NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Diana Nyad swam nonstop for 53 grueling hours — through shark-infested waters, without a cage or flippers — to complete her historic swim from Cuba to Florida. But she told her support team that at one point, swimming through the night almost broke her.
After four failed attempts, the successful swim was the culmination of a lifelong dream for Nyad, CBS 2′s Elise Finch reported Tuesday.
She first attempted the feat in 1978, but high winds pushed her off-course.
Then after turning 60, she made three more unsuccessful attempts, thwarted by health problems and painful stings from jellyfish.
This time, Nyad overcame all of the obstacles and the odds.
Just hours after finishing the 110-mile journey Monday, Nyad appeared — sore, sunburned and with swollen tongue and lips — to give her fans a message.
“Hardships … find a way. You’ll make it through,” she said.
Even President Obama tweeted his congratulations, repeated Nyad’s mantra, “Never give up on your dreams.”
It’s a lesson that Nyad said applies at any age.
“Looking at me as a baby boomer, and saying, ‘Life is not over at this age, by any means,’” she said.
As WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reported, the message is resonating with some local athletes.
At 65, Joanne Doyle of Glen Rock, N.J., is a year older than Nyad, though she looks about 20 years younger, Diamond reported.
“I work out hard because hard now is very different than what I could do hard when I was 40,” said Doyle. “I’ve run a 5-minute mile. But up to my 60s, I could still run a 6-minute mile.”
Doyle said Nyad proved that age is just a number.
“You know, women over 60 often aren’t recognized at all, so to have this accomplishment, that’s such a big change. It really is,” said Doyle. “It was so exciting. Even the people at the gym were talking about it today and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to cut out her picture, and I’m going to put it on my locker.’”
Doyle said she’s persevering just like Nyad; even a diagnosis of cardiac disease hasn’t slowed her down.
Fitness expert and author Nicole Chaplin told CBS 2′s Emily Smith that Nyad’s swim helps prove a point she makes daily to clients.
“I tell them all the time it doesn’t matter — if you have the will to do it, you can do it. You have to believe in yourself,” Chaplin said.
At 70, Ines Apley boxes and lifts weights five days a week.
“You know what they say: Fine meat is aged meat,” Apley said. “Fine cheese is aged cheese. And that’s the way it goes with human flesh. So you get better with age.”
But what about aging bones and worn joints? Is it safe to push yourself? Geriatrician Dr. Jeff Levine said most anyone can and should.
“We need to live life with energy and passion, and there really is no age limit,” he said.
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