Two people over sixty have challenged natural and cultural limits setting incredible records. Seeing that someone has managed to do something is perhaps the greatest stimulus to compare with others, to challenge those limits that we believe we have and that we have accepted for wisdom, comfort or laziness, ceasing to improve ourselves.
The stereotypes of age and sex have been challenged and defeated by two champions over sixty: Greta Pontarelli and George Hood. The first one at 65 years old in 2016 became pole dance champion, acrobatic dance around the pole, the second, at 62 years old in 2020 won the world record of planking, remaining in position for 8 hours and 15 minutes. Two incredible stories of training and perseverance, two exceptional testimonials of the psychophysical strength that can still be found beyond 60 years, the threshold of old age, the slide towards retirement, the so-called old age. An age in which women are already in menopause, in which people begin to enjoy the social status of grandparents, in which medical checks for the driving license take place every 5 years, in which public transport gifts subscription to the service. Interviewed after one of her victories, including one in Milan in 2016 at the Pole Art World Championships, Greta Pontarelli, an American lady from San Diego married to an Italian, said “I want people to know that age should not prevent no one to set goals and pursue their dreams”. It is true that Greta Pontarelli has a past as a gymnast, but she is over 65 and she started studying pole dance only at the age of 52, dance, as we know, practiced by the very young and competitive ladies. On her website she says: “I have always had a strong drive to be fit and I have learned that we can live an inspired life of health and well being if we only allow ourselves” as if it were implicit that we do not allow ourselves to pursue such goals. Greta,on her blog, also provides valuable advice on how to manage anxiety: “I have learned in many years of competitions that anxiety is not the problem in itself, rather the inability to manage adrenaline to our advantage“. I had the chance to see Greta in videocall and she’s really fit and enthusiast. She tries to eat as organic as possible, without gluten, keeping light and agile and she is still training: choreography, pilates and push-ups.
The second champion that I take as an example is George Hood, an American from Illinois, a former marine, who at the age of 62 won the planking record, remaining firm on the ground on the elbows and toes in for 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds. Hood declared he trained for about seven hours a day. In an interview with CNN, he stated that he used to maintain his plank position for 4-5 hours a day, then to perform 700 push-ups, 2,000 sit-ups in a series of hundred, and finally 500 squats per leg per day, in addition to 300 weight lifting per day. Unbelievable. At CNN, George Hood said that when holding the position starts to get tough, then he raises the volume of rock music and it just becomes a matter of feeling tired and wanting or not wanting to give up. George Hood does this workout to increase his mental health awareness and, like Greta, stimulates anyone to set and reach goals. “The lesson,” he says, “is that anyone can do what I do. Everybody has to start somewhere. Every tree that’s planted has roots. Once that tree is planted and those roots start to grow, whether it be 30 seconds or a minute or 5 minutes or an hour (of holding a plank), you start repeating the process and taking care of your tree, it will grow and you will improve and you will actually get better.”