"Author Finds Athlete Within" April 2016 Athlete of the Month

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, 56, Washington, DC

You often hear how writers express the desire to be immersed in their subject, but usually it’s not taken literally.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, a best-selling author and career journalist who reported for National Public Radio from 1998 to 2014, had no idea she would competing in the 2015 National Senior Games presented by Humana when she contacted a senior cyclist to include in her latest book about people making midlife changes.

Mike Adsit, a four-time cancer survivor and competitive cyclist who was selected by NSGA as a Personal Best profile in 2014, is one of a variety of people over 50 whose stories are shared in Barbara’s just-released book Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife.

Barbara had been a lifelong exercise runner, but developed arthritis in her right knee in 2012. “I could hardly walk up the stairs, and the doctor said ‘you can’t run,’” she recalls. Riding a bicycle became her rehab and exercise option, and she shared this background with Mike when she contacted him in 2013. She brought her bike along to the interview to take a short ride with him afterwards and get a better feel for his story. The ride turned into a 20-mile loop, which she covered faster than she had ever done. The seasoned cyclist looked at her and said, “We’re going to get you qualified for the National Senior Games, and I’m going to be your coach.”

Barbara accepted the challenge and opened a new chapter in her own life. “Suddenly, I had little goals every day—a faster training session, or a 50-mile ride. The prospect of these little victories launched me out of bed each morning. Goals force us to think deliberately."

She was delighted to meet the goals to qualify, and then compete in the 5K and 10K Time Trials at the 2015 Games in Minnesota. She recounted her experience there with Mike in a feature for NPR’s All Things Considered program that appeared in conjunction with the book release. “It was really fun! It was also inspiring,” she says. “I didn’t win any of my races, I didn’t even come close. There are a lot of other women my age who are faster, and that’s actually pretty inspiring for me. It gives me a goal to be a little better next time.”

Going through her own transformation was a pleasant outcome of the book research. “The Senior Games experience brings together several threads that weave together to make a really great experience in my own midlife,” she explains. “It has brought me new friends, and Mike in particular. There’s exercise, which is terrific for body and mind. And setting little goals in training to reach every day gives a sense of purpose. It brings me punctuation, providing the commas, periods and paragraphs to help structure my life.”

The new goal is to return to the National Senior Games in Birmingham next year. “You won’t find a negative person here at the Senior Games,” she observes. “You’ll find people full of verve and excitement about life. Talk to anyone and they will tell you how much fun they’re having. The way to stay young is to keep challenging yourself.”

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