By Aphrodite, Greek Goddess and Spartan Guest Writer
I have seen a lot of love go wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. But every now and again, we get a winner. Two, to be exact (give or take). Sometimes the stars align just right. Sometimes two single 50-year-olds put their Spartan photos on Tinder.
You heard right.
Steve Spitz and Suzi Dooley. Suzi’s 50, looks 30. Steve’s right behind her. Together, these lovebirds are about to crack the century egg. Just don’t mention that to the hundreds of 30-something kittens these two pass at any Spartan Race. Save them some dignity.
I spoke with Steve and Suzi to learn one thing: how they do it. Not do it do it, but how they stay prime after passing their “prime.” Truth be told, they use no artificial preservatives. Yet you’d be hard pressed to find any fresher couple.
Our conversation, and answers to my questions and more, below:
APHRODITE: Suzi, Steve tells me you just turned 50. He also tells me you look 30. What so many people don’t know—and what I don’t know—is how you two do it. How does a mature woman like yourself stay so beastly?
SUZI: Basically I’m persistent. I make myself go every day, even if I don’t want to go–no pain, no gain. I’ve been like that since I was 17 years old. I do a little bit of everything: spin, Zumba, run, OCR training, [and] weight training. Even before I had my daughter, I never quit. Literally two days before I had my daughter.
APHRODITE: Zeus. You weren’t kidding.
SUZI: I also eat well. A lot of vegetables, not too many carbs, a lot of protein, pretty much a vegan like Steven. (He actually turned me to vegan.)
STEVEN: We’re both pretty much plant-based. The carbs we do eat, we try to stay away from simple carbs, anything that’s white. We eat a lot of quinoa, brown rice…If we eat bread, it’s mostly Ezekiel bread–anything that keeps our diet low-glycemic.
SUZI: Of course, we cheat every once in a while.
STEVEN: Well, we’re human.
APHRODITE: Steve—may I call you Steve? Where do you get your protein?
STEVEN: We make a protein smoothie every single day: powdered peanut butter, blueberries, bananas, oatmeal, a plant-fusion chocolate protein powder (pea-protein based), and almond milk. It packs about 38 grams of protein. It’s not low-calorie, it’s a good start [to the day].
(Do you know how good pea protein is for your body? Learn why pea protein is one of the 10 foods you should always have in your kitchen.)
APHRODITE: Well, calories aren’t a bad thing.
STEVEN: No, not in the morning. [Suzi and I] both burn, easily, over 1,000 Calories in the workouts we do every day. Most workouts.
APHRODITE: Suzi, you mentioned cross-training, lots of different activities. What’s your volume?
STEVEN: I would say it averages about and hour and 15 minutes a day. If we’re doing a trail run, which is probably four times per week, then it can easily be an hour and a half of trail running, and then we go to the gym. On those days, it can be two hours and 15 minutes, or two-and-a-half hours. Other days it can be close to an hour. But during that hour, we’re pretty hardcore intense.
APHRODITE: I like it. Tell me more.
STEVEN: We do not break, and we do not talk to anybody at the gym. We’re pretty much set up on target and people know that. We’re like little animals that don’t stop. In our last race it was fun to be running past people half our age and encouraging them. Suzi ended up sixth out of 450-odd females.
APHRODITE: Which category?
STEVEN: Open. Including the elites, she was 9th out of 472.
APHRODITE: Not bad, not bad. Now don’t tell me you finish at the same time.
SUZI: No, he’s always ahead of me.
APHRODITE: So it goes.
STEVEN: But I finished 34th out of 1172.
APHRODITE: Not bad, Steve.
STEVEN: No, not too bad. When I made my last post on Instagram, I was like, “Combined, we’re almost a century old. But it just goes to show you, to be in the top numbers, you don’t have to be 28.” Even for people who run, 45-49 is an extremely competitive age group. I think that in OCR is can be one of the strongest age groups. You’ve got time to practice, and you’re able to do stuff.
Making time for exercise in the 45-50 age range
APHRODITE: Let’s talk “time to practice.” A lot of people in that age range might think they don’t have time. Maybe it’s work, maybe family. What say you? Is it just a fallacy?
STEVEN: Honestly, Aphrodite, I think you don’t have time not to train. It’s your life. If you have kids and family, you know what? If your kids are 15, you want to be healthy when they’re 20. The bottom line, whether you train for OCR or do any other form of physical fitness, I don’t think there’s an option. Your family will understand if you make time.
I know people who even train with their 10-year-old kids, and they run in some of the same races. We have a friend whose 9-year-old placed first in the under-17 category at a local 5K. The kid did great!
APHRODITE: Suzi, how about you? Time? No time? Make time?
SUZI: When my daughter was younger, I always made time. I worked out at 5AM because there were homework and activities after school. There’s always time, for sure.
Fit after 50: finding motivation to go to the gym
APHRODITE: Let’s get down to it. Surely it’s hard to drag yourself to the gym some days. What’s your antidote to apathy?
SUZI: I say, what do I want to see when I look in that mirror? Most of the time I have to motivate myself because I can’t find anyone as consistent as me.
APHRODITE: I imagine that with practice you get pretty good at it.
SUZI: Yeah, you do.
STEVEN: And the truth is, once you’re where you need to be, you’re good to go. It’s just that brief time between, where you think, “Oh, it would be real nice just to lie in bed,” or, “You know what? Let’s go out to dinner and forget the workout.” It is easier when you have someone to motivate you, but if you don’t, you just have to tell yourself, this is what you do.
As I do these things, I realize that the training paid off. That’s what motivates me to do the training.
APHRODITE: You have an OCR gym near home, correct? Is that your go-to spot?
STEVEN: We do all our OCR training there. But there are times when we literally train in our community’s children’s playground. All you really need is a field and a medicine ball.
