Lisa Hypnar, 68, Rochester Hills, Michigan
Lisa Hypnar has an athletic nature and has always found a sport to play, from tumbling in gymnastics as a youth and playing winning tennis as an adult, and now cutting lanes as a decorated senior swimmer.
She also started smoking in her early 20s. Lisa knew she was cheating herself of health benefits but managed to balance activity and the addiction until she was 29 and working as a physician assistant. “I watched a younger man with inoperable cancer being told to get his affairs in order,” she says. “I was smoking two packs a day and quit cold turkey. I did not want someone to tell me to get my affairs in order in a situation I should have control over. I made the decision to do everything I possibly could to avoid that conversation, so I stopped smoking for 19 years.”
Then, like many people, the lure of nicotine crept back over time. “Life sorta got into the way,” she explains. “You hit these bumps in the road and you go to the thing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, and that was smoking for me.” She quit for the second time after three years but picked it back up 2008, the same year she decided to move from tennis to competitive swimming for the first time in her life.
The third time was the charm as the pool extinguished her habit. “In tennis you have little breaks in the action. Swimming isn’t like that. I was gasping for air after 25 meters,” she recalls. “I had a choice: I can stay healthy and stop smoking, or I can keep smoking and suffer through trying to stay sorta healthy with swimming. I chose for being healthy and active over my addiction to nicotine.”
Lisa literally dove into the sport and has earned dozens of medals in more than 125 masters events at the state, national and international level. Since joining National Senior Games in 2011 she has earned three gold, four silver and two bronze medals, plus placements in NSGA Top Ten Finishes. She has also been inducted into the Michigan Senior Olympics Hall of Fame for her accomplishments.
Not too bad for a woman who was once told by her mother to stop playing softball because “that sort of thing isn’t what girls do.” She was an only girl with three brothers and got her early sports experience played neighborhood sports with them. Lisa picked up gymnastics before college when she had to take her younger brother to gymnastics club. “I couldn’t go anywhere so I thought I might as well pick it up,” she says.
The changes with Title IX came too late for Lisa, who had no high school gymnastics but walked on the team at Michigan State University for three years despite her relative lack of experience. “In 1970 you didn’t have to have been a gymnast since you were three years old to get on a team because there weren’t many girls involved back then.”
Buoyed by her sport and good health, Lisa is certain cigarettes are out of her life for good. “I haven’t looked back since 2009,” she asserts. “There’s no bump in the road that’s going to upset my apple cart and make me go back to my fuzzy place, my weakness.
“It’s a bit embarrassing to share my story,” she adds, “But at the same time it would be awesome if I can change one person’s path to choose a sport over smoking.”
Editor’s Note: March 9 is National No Smoking Day