Healthy Living

Diana Nyad, Attempt at 28, Success at 64

Update:The IDEA World Fitness Convention is taking place in Anaheim fromAugust 13-17, 2014. In addition to many leaders in the fitness community who will be presenting and teaching, swimming champion and Baby Boomer, Diana Nyad, will receive the prestigious Jack LaLanne award and delivering the keynote address. The Jack LaLanne award is given to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution in the areas of fitness, nutrition and wellness by promoting the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, and who has inspired the world to fitness through his or her work in the media or public eye.

“I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team,” she said as fans and reporters surrounded her on the beach after she arrived.

In 1970’s, Diana Nyad was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world. Her world records, such as circling Manhattan Island and crossing the 102.5 miles between the Bahamas and Florida, have led to inductions to many Halls of Fame, including the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. But her goal of swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Key West eluded her until now. This was her fifth attempt to swim this difficult stretch of water.

Potentially deadly jellyfish stings struck on several attempts. They stung her repeatedly on her lips which needed to be exposed for breathing. Her first ever asthma attack ruined another attempt. Sharks were an ever-present danger. In fact she is the first person to swim this stretch without a shark cage which would have been hauled by a boat and provided an easier and faster swim. In some attempts tropical squalls overwhelmed her and lightening threatened.

She learned she needed to put together a team of specialists, adding to the team for each attempt. A special wet suit and barrier cream were developed. A pulmonogist helped her with the asthma, and shark divers drove off sharks and box jellyfish. Nutritionist developed liquids for her to drink through a tube. Trainers and weather forecasters were of course crucial. She sang Beatles songs in her head to overcome boredom and maintain focus during the 53-hour swim. In all, this time her team consisted of 35 specialists.

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