Carolyn, 74: What Makes an Athlete?

Aging

Welcome back to this special series featuring the stories of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes as they pursue their fitness goals in 2022. You can find all of our Sponsored Athletes’ stories here

Carolyn Hartfield, 74, is an Outdoor Adventure Leader, but it wasn’t always that way. Read on to learn about Carolyn’s journey from city girl, to nature-loving athlete. Then, join us here on Wednesday, September 14 at 3pm EDT for a live session all about walking and hiking with Carolyn via Zoom.


I continue to feel honored and humbled to be one of the 2022 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes. But I must admit, being referred to as an “athlete” sometimes perplexes me!

I am the former owner of several health food stores and have been fairly conscious of my health status throughout my adult life. When I opened my first store, I was so excited about my endeavor that I would get to the store early and go for a walk to calm down my excitement! I walked every day. As it turns out, these simple walks marked the start of my transformation into an athlete.

The mountains are calling…

“Being out in nature, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the beautiful vistas were some of the most exhilarating experiences in my life… I was hooked!”

After I sold my stores and moved from Detroit to Atlanta, I was introduced to hiking — simply another form of walking, just along trails in the forests. My previous walking experiences had been on city sidewalks with busy automobile traffic. Hiking in the wilderness was totally new to me. I joined a group hike for a birthday challenge at Blood Mountain, a small section on the Appalachian Trail, which I knew absolutely nothing about at the time. Being out in nature, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the beautiful vistas were some of the most exhilarating experiences in my life… I was hooked!

When I wasn’t hiking on the trails in the North Georgia Mountains, I was walking in my local neighborhood park. I actually became obsessed with walking outdoors! My walks lifted my spirit, improved my fitness, and built my confidence. They became longer and sometimes faster. Eventually, I participated in the annual Peachtree Road Races and ultimately the Triple Peach, where I race-walked the 10K, 10-miler, and a half marathon.

If you want to go far, go together

I was having fun, building camaraderie, and being physical as I participated in these newly discovered adventures…”

I came to love the outdoors so much that I wanted to expand my activities. I joined others who were doing things that had never crossed my mind! I was having fun, building camaraderie, and being physical as I participated in these newly discovered adventures: camping, horseback riding, bicycling, zip lining, whitewater rafting, kayaking, spelunking, and others. It became a passion to participate, and my athleticism was born — unintentionally!

Today, almost 20 years after my athlete’s journey began, I am still participating in most of the same activities, with walking as my foundation. I also developed a following of people who wanted to join the fun! Currently, I lead “Just Walk!” — a “Walk with a Doc” weekly virtual program sponsored by AARP Georgia — where I visit various parks throughout metro Atlanta to introduce and encourage participants to discover the parks and trails in their community.

Find your inner athlete

“I celebrate getting older and encourage you to tap into your inner self.”

On September 5th I celebrated my 74th birthday. September is also Healthy Aging Month. As a “late bloomer baby boomer,” I celebrate getting older and encourage you to tap into your inner self. You may discover something you didn’t know was there, and create your healthy aging experience of a lifetime.

Remember the movie A Star Is Born? Well, my version is An Athlete Is Born! If you would like to discover your inner athlete, join me on Wednesday, September 14 at 3:00pm EDT over Zoom for an inspiring and invigorating virtual hike through St. Helena Island, South Carolina! Click here for more details, and I hope to see you there!


In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from SeniorPlanet.org by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!

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