(Do you know who else uses playgrounds to train for races? 2015-16 Spartan World Champion Zuzana Kocumova.)
APHRODITE: You two train a lot for—well, for 50-year-olds. Ever feel low-energy?
STEVEN: Well, Suzi and I are very different people with very different genetics. Do we get tired? Yeah, we get tired. We tend to get enough sleep. But I always fall back to a couple of things: diet and hydration.
No matter how much training you do, 80 percent of your physique is made in the kitchen. If you don’t get your diet reasonably right, you’re not going to feel up to par in training. They work hand-in-hand. It’s the same as what Spartan does. When you guys send out an email, there’s always a workout, but there’s always nutrition tips to go with it. Want to have more energy? Eat better!
(Think you know hydration? Here are 10 little known facts about what water can do for you.)
APHRODITE: Confession time. Made any big mistakes in the gym?
STEVEN: I had times when I got pretty excited, got into that #nodaysoff mentality. But it’s kind of a mistake. While it’s great to think that you can have no days off, your body is going to break at a certain point, and you’re going to have to take 3-4 days off. I’ve done that a few times, thought I was superhuman, but you’re not. When you get injured, it takes a long time to heal, so you want to be smart.
instagram: steve testing the biceps ?>
I also know that certain areas of my body are not good. My lower back is my Achilles heel, as it were. One of these times I did a stupid challenge where I tried to flip 13 tires in under 5 minutes. They started at 275 and went up to 450. By the time I did the first couple tires, my form got sloppy. Am I immune to doing stupid things? No. I injured my back and it hurt for 3 weeks. Doing stupid and risky things, no matter how athletic you are, at some point you’re going to get hurt. Acknowledge that our bodies can do more than we think they can, but at the same time, while we may play to the edge of the cliff, sometimes you’re going to go over.
(Strengthen your spine and avoid low back pain with these Spartan posture tips.)
APHRODITE: Sounds like the big lesson is, Don’t jump off the cliff.
STEVEN: Pretty much! A lot of people in this sport tend to think jumping off the cliff is exciting.
APHRODITE: Well, it is, until you hit the ground.
STEVEN: Exactly. You don’t want to be out for six weeks because you did something you knew was stupid. You’ve got to listen to your brain, not necessarily what’s pumping through your body. But at the same time, you’ve got to play towards the edge because that’s how you grow. Be uncomfortable, but not so uncomfortable that you hurt yourself. That all requires experience and time.
APHRODITE: How about you, Suzi? Lessons learned?
SUZI: I wasn’t seeing results going to the gym every day and just going from machine to machine to machine. So now, cross-training is my thing. I don’t talk as much as Steven. [Laughs]
APHRODITE: How did you two animals meet?
SUZI: We met on Tinder.
SUZI: Yeah, he had his Spartan headband on. I guess the Spartan picture kind of attracted me.
APHRODITE: Do say more.
SUZI: Yeah, I could never find anyone who was a workout fanatic like me. We’re basically a match made in heaven in terms of that.
STEVEN: Word to the wise, use your Spartan pics. You’ve gotta have your Spartan image.
APHRODITE: What was your first date?
STEVEN: Oh, our first date? We ran eight miles down the beach.
APHRODITE: Get out.
STEVEN: No, I’m kidding!
SUZI: We just met at a restaurant.
STEVEN: I told her to bring a parachute. [Laughs]
APHRODITE: So, lesson learned: you can find someone as crazy as you. You just have to show your true colors.
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STEVEN: But seriously, I think we started running together four days after we met. We push each other. On our strong days, the days when one of us is feeling good, we’ll try to push the one who isn’t feeling it as much, and suddenly we’re both feeling it.
APHRODITE: Last question. What’s your top tip for someone 50+ who thinks it’s too late to be healthy?
STEVEN: The one thing they need to do is go. It’s the first step out the door that’s the hardest. You need to tell yourself, this is something you can do. It’s not something you’re too old for, too tired for, out of shape for. I believe I can take anyone and get them ready for at least a Spartan Sprint in nine weeks.
APHRODITE: Suzi? Your top tip?
SUZI: You can do it.
APHRODITE: I guess it just comes down to that.
STEVEN: Unless you have a real physical disability, it doesn’t matter. You get out there, you’re a Spartan racer, whether you’re 50 pounds overweight or in perfect condition. Through diet and exercise, anyone, anyone can get into the kind of shape where other people say, I wish I was that.
(Even people who have physical disabilities are crushing Spartan courses. Read the story of Kristin Hopkins, a woman who lost both legs in a car accident and now runs Spartan Races.)
Let’s sum up. Here are 5 lessons from Steven and Suzi for anyone who wants to get in shape.
- You can do it. This was Suzi’s number-one takeaway. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re persistent and smart, you can achieve amazing things with your body.
- Get uncomfortable, but don’t jump off the cliff. To avoid injury, let’s forget about #nodaysoff.
- Make time to train. If you want to live a long, healthy life, you really don’t have time not to train.
- Find a fitness partner. Putting your Spartan photos on Tinder can help.
- Eat well. As Steven said, 80% of your physique is made in the kitchen. If you think you don’t have the energy to work out, you’re probably not eating healthy foods.
You can see it just by looking at them. They’re fresh, they’re fierce, they’re living, breathing proof. Of what? You know what. Follow Steve and Suzi on Instagram, where they both document their fitness journeys, Spartan Races, and other adventures.
This has been Aphrodite.
Are you thinking of getting healthy?
There are countless ways to stay in shape, no matter how old you are. But being healthy always take careful attention to diet and exercise. That’s why Spartan provides two free email newsletters, the Workout of the Day and the Food of the Week, as well as numerous other training resources.