Flo Meiler is 80 years old. She’s a grandmother to five, great-grandmother to two. She’s also a pole-vaulting, hurdle-jumping track and field star.
In 2011, she set the world indoor record in the pole vault for women over the age of 75. She set the world record for the 60-meter hurdles and the 4×100 meter relay that same year. She has also set records in the steeplechase, the discus, the 200-meter hurdles and the hammer throw.
She lives in Shelburn, Vermont.
Every year she and 10,000 other seniors compete in the National Senior Games. CNN spoke with Meiler about her love of the long jump, her favorite world record and why other people thinks she’s, well,”a little nuts.”
CNN: Have you been active your whole life, or is this a new development?
Flo Meiler: Oh, I think I’ve been pretty active, but more active since I took up track and field at age 60. Believe it or not, I’m more active now.
Meiler: I was playing tennis — singles, doubles and mixed doubles with my husband — for the senior Olympics, and my training partner now, Barbara Jordan, came over and said, “We need people in track and field desperately, and I think you would be good at it.”
And I said, “Well, don’t look at me, I’ve never done track in my life.” She said, “When you’re done your tennis, come over and try the long jump.” So that’s what I did … and I fell in love with it immediately.
CNN: What do you like about pole vaulting?
Meiler: People think I’m a little nuts, I think (laughs). I was 65 when I first took it up. I was at a senior meet, and I saw some ladies doing it, and it didn’t look like they were going very high. I always like challenges, and I said, “Boy, this looks like a real good challenge for me.” That’s why I took it up. It’s the most difficult sport, and it’s also the most challenging. It’s the most rewarding, I think. Believe it or not, in the (women’s) 75-and-over (group) I have the world record. I have that under my belt, and that is a fantastic feeling. The height was 6’3″ and a quarter, but I’ve done 6’8″ before. Not too bad.
CNN: That must take a lot of upper-body strength.
Meiler: It’s mostly upper core. You have to have a strong upper core and very strong arms, because all the strength is in your arms and the upper part of your body.
CNN: What is your diet like? What do you eat to stay healthy and active?
Meiler: I take a healthy nutrition shake every morning. It’s made with orange juice, and it’s got all good nutrients in it. And then I just eat a regular lunch and dinner. I eat almost anything, and I do cheat once in a while. I do like those French fries once in a while (laughs). I have a downfall for chocolate-covered almonds.
I watch my weight. When I gain 2½ pounds, and I can tell on me right away, and I don’t feel comfortable.
CNN: What advice would you give to other seniors out there who might want to try something new?
Meiler: I keep telling them that it’s never too late. If I can take up track and field at 60, anybody can take up another sport at age 50 and up. I recommend anyone who really looks at wanting to be healthy, they have to get going, get off the couch.
One of the recommendations I have been mentioning is go to their senior center. My friends go for yoga, and there are a lot of other things they offer. If they really want to improve or do something more athletic, the center will have the resources to help them find what they should do and how safe it can be.
What an inspiration she is to all of us!
Charlie Adams is an Oxford native, graduate of Lafayette High School and a member of the Ole Miss Class of 1985. Adams is the author of 4 books on positive attitude and peak performance, including 2013′s “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” and “Stoke the Fire Within.” His books and motivational keynotes and seminars are designed to make sure events reach their objectives and to help create winning cultures. Email him at: Charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.