While in her forties, constantly driving her kids to and from water polo and swim team practices, little did Daniela Barnea know that she had found her niche. No, not a career as a chauffeur, but competitive swimming.

As a teen Daniela had enjoyed swimming at the local YWCA, but was not competitive. Years later, watching her own teenagers compete, she had ongoing advice for them on how to improve. Apparently tired of her criticism, the kids suggested that since she knew so much about swimming, she should take up competitive swimming herself. Acting on their advice, Daniela joined Palo Alto, California's Pacific Masters Swimming program in 1992. At first she swam just to stay in shape. Four years later, now 50, she took the plunge and entered her first swim meet. Inspired by a 79-year-old woman at this meet who swam the very challenging 200 meter butterfly, and wanting to see if she could beat her teens' times, Daniela started to get serious about competing.

Daniela worked hard all through her fifties to get better and faster, ever improving her technique and conditioning. It eventually paid off with big dividends, proven by the fact that when she entered the 60-64 age group, she started challenging and breaking American Records in her specialties, the breast and butterfly strokes. She currently holds several records in this age group.

In 2009, now 65 and in the best shape of her life, Daniela accelerated her assault on the record books. At the 2009 Summer National Senior Games at Stanford University, for example, she swam in six events and won six Gold Medals in the process, breaking six American Records in the 65-69 age group. Competing at the Pacific National Masters Swimming Long Course Championships at Chabot College in Hayward, California this past summer, she swam a record-smashing 3:29.68 for the 200m butterfly. This time beat the American Record of 3:36.25, which had stood for 15 years, by an astounding 6.57 seconds; it also annihilated the existing World Record of 3:33.04 by more than three seconds.

Some might think that all this success is because of a dormant natural talent for swimming. Daniela, however, has worked very hard over the years to reach this pinnacle of success. She swims from one to one and 1/2 hours a day, six days a week, or about two miles daily. Before big meets, she'll put in some two-a-day workouts. In addition, she hits the gym two or three times a week for her circuit training, yoga and Pilates programs; these keep her strong, especially her core muscles, and flexible. Besides all this, Daniela studies swimming techniques, ever trying to improve her swimming efficiency.

Although all this training and emphasis on swimming may seem extreme to an outsider, we must remember that when we love an activity, hobby or pursuit, it is not really work. Her masters swimming gives her life meaning and ongoing excitement. Daniela finds a meditative quality to the swimming which she finds enjoyable and relaxing. And, all this burning of calories in the pool and gym allows her to enjoy her Haagen-Dazs treats at night, while many other women her age have to watch their calorie intake.

Inspired by the plethora of much older swimmers into their eighties and nineties in masters swimming, Daniela looks forward to not just surviving to her nineties, but thriving and breaking their records. In the meantime, it's fun and emotionally rewarding for her to outswim some of her fellow swimmers decades younger.

Daniela Barnea found her niche at age 50 and she's been well rewarded for it. Have you found yours? It doesn't have to be in sports. It could be in the arts, science or ... Find yours and make the second half of life as rewarding as Daniela Barnea's is.

To see Daniela in action and hear her story in her own words, go to www.YouTube.com and type in "Daniela Barnea" OR to listen to an interview she did, visit: www.GrowingBolder.com

Author's Bio: 

Ed Mayhew is a leading authority on slowing and reversing aging naturally, who through his speaking engagements, books, CDs and newsletters, helps Boomers thrive! His age-redefining books include: Fitter After 50, Fitter for Life and AGE BLASTERS: 3 Steps to a Younger You Visit him at: www.YouCanGrowYounger.com www.FitterForLife.com AND Ask for your F*R*E*E** Fitter After 50 e-newsletter