberately.

He said he doesn't know if more seniors are getting involved in sports, "but I'm hoping they become more enthusiastic about it. It's good for them."

But he says his message is also for the young.

"The younger you start on this, the better base you'll form as far as health is concerned. I've always followed it pretty well. I've been doing it in a modified degree right up to now. I still do it in the morning, I still do it.

"So I think that's helped me. I have no complaints."



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2008 C4

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