Capturing Health with Judy Cole

By Emily Effren – August 1, 2020
Brian Fitszimmons

For some, it’s the aspect of competition that fuels one’s passion for racing. It can be found in the last-minute jitters that vibrate under one’s skin just before a race begins, surrounded by people they’re hoping to pass.

However, for 74-year-old Austinite Judy Cole, it’s the race against herself that she trains for.

“I don’t really compete against other people. It’s nice to have somebody you know in your age group, but I’m competing with myself on how I feel, how well I did, (and) if I want to do it again.”

Cole, who was one of Austin’s Fittest in 2018 (and probably still is now), says this is because there aren’t many people in her age group that are still racing. 

“People just don’t do these things when they’re in their early 70s,” Cole says. 

But Judy Cole does.

Photo by Brian Fitzsimmons.

Racing for over 47 years, Cole has competed in countless triathlons, runs all over the United States and even competes in ultramarathons, which are races that exceed 26 miles. It may seem like an impossible task to live as fit as Cole, but she assures that it is not as difficult as many may seem to think it is. 

“You don’t have to go out and do what I do. Take a walk around the block, you know, but you’ve got to do something,” Cole says. 

As someone who grew up on a farm and participated in youth sports, Cole says she has always lived an active lifestyle. 

After getting into running in her 30s, Cole says she would try to incorporate the activity into her daily life, running during her lunch hour with some of her coworkers and joining a runners club.

“It just took off from there,” Cole says.

It wasn’t long before Cole was craving to run longer distances. Only a year and a half after she started running, Cole ran her first marathon in Chicago.

Soon after that, one of Cole’s friends from her run club suggested she try to run an ultramarathon. 

“I told him he was probably crazy because I was never going to do that,” Cole says. “He finally broke me down, so I ended up doing … I don’t know how many ultras.”

After winning in her age group after her first ultramarathon (which was 31 miles), Cole says the win encouraged her to do more.

“I thought, ‘Well, okay, maybe I can do this,’” she says. 

Following her first ultramarathon, Cole’s life started to revolve around running. While attending nursing school, Cole says she would run twice a day and go to aerobics classes in between her studies. 

“When I make a commitment, I’m going to get it done. I am so focused, which you have to be, if you’re going to run 50 miles,” she says. 

The farthest run Cole has completed to date was a 12-hour, 56-mile run that took place on a quarter-mile track in Florida.

At this point in her life, Cole says she has met 100 percent of her running goals.

As she grew older, the seasoned ultrarunner was looking for a new challenge. After she retired from nursing, Cole started competing in triathlons and got involved with strength training. Now, she strength trains with her trainer at Lifetime Fitness three days a week.

“For me, they just go hand-in-hand. Your cardio will enhance your strength training, and your strength training truly, truly helps you,” Cole says.

To Cole, fueling one’s body with healthy food is just as important as keeping up with physical fitness. 

“Basically, I eat for the nutrition and not to be hungry,” Cole says. 

As she was once someone who ran on sugar, Cole says she has since quit eating it completely. Even though many may view her lifestyle as strict, Cole’s healthy lifestyle has definitely paid off. 

“I have no pain anywhere,” Cole says. 

It’s important to stay active especially as people age, she adds.

Sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle as one ages, is a condition that can be prevented or treated with lifestyle changes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine

“Especially after retirement, if you don’t stay busy — I believe there are too many people that died too young, just because they wither away. They have no activities,” Cole says. “They just sit there.”

To those who are just getting into changing their health and fitness for the better, Cole says living a healthy lifestyle is simple.

The most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle, Cole has found, are training, hydration, eating right and getting enough sleep.

“I’ve learned all this over many years. It just boils down to taking care of your body, and many people can’t do that,” Cole says.

Also working at Lifetime Fitness, Cole says she will see people begin their journey to health with excitement but taper off after a month. 

“If they give themselves enough time to start feeling good about themselves, they’ll stick with it,” Cole says. “It’s all about how you just have to believe in yourself.”

Photo by Brian Fitzsimmons.


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