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Most of us men over 50 are self-conscious about our receding hairlines and expanding waistlines.
Al Berryman, however, is concerned about different measurements. Things like split times on multi-mile runs, his heart rate or running time logged in a week.
The New Mexico Senior Olympics State Games are back in Las Cruces this week after a several-years absence. Seniors aged 50 and over from all over the state will descend on the campus of New Mexico State University, and other locations in Las Cruces, to compete in a wide variety of events.
Berryman, now 79, will be one of those competitors.
He started running in 1979, when he was 36, and got involved with Senior Olympics in 2018.
Berryman performed well enough in the New Mexico State Games that year to qualify for the National Senior Games, which were held in Albuquerque in 2019. There, Berryman finished third nationally in his age group in both the 5K run and the 10K.
He also competed in the 2022 National Games, held earlier this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and hopes to qualify for Nationals again, which will be in Pittsburgh for 2023.
“Exercise is a lot easier if it’s part of your social life,” Berryman said. “Combining your exercise with other groups, whether it’s pickleball, basketball, shuffleboard or something else, helps you keep on track.
“That’s a big part of Senior Olympics, and it’s important in your personal training. I’ve been a part of Saturday morning running groups since I first started running in 1979.”
Having competed in both the state and national games in the Land of Enchantment, Berryman had high praise for the events’ coordinators.
“New Mexico runs very well-organized events,” Berryman said. “And they’re a lot of fun.”
For many years, Berryman ran an insurance agency in Roswell. Then he retired, went back to school and and then taught at NMSU. He’s also involved in Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue, “and, yes, you have to be reasonably physically fit” for that duty.
Running and staying in shape have improved other aspects of Berryman’s life.
“It’s widely known exercise improves mental health, and for me, it greatly improves your quality of life,” he said. “It helps you enjoy your grandkids and your great grandkids.”
In general, “things don’t work as well if you don’t exercise.”
Berryman typically runs about 20 miles a week, but is more focused on the time he spends running than the distance, trying to run for three or four hours in a week, and then add some time at the gym twice a week, doing machines and light weights.
“Consistency is a lot more important than intensity,” he said
An important key to consistency is avoiding down time due to injury. And an important key to avoiding injury is proper rest.
“In past years, I had knee problems and back problems,” he said. “Now I know not to overdo. Rest is extremely important.”
While we all know there are multiple advantages to regular exercise, Berryman touched on one I hadn’t thought of before.
“A side benefit is, it’s probably the best financial investment you can make, because it will reduce your health care costs,” he said. “For older people, that’s a big item.”
While he maintains regular checkups, Berryman said he’s been able to stay out of the doctor’s office for bigger issues, outside a couple of surgeries. After the surgeries, doctors remarked how fast he recovered, which Berryman attributed to being in shape, as well as eating right.
“I eat a salad every night, eat lots of fruit and I’m pretty good on vegetables,” he said. “I try to reduce the amount of sugar I eat, which is really hard in our society. Sugar creates inflammation in all parts of your body.
“I run because I like it, but it’s important to get out six days a week and do something or other, even if it’s just going for a 20-minute walk. It’s inevitable I am going to get old and feeble, but with exercise, we can push that back.”