What I came home with from the National Senior Games

I just finished the 30th National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama competing in tennis and road racing. Such an amazing experience watching and competing with over 10,000 athletes from the ages of 50-104. Watching a 97-year-old man finish the 5k in humid hot conditions, priceless.


Watching an 87-year-old woman run the 1500 meters on the track in 8:13, overwhelming. But as amazing as all that was, it wasn’t what struck me spending a week in Birmingham, Alabama. As a child, I grew up living in a mobile home, can’t keep the electricity on because my dad got fired again kind of poverty, and poverty is always what I seek out in a town I have never been to before.

I now live in a cute little house in a Northern California city, Los Gatos, where the average household yearly income is $168,415. As we walk our manicured little dogs down the street, most of us are thin, healthy looking happy people. According to the State of California, the poverty rate in my city is less then 5% which is statistically not stable due to such a low data point. According to a UCLA study, our obesity rate is 12%. In Birmingham, Alabama, the average household yearly income is $32,318 ( reference). The Alabama State website states that 28% of the children in their state live in poverty. The obesity rate in Alabama is 35.6% (

So, I drove outside the downtown to find the rougher part of town. Being in the middle of the day on a Thursday, I was not concerned for my safety. I parked on this street where ½ of the houses were abandoned. Trash was everywhere, streets were in disrepair. I loved the look of this house which was better than many on the street and still had electrical hookups.


None of these abandoned homes had for sale signs on them. Across the street sat 2 men in their 60s, well over 50lbs overweight watching me in my athletic clothes and red rental car. I waved and they laughed to each other. I knew they thought I was a stupid tourist taking pictures of poverty. But that wasn’t it at all. I was wondering how I could make a difference and give people in neighborhoods like this the opportunity to find out about eating better food and getting healthy. If there was a free exercise class in the middle of the street, would some people show up? I got lucky as a teenager and found out through exercise, I could feel better physically which also made me feel better emotionally giving me the ability to get out of poverty. How do we bring that to our impoverished areas in the United States? How do we give these kids the chance to change?


And maybe I was being just bright eyed and foolish. I make a living as a personal trainer who goes to people’s homes and they pay me well for it, so I get to live in a nice town, eat a healthy plant based diet and exercise. But I want to figure out how to give other people the chance that I had, to find how exercise can help them live better physically and mentally. I have tried in previous year’s to get the United States Tennis Association to help me set up free tennis classes in impoverished areas. They never responded and in fact the USTA has spent their money promoting rich people who can afford expensive tennis lessons because profits are more important to them then giving more people the opportunity to play tennis and exercise.

So, I didn’t come home from the National Senior Games with just awards and new friendships. I came home with a renewed purpose to try to change at least some people’s lives with the knowledge I have, to try to get people to move and feel better through exercise. I want to do free group exercise classes in impoverished areas in the actual streets where they live, in the neighborhoods, showing them exercise can improve their lives. I have contacted a few organizations that concentrate on obesity looking for partnerships. Hopefully I can get something going. If any of you have any ideas or want to be involved please let me know. Time to run, peace and thanks for reading.