Gym Keeps This Texas Senior Couple in Shape and in Lov
For Jim and Stanya Owen, keeping love alive after 50 years of marriage can mean fun and games — and some serious gym time.
Every Valentine’s Day, the couple, both age 78, continue a tradition started when they were young and couldn’t afford an elaborate holiday celebration. They hide greeting cards for each other in unsuspecting places, to be found randomly throughout the day.
But it’s just not candy hearts for this pair of gym aficionados, who work on their heart health, too. In fact, they’re so dedicated to their workouts that Jim Owen wrote a book about training for older adults, and lectures on fitness after 50.
“Jim is very stable and I truly admire his drive, his resilience and the ways that he is able to bounce back from anything,” Stanya says. “He always turns negatives into positives and he is very creative and original.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Stanya is the best person I’ve ever met in my life. There’s no question about it. She is fair, has tremendous energy, and is incredibly charismatic with everyone she meets. She is a wonderful person in every way,” Jim says.
The two have had varying hobbies and interests throughout the years. Stanya could often be found gardening while Jim had an investment career. Now, in retirement, the two have made exercise a couples activity.
They discovered a love for working out together in 2013 at the gym in their apartment building, which has brought them closer together and improved their health.
“After the first two to three years that I was working out and hearing all the positive things people were noticing about my appearance, Stanya decided she wanted to join me,” Jim says.
A Blind Date With a Twist
The two met in the 1960s through a blind date — but not with each other.
“I went to pick [the other woman] up and her roommate, Stanya, opened the door. She looked at me and asked, ‘Who are you?’ and it took my breath away. I was absolutely speechless and couldn’t get a word out, so she shut the door in my face,” Owen says.
Jim invited Stanya to join his blind date. Jim became smitten with his date’s roommate, professed his interest, and won her over by sending a bouquet of Valentine’s flowers.
After a year together, they wed in Lexington, Kentucky on August 30, 1968.
“Both partners need to feel like they married over their head and that they scored the ultimate mate,” Jim Owen says. “Anyone who has met my wife knows she’s above me. I know she feels the same about me, which I still can’t believe.”
Weight Lifting to Book Writing
The Owens visit the gym three to four times a week, usually in the afternoon. They enjoy doing yoga, pilates, cardio and strength training. You can also find them walking and stretching.
Jim says exercise isn’t about helping he and his wife live longer, it’s about living better.
“We both want to maintain the highest quality of life as long as we can. Furthermore, we want to be able to be as independent as long as possible and not become a burden to our children,” he says. “It’s about looking and feeling youthful. It’s not about how much you lift at the gym. It’s about eating clean, getting quality sleep and developing a positive attitude about life.”
Inspired by the changes he’s seen within himself, at age 75, Jim partnered with a kinesiologist and a certified fitness trainer to research and write about exercise for older people in a book titled Just Move! A New Approach to Fitness After 50, published in 2017.
He believes age is not a barrier to improving your physical health and challenges others to become “geezer-fit” by exploring the world of exercise.
- Starting wherever you are, with whatever health issues you have
- Finding what works for you and your body with the help of a trainer
- Consulting with a physician to learn what your body can handle
- Avoiding shortcuts, because they ultimately don’t work
He shares a bit of motivation for those who can’t imagine visiting a gym after retirement. “Moving around and exercising is crucial if you want to stay young. You can’t help getting older, but that doesn’t mean you have to get old,” he says.
Balancing Reps and Rest
Downtime from the gym is important when you have an exercise routine in place, according to Jim.
“Quality sleep is essential. Without resting and recovering, you won’t be able to make any gains. The older you get, the more important the recovery is,” he says.
The two rest each evening on a Sleep Number bed, with Jim’s side set at about 90 and Stanya’s programmed in the 30 to 50 range.
“I personally like a firm mattress. Stanya likes more of a soft mattress. So when we went to try the mattress, the man who worked at the store set the numbers and we’ve kept them the same ever since,” Owen says.
As Jim continues his nationwide speaking and media tour, he’s also embarking on a new 30-minute documentary film project titled “The Art of Aging Well,” with hopes of inspiring older adults to live more active, fulfilling lives through fitness, healthy eating, having a positive outlook, limiting stress, discovering a sense of purpose — and quality sleep.
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