Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old long-distance swimmer, made history by becoming the first person to ever swim the 177-kilometers distance from Havana (Cuba) to Florida (USA) without a shark cage, which would ease her swim, other than have the obvious use of sheltering her from sharks.
This accomplishment is, undoubtedly, in no way short of amazing and a great testimony to self-determination and perseverance. So then what is wrong? Well, the media account and labeling of the whole event is. They seem to mostly portray Nyad as an average old lady who one day woke up and decided to accomplish her life-long impossible dream.
The Daily Mail calls Nyad grandma. Others, like the Examiner, call her the unstoppable 64-year-old. But — really — how old is Nyad? Is she really 64?
I would say that 64 is only how long she has lived and not her age. She is not the average 64-year-old person, much less that granny — the one you’d find home relaxing with their grandchildren. Nyad is, both physical and mentally, much much younger.
By 1979, at the age of 30, Nyad already had some 85 hours of official records to her name in long-distance swim, covering a total of over 228 miles (366 Kilometers). Add to that all the championships she had won and records she had beaten since as early as her 20s, plus the many hours of swimming in official competitions, as well as in preparation for each of these events. For example, when — in 2010 — she decided to attempt again the Havana-Florida swim she had first tried at the age of 29, Nyad committed to swimming 8-, 10-, 12- and 14-hour swims every other week from January to June 2010. She has always been committed, dedicated and unstoppable!
So if we were to believe anything about the theory that suggests that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing physical and mental health conditions and has the power to slow down aging , we would then have to agree that Nyad is not 64 at all, even if she has lived that long. And if there was any formula linked to that theory, I can’t help but think that the results would give her not more than half her age, i.e. 32.
So the bottom line is Nyad is far from the average granny, and we should be careful in shaming people as old as her, by making them believe that they should be getting more out of their lives today (in comparison to Nyad), even if they never before took the time to plant that seed of greatness. We don’t create our 10,000 hours, but rather reap from them.
So I would conclude by saying that if you are inspired by Nyad’s accomplishment like I am, you have two options — and this regardless of your age: (1) search yourself and draw from the seeds you have already planted or (2) start planting now. Because, the truth is no one drinks from an empty cup, and you will have to fill yours.
Like Nyad said, we should never ever give up. You are never too old to cherish your dream.” But, I add, there must first be a dream, and it then must be chased.