Gary Player’s diet and exercise routine, and a few thoughts on yoga

by Rob Tiller

One of the nice things about getting older is that you gradually worry less about being cool. You slowly realize it’s almost impossible to be old and cool, and give up on the idea. Letting go of such worry frees up some energy for more fun.

Age is tough on a body. Fight as we will, eventually we’ll all succumb. But I see no real choice but to fight. Over time I’ve become more dedicated to the battle for good health, though it occasionally strikes me that it could be viewed as hopeless, ridiculous, or both. A middle-aged white guy sweating — for what? It’s certainly not cool.

Thus I was cheered and inspired this week by an account of Gary Player’s fitness program now that he’s 75. As golfers know, Player is a legendary player, with more than 160 tournament victories. In his prime, the man was known to be serious about exercise, and he still is. His routine involves 1,000 sit ups and push ups every morning. He does lunges and squats, works with weights, and runs, swims, and does stairs. As for diet, Player says that it’s 70 percent of the fitness puzzle. He eats a mostly vegetarian diet heavy in fruits and vegetables, and aims for portions about half the size he used to eat. He says he has more energy since he cut the meat, and his stomach works better.

I also have found that a diet of moderate portions of plant foods is energizing. And so is regular morning exercising. Lately I’ve been noticing how during most of my waking hours I feel really good, and feeling grateful for it.

I’m especially grateful to my yoga teachers (Yvonne, Suzanne, Kathleen, Jill, and others). Over the past couple of years, yoga has gradually insinuated itself into my life, and has become a good friend. Lately I’ve been doing two or three classes a week at Blue Lotus. Every teacher and every class of every teacher is different. Some classes are quite arduous (think high heart rates and lots of sweat) with an element of risk, and some are very slow and calm.

When I began, I’d expected that yoga would help my flexibility and balance, which it has, but it has done some other good things that I hadn’t expected. It has made me a better breather and more conscious of the significance of breath. It has helped my focus and concentration. And it has made me view relaxation as an essential element of good health.

There’s also something pleasing about exercising in a class. It’s sometimes humbling but often inspiring to see so much strength and grace in the group as it moves together. I like the sound of people breathing in unison. It’s good to be with people who are committed to taking good care of their bodies. And it’s fun.