Gold Medal Winner Barbara Spear
Land Trust’s Link to Longevity
The amazing accomplishments of the athletes below are extra special because they are connected to our Sequoia Riverlands Trust Family. Barbara Spear is the mother of Scott Spear, President of the SRT Board of Directors. David Childers is the father of Laura Childers, our Education Director.
After learning about their stories, the SRT staff was incredibly impressed and exhausted. We wanted to share with others these athletes’ thoughts on lifelong activity and the connection to happiness and longevity.
When Barbara Spear learned that her group had won a gold medal in the Tai Chi competition at the Senior Olympics, she was thrilled. But when the judges learned about her, they were in disbelief. They had never had anyone like her compete, let alone win in martial arts.
Barbara took it in stride. “No one ever thinks I’m 91 years old.”
At 91, Barbara is the oldest competitor to win in Tai Chi cane, a competition that incorporates a walking cane into the movements. But Barbara is quick to point out, “it’s a cane you fight with.”
“Tai Chi is basically Kung-Fu slowed down for older people to get exercise, it moves every muscle in the body,” says Barbara. “It really involves mind control over the body.”
Today, all ages are practicing this martial art and learning that it’s not as easy as it looks. “At first when I took the class, I was skeptical. It’s slow, so I thought what good can that do? But it’s hard to move slowly and your knees are bent at all times so your muscles are really put to work. Now when I do Tai Chi, I actually feel the energy, it sounds strange but it’s true.”
She chalks up her complete lack of aches and pains to her Tai Chi practice which she began 24 years ago. She happened to catch a television program showing a group of people in a park in China practicing the martial art. “I said, if that ever comes to Scottsdale, I’m going to take a class, and when I saw the Parks and Recreation class add it to their schedule, I took it.”
She praises the benefits of Tai Chai and encourages others to try it out. “It teaches patience, concentration, balance and how to get along with others. You have to breathe and relax and for many people the hardest thing to do is relax.”
Barbara is currently learning a different form that involves using a fan and deep lunges. “I can get down low but I’m not sure I can get up again,” she admits. But her teacher has great confidence in her and Barbara has no plans to stop. “I plan to keep moving, when you sit down, that’s it and I don’t plan on sitting down and staying there.”
She believes the secret to her happiness and longevity is that she keeps active. She practices Tai Chi for 2-hours on Monday and Tuesday and for 3-hours on Saturday. It’s a schedule that would exhaust most people but not Barbara. She has even added some additional exercise to her routine. She line dances for an hour every Friday. “It’s a chance for me to kick up my heels.”
He’s a 57 year old geologist by day sitting behind a computer but that hasn’t stopped David Childers from hanging up his goggles.
“You don’t have to give it up,” he says referring to his love of competitive swimming. He recently earned three gold medals at the Senior Games in Houston, Texas. Childers set state records in the 100 yard backstroke, the 200 yard backstroke and the 100 yard butterfly.
He says it reminded him he hasn’t lost his competitive edge. “I realized I wasn’t all washed up.”
David learned to swim in a lake as a child. He says he always loved swimming but it was his swim coach in high school who made a lasting influence on him. “He taught me what it meant to work at something.”
When he was 51 years old David was inspired by a man training at his gym for the Senior Games who was in great physical shape. David decided to check out the competition open to those 50 and older. He went to a gathering of athletes and he saw a lot of people in the 70’s and 80’s. “I had a mindset that these were OLD people.”
That mindset crumbled when he competed against them. “There was a guy in his 70’s and I raced against him and he was really gunnin’ for me. He was actually going to beat me and he had twenty years on me. I realized then that there was an 18 year old inside of these people, when I looked into their eyes, there was a young person looking back. It gave me a whole new concept of what age is and inspired me to stick with competing.”
Now, six years later he says he relates to that experience. “I look in the mirror and it’s startling, but you still feel young.”
David trains in the pool 8 to 10 hours a week. For him, exercise is both a mental and physical workout. He says if he doesn’t work out, he feels out of sorts and his diet gets out of whack.
Besides the overall well- being he experiences, it’s the competition that keeps him fired up. “I’m competing against very competitive people and it’s inspirational to see people who have a zest for life, no matter what their age.”
David is now training for the upcoming Houston to Austin MS 150, a fundraising bike ride to raise money for those with multiple sclerosis. The ride covers 150 miles between the two cities but that doesn’t seem to faze David. He may now be the one “gunnin” for those younger guys but you can bet he’ll be enjoying the ride.
SRT salutes Barbara and David for their gold medal efforts and for inspiring others to get up, get out and get moving, no matter what form it takes.
What better way to get in motion than to join the fun at SRT’s 3rd annual 5K Trail Run/Walk at Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Saturday April 14. For information on how to register go to: