Janesville, Wisconsin's Lois Ann Gilmore overcame two major life-threatening diseases to become the USA Track & Field's Masters Athlete of the Year. For just about everyone her story is truly inspiring, but for those of us who struggle mightily to deal with a crick in our neck or the common cold, it's doubly inspirational.

Lois Ann's first brush with death came in her late fifties when she was struck with breast cancer. Up until then, the former elementary school teacher had been very active, particularly loving to play tennis. She found that the subsequent mastectomy made it difficult for her to continue with the tennis and her other activities heavily dependent on arm action. To deal with the ensuing depression, she started walking, but found that it "took too long." This led to her starting to run; that was in 1989. She found the running was instrumental in getting over the depression and focusing too much on herself and her predicament. Lois Ann discovered she was pretty good at middle-distance road racing -- distances of 5K (3.1 miles), 10K ... With dedicated training, she became nationally ranked third in her age group in 1997 and rose to top-ranked in 2001.

Then disaster struck for a second time. While out for her 5-mile long run, Lois Ann fell twice for no apparent reason and started having vision problems. Her husband, recognizing the signs of a stroke, rushed her to the hospital, but she fell unconscious before they arrived. Lois Ann spent nearly two months in the hospital recovering from TWO major strokes. At one point the doctors gave her a 10% chance of surviving. They, however, underestimated her mental resolve and resiliency. After about a month at home, she was out running again.

Lois Ann's doctor said that the excellent condition she was in before the strokes probably helped her survive and bounce back so quickly. A recent Mayo Clinic/Wake Forest University study of stroke victims backs up this thinking. The researchers concluded that being physically active before a stroke greatly improves one's chances of recovery (Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, September 2009).

Five years after the strokes and almost 20 years of surviving breast cancer, Lois Ann, now 77, was named 2007 Masters Athlete of the Year. She was accorded this honor due to her "unparalleled" racing results that year. Out of a massive 54 races, 5K to 15K in length, 35 of them were age graded 90% or above! A 100% grading is equivalent to a World-Record performance and 90% and above is classified as a world-class time. To put this in further perspective, in 2007, only one other woman in Lois Ann's age group achieved a 90% ranking and she did it only a single time; all the women runners in the 40-49 age group, combined, only reached that level 20 times. Included in Lois Ann's 2007 runs were an American age-group Record 26:01 for the 5K and a national best 55:27 for the 10K.

How did Lois Ann Gilmore bounce back from death's door -- twice -- to become the fastest over-70 middle-distance runner in U.S. history? One, she used her running to take her mind off her health issues and put it on where she wanted to go -- reaching her racing goals. She pushes herself to try to beat a previous race time, which helps her focus on the future. Two, Lois Ann stays active enjoying running, reading and traveling, among other interests, all of which help to steer her mind in a positive direction.

It's those fearful thoughts of what might happen to us that stresses us more than anything. This constant stress of continual worrying can weaken our immune system and actually make us more vulnerable to the unwanted stuff of life. We can learn from Lois Ann the value of keeping physically active and mentally looking forward to our goals and aspirations or we can spend our time frozen in our tracks, worrying and fretting.

Although she never considered herself a gifted athlete, amazingly, after twice being at the brink of death, Lois Ann Gilmore was able to regroup and achieve greatness as a runner in her seventies. With her inspirational story prodding us onward, what can we do? What CAN we achieve?

The speed at which one ages varies greatly. Repeatedly reading about and listening to men and women, just like you, who in their 40s, 60s, 80s … are proven to be in better shape, biologically younger, than the great majority of young adults challenges any self-destructive, self-limiting beliefs about aging that may be hurting you. These old, outdated beliefs can then be replaced by new, more empowering ones. To be powerfully propelled to a more vibrant and youthful you, enjoy articles like this one about Lois Ann Gilmore that show what's possible for you.

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