Yilmaz Eryasa stepped off the treadmill at Busy Body Fitness Center Friday morning wearing a beeping watch and a vest loaded down with 12 pounds of weights.
It’s all part of the 86-year-old’s training regimen for the Florida Senior Games, an Olympics of sorts for adults 50 and older. The Singer Island resident does this particular exercise at the gym in the shopping center at the corner of Northlake Boulevard and Military Trail once a week.
He likes it here because this gym has treadmills that go up to 16 mph. Most only hit 12 mph. Sprinting is his specialty, particularly the 50-, 100- and 200-meter dashes. He started when his friends got him started on tennis soon after he came to the U.S. from Turkey more than 50 years ago.
“I said, ‘Tennis? I’ve never touched a tennis racket. In Turkey, you have to be a millionaire to play tennis,” Eryasa said.
He won an amateur tournament and decided he should learn how to play. A friend who was a good runner noticed how quickly he returned serves and persuaded him to start running. The retired anesthesiologist uses his background as a doctor to “teach” his muscles.
Those muscles will be put to the test when he competes at the senior games in Clearwater. His 83-year-old friend and neighbor, Nuri Sabuncu, will be there, too, racing in a younger age bracket. Sabuncu said he’s just testing himself as he recovers from a pulled hamstring.
“Once you have the desire in you, the adrenaline never goes away. You always want to do it,” he said. “You always want to compete.”
Eryasa’s wife, Myra, prefers walking. She wears a 20-pound vest for her walks back and forth across the Blue Heron Bridge near their condo. She records his competitions so he can watch them later to determine what he can do better.
Eryasa exercises his mind, too, with “school” every weekend: watching C-SPAN 2. When asked about unrest between his native Turkey and Russia, Eryasa said, “I believe in world peace.” Moscow and Ankara are in the midst of a dispute about a Russian warplane Turkey shot down this past week.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about the risks of planes intruding in his country’s airspace and accused Russia of backing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “terrorist state.” More than 300,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Istanbul, where Eryasa was born and raised.
“We grew up with the principle of peace. Peace at home, peace on earth,” he said.
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