Larry Terkel was still dripping wet after his latest swim workout at LifeCenter Plus in Hudson, but wastes no time sharing his secrets on how, at the age of 75, he is faster than his peers, and getting faster with age.
“They all want to know how I’m getting faster,” Terkel said. “It’s no secret. I simply tell them I’m still learning how to swim.”
Terkel laughed for a moment. He laughed a lot, in fact.
A member of the Ohio Masters Swim Club, Terkel won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze in the 75 to 79 age category at the National Senior Olympic Championship Games May 13 to May 16 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The two gold medals – in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle – both came with record times. His time in the 50-yard freestyle was 27.23, bettering the previous record of 28.12, and his time in the 100-yard freestyle was 1:03.43, eclipsing the previous mark of 1:04.90.
“I love to talk with athletes of all sorts about that feeling you get when you make the last touch against the wall when you’ve won,” Terkel told the Akron Jewish News.
Terkel is somewhat of a late bloomer in competitive swimming. He was a member of the varsity team at Shaker Heights High School, but by his own admission, “wasn’t very good.”
After graduating in 1965, the Hudson resident didn’t swim competitively again for over 40 years. It took some nudging from his colleagues at Kent State University, where Terkel teaches religion, to jump back into the pool at the age of 60. Now he’s swimming faster than he did in high school.
“They corrected my technique,” Terkel said of his club teammates and his coach, EJ Mcllduff, the assistant swim coach at Hudson High School.
Terkel’s training regimen includes 90 minutes of sprint swimming, four days a week, with little rest once he makes his initial splash into the pool.
There are, of course, other factors. Terkel relies on daily doses of yoga and meditation. He does yoga for at least 30 minutes each day, and he meditates daily for at least 20 minutes. Terkel teaches both of those disciplines at the Spiritual Life Society and Yoga Center in Hudson, which he founded in 1978. His initial interest in yoga sparked when he found a connection between that spiritual and physical regimen and engineering.
Terkel majored in engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He also has an MBA in business.
“When I was introduced to yoga, I thought, ‘This is exactly what I learned in engineering,’”Terkel said. “How to keep machines functioning. Yoga is about how to keep this body functioning well, and then in business, we learn how to make good decisions, and meditation is about clarity and making good decisions. And that’s what I had been studying all along.”
That realization came to light in 1970 during a trip to India with his wife, Susan. Ever since, there is continual learning, tweaking and teaching.
“Flexibility is what yoga really is,” Terkel said. “If you want to take your youth with you into older age, you have to take flexibility with you. And, and that’s both in body and mind, in relationships and in business.”
Terkel, a founding member of Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, constantly spews motivational slogans. One of his favorites is “Small change adds up.”
The slogan is featured in Terkel’s bestselling book, “It’s the Little Things in Life that Make a BIG Difference.” The book is available on Amazon.
“Life is like constant improvements,” he said. “Continual small changes, change interest.”
With that, it is time to dry off. There is a meditation session to get to, and a yoga class to teach.
Terkel will be back in the competitive pool again soon. He plans on defending his sprint titles at the Senior Olympic Championship Games next year in Pittsburgh. He will bring a new rally cry with him: “When the going gets tough, the sprinters get wet.”
Steve Mark is a freelance journalist.