“You are as young as your limbs will let you go, so go,” says Polly Joson

By Karen S. Crisostomo | Photos by Ebong Joson, Ting Joson, and Rosar Crisostomo

Florentina F. Joson, or Tita Polly or Pastor Polly to many, personifies the word jubilant. I was easily drawn to her as she exuded positive vibes during the Atleta Ako Women’s Aquathlon held at the PhilSports Complex on Mar. 13, 2016 where she and I were both participants.

I saw her on the track oval as I began my run portion of the aquathlon. She was easy to spot with her snow white hair shining bright in the sunlight while she steadily paced herself during the 5K run. She was focused and yet managed to greet runners on the track with a cheerful wave and a twinkle in her eyes.

Tita Polly’s support crew that day was made up of family members: two sons, three daughters, and nine grandchildren. Team Joson, as they call themselves, is a family of triathletes, runners, and soccer players all following in her footsteps of living a healthy, active lifestyle.

A Birthday Like No Other

Unlike other diamond jubilarians who celebrate their 75th birthday in grand ballrooms, Tita Polly is a rock of a diamond that celebrated hers by joining an aquathlon. She basked in the sunshine, happily surrounded by the love and admiration of her family, friends, and fellow athletes who, upon her prodding, gladly sang “Happy Birthday” for her at the finish line.

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Benefits of an Active Lifestyle

I quickly became a fan and approached Tita Polly afterwards to congratulate her. I was amazed by her energy and strength that I could not help asking her when and why she started running.

“I started running when I was just a young mother raising five kids. It was my stress-buster,” she says. “Now, I still walk or run every day. I work out in the gym for an hour, five days a week. Because of this, I do not take any maintenance meds except certain vitamins and only on certain times when I feel my body needs supplements. Otherwise, I get my vitamins from my daily food.”

Intrigued, I asked her, “What compels you to continue being active at your age?”

“My health!” she exclaims. “I do not want to be a burden to my children who have their own lives, who are raising their own families. I also believe that being fit and strong is beautiful at this point in my life. I also want to show other women especially friends my age, that we can be empowered, that we can live healthy lives and be independent and happy too.”

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Thoughts on Aging and Women in Sports

Tita Polly was only too willing to share her thoughts on such an important subject. She says that she feels great running with her “ka-baros” during the aquathlon. She was happy to see ladies of all sizes, ages, and personalities coming together.

“Hey, age does not matter, it is just in the mind. You are as young as your limbs will let you go, so go!” she says. “If you have not started yet and you think age is a problem, try a progressive exercise regimen. Ask your sporty kids to help you, better yet, get a trainer or a coach to help you get started. Do not be intimidated by the thought of exercising. Do not be self-conscious. No matter how clumsy you may look at first, you will overcome all that. The important thing is your health.”

She says that almost every week, she visits a friend or a church mate in the hospital. Some of these people are so much younger than her. She hopes to encourage all the ladies, young and not-so-young, the “tanderz” about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

“My own daughters are inspiration,” she continues. “When I feel like quitting, I tell myself, ayaw ko mapahiya si Ting. I tell my apos, if they do not get the prize, to remember that the fun is in joining; that we are all winners because we are healthy plus our happy hormones get a boost.”

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“It is a freeing experience coming from a generation of  ‘No, not for girls, or bawal ‘yan.’  Now, we have all the opportunities to excel and support each other, proving that we can do it shoulder to shoulder.”

Finally, I asked her how she’d like to be remembered.

“I’d like to be remembered as happy and healthy Lola Polly, that I am my own person, one who can finish the race and the course I have set my heart to do! That I am a ‘can do’ person! Rock it, not on the rocking chair,” she advises, “but on the tracks and in life!”