At 60, Usha decided her new life was just beginning. Now at 82 years young, she has countless marathons and treks under her belt and holds the record for the oldest woman to do the Sandakphu Phalut trek.
Usha Soman rediscovered trekking at 60 years young. Since then, she has run and walked countless marathons, trekked the Mount Everest Base, and set the record for the oldest woman to do the Sandakphu Phalut trek. Soman went viral on Facebook for participating in a two-week-long marathon with her son Milin Soman.
Can you tell us a little about you?
I am 82 years old. I grew up in a typical middle-class family and had a normal childhood. We didn't travel during the holidays. Instead, I read books and did arts and crafts. I wanted to become a doctor, and when I started college, I became a science student. However, I eventually chose to do B.Sc instead and went on to do M.sc in nutrition. After getting married, I worked abroad in clinical biochemistry at a general hospital. After moving back to India, I started teaching clinical biochemistry at Wilson College. I retired from teaching in 1996.
What keeps you busy these days?
I always wanted to travel, so I traveled within India and internationally before the pandemic. I discovered trekking after retirement. Trekking is a more vigorous form of hiking and lasts for more than a day.
Where was your first trek?
When I was 60, I decided I must do as much as possible. Life doesn't stop when you retire. It's the beginning of a new life. And part of my new life is trekking. My first trek was at Tapovan, which is about 14000 ft. The whole expedition took us seven days. I was so excited, and I am proud of myself for completing it. I was in a hurry to experience all the different terrains trekking had to offer, so my second trek was at Everest base camp. A group of people did the hike along with me, more women than men.
How did you prepare for your trek to Everest?
Endurance. Anything is easy if you put your mind to it. Apart from that, the team conducting this trek gave us an exercise session to prepare. The last stretch to climb the mountain was difficult, and most participants dropped out.
Do you also run?
I don't run, but people assume I do because I once ran with Milind for fun, and that video went viral. That made me famous (laughs).
Have you always been athletic? What inspires you to stay fit?
Yes, I was athletic throughout most of childhood. I was sporty in school, but my activity decreased after graduation. Now I am very active because of my son. Every year, he does the Pinkathon, which initially inspired me to stay fit. Also, I eat to live, not live to eat, which keeps me healthy. The mere thought "I want to be fit" inspires me to be fit. I also want to be independent when it comes to my functionality as long as I live.
Do you have any tips for someone getting into fitness at 60?
First of all, believe that you can. Don't start any exercise with "I can't." At least try it. You may or may not be able to do it, but try. Walking is the most straightforward exercise, so start with walking. Then you can go on for push-ups and sports. Start slowly and build up. But the most important thing is, whatever you do, make sure that you are doing it every day without fail, even if it is for five minutes. That is very important.
Join us for a Talk with Fitness Enthusiast Usha Soman on Friday, April 1 where she'll talk about her fitness journey and the importance of staying physically active no matter your age.