Life Extension Magazine April 2005
By Dave Tuttle
Sometimes people look back on their lives and wish they had done things differently. Instead of taking the bull by the horns and making the necessary changes, they hesitate, deciding that it is too late and promising themselves that things will be different in their “next life.”
Tommy Tompkins opted to move forward in this life, tossing out a sedentary lifestyle at the age of 69 and redirecting his energies to becoming a senior athlete. In a few short years, he went on to win gold medals at the 2002 World Masters Games in Melbourne, Australia. Along the way, he learned quite a few things about life and life extension.
Perseverance Brings Results
Tompkins’ decision to become a competitive runner was far from preordained. Although he had participated in intramural sports in high school and college, and had played several seasons of basketball in local town teams as a young man, he had never competed in track and field events. He later worked at the YMCA for 10 years, becoming an executive there. At the “Y,” he taught others about the “mind-body-spirit” connection, encouraging them to seek personal renewal through both mental and physical activity. Family responsibilities kept him from participating in any sports, however, and in time his life became essentially sedentary.
“Once the kids were grown, I started looking for a physical outlet,” he recalls. “My barber was a former competitive bodybuilder who competed in the Senior Olympics. He encouraged me to start running, and said it didn’t matter that I was 69. Soon I hooked up with Rob Tenney, a coach who was a big factor in my progress. Rob knew about all the psychological, physical, and mental aspects of training, and his guidance helped to build my confidence and performance times.”
Tompkins started his sports career by competing at local and state meets. In 1995, while running in California against the fastest senior in the world, Payton Jordan, he injured himself. When he asked his doctor when he could run again, the doctor told him
to forget about ever competing again. Undiscouraged, Tompkins recuperated and slowly built up his strength and stamina. In time, he qualified for the National Senior Olympics in Tucson, AZ. He had no idea how high he would place, but decided that he had to run with the “big boys.” Much to his surprise, he won the silver medal in the 400-meter race. He later went on to achieve record-breaking times for his age group in the 400-meter race in 1998 and the 800-meter race in 2000. Both of these records still stand in Arizona for athletes aged 75 and up. Not one to rest on his laurels, Tompkins continued to compete, winning gold medals for the 200- and 400-meter races at the 2002 World Masters Games. He is still running today, though he laments that the competition is not as good in the over-80 division.
Aiming for 120
Tompkins is convinced that with proper attention to diet, exercise, and supplementation, he can live to be 120, surpassing his mother, who made it to 105. Clearly, there are longevity genes in his family. His sister set a goal to live to be 120 some 20 years ago, and she is still pursuing this objective with passion. The secret to longevity, however, is not all in the DNA. Tompkins’ mother, sister, and wife were always “health nuts,” and they believed in living and eating right. They never smoked or drank alcohol, and they ate a nutritious assortment of foods long before medical science revealed the specific ways in which these foods were beneficial. They also promoted longevity with their attitude toward life.
“I was always taught to think young,” notes Tompkins. “Our thoughts are much more powerful than we ever dreamed. We can change these thoughts in ways that will actually help to heal our bodies and keep our minds sharp. If you think young, positive things will happen because of these thoughts. You can lengthen your life span with positive thinking, just like you can shorten it by thinking that you’re over the hill and your life is on a downward spiral. Your desires and choices can manifest themselves in a big way.”
The Life Extension Foundation has been one of the positive influences on his life. Tompkins learned about the Foundation seven years ago from friends who introduced him to Life Extension Mix™ capsules. He tried them and liked how he felt. In time, he recognized the benefits of other nutrients, and he developed his current supplement regimen. He also came to appreciate the many contributions that Life Extension makes to promoting longevity.
“What really impressed me was Life Extension’s careful research about the changes that occur in older individuals and what supplements I can take to replace these lost nutrients. Integrity is high on my scale of values, and I appreciate an organization that will stand up to the FDA and speak the truth. With such an extensive array of staff doctors and researchers, I look forward to reading Life Extension magazine every month and hearing about new discoveries in the field.”
Tompkins’ emphasis on natural remedies has kept him so healthy that he takes just a single prescription drug (Viagra®), and that is the unfortunate consequence of a nerve that was unavoidably severed during prostate surgery. He strongly favors using natural options and considers prescription drugs to be a last resort.
“Most people my age take multiple prescription drugs,” he notes. “Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but often the additional drugs are to get rid of the side effects caused by the earlier drugs. It’s a slippery slope, and the effects can be disastrous. Often the answer is fewer drugs and better diet, supplementation, and exercise.”
Fitness Promotes Longevity
“Physical fitness has a huge influence on longevity,” adds Tompkins. “I wish more Americans would take heed of this. Not only does a fitness regimen improve your heart and keep your brain sharp, but it even increases the assimilation of nutrients. I have a sister-in-law who is seven years younger than I am, but she is already in a nursing home. Whenever I visit her, I see people in their wheelchairs who must have always been sedentary, and they are falling apart. I see men and women younger than myself, with their heads down, slobbering. I sadly think that if they had been active, this would never have happened.
“But it’s never too late to start an exercise program. I started at age 69 after a semi-sedentary life. You don’t have to run a mile, but at least make an effort. You need to have fun and reward yourself to keep motivated and moving along. Think young, set realistic goals, and don’t let that lazy streak take hold. I also recommend beginning a light weight-training program as soon as possible. It helps prevent osteoporosis, increase your metabolism, and improve your immune system. Fitness also has mental benefits as you understand your body better and get more in touch with it. Just don’t overdo it once you finally make the commitment to begin an exercise regimen. Ease into it slowly and retain the services of a personal trainer or a physical therapist so you learn how to warm up and do the movements correctly. These professionals know more about fitness than doctors do, and they will be glad to help.
“When I first started running in competitions, I remember how good it felt when the spectators cheered on us old codgers who had the inner strength to make the effort and get on the track. It didn’t matter if our times were slower than those of the people who were younger. At one event, a running club of little girls from Los Angeles asked me to join their club. They were so enthusiastic about my efforts that they cheered me on like crazy. They found it motivational that someone as old as their grandfather would get out there and run for it, and I found their response to be incredibly heartwarming. You will experience the same sensations, and actually live longer because of it.”
Tommy Tompkins seems to have found the secret to a long and happy life. Unrestrained by conventional ideas about how older adults are supposed to spend their golden years, he started on a sports career that has won him a wall full of medals. Yet the medals are nothing compared to the way exercise has transformed his life. Instead of tiring him out, the physical exertions have rejuvenated him and helped him to understand the true value of diet, exercise, and supplementation in promoting quality of life in the long term. It will take nearly 40 more years for him to find out whether he makes it to the age of 120, but one thing is clear—he intends to enjoy every minute.
Tommy Tompkins is looking for a sponsor to help defray expenses for future track meets. He also has a humorous and motivational talk for senior and sports groups. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.