Endurance Swimmer Diana Nyad Shares Life Experience

By Patricia Danflous

Some call her crazy. Some say passionate. Others describe her as a goal-oriented, driven survivor. It’s “good friend” to those who know her well.

At 66, Diana Nyad graciously accepts such defining adjectives and the dozens of others linked to her name over the years.  Sheís earned them, along with a place in history.

Nyad is the super, first-ever athlete to swim non-stop from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida.  In 2013 she completed the 53-hour swim through more than 110 miles of jellyfish and shark-infested Gulf waters.  It was her fifth attempt for a dream that began at the age of 28.

Not long after a two-month tour promoting Find A Way, an intimate memoir, the super-fit Nyad took time to talk to Active Living.

You are in fantastic shape.  What type of diet do you follow?

Training for Cuba was an extreme enterprise.  That is not eating as normal, that is fueling for as many as 17 hours a day of training.  Some days I was eating as many as 12,000, 14,000 calories.  When I am not training, I try to just eat what my body needs.  Not that I donít sit down and eat the occasional ice cream cone, but I am not going to eat slabs of pizza, that is just not going to digest right and give me very little fuel.  So I just eat what would make absolute common sense if you paid attention.

Does age make a difference to you?

What is old?  Does it mean that you canít get up out of your seat easily?  Can you run down the street and catch a bus?  I do those things at the level of a bad ass.  I can look in a mirror and certainly see that I have lines on the face and breasts that are hanging a little lower than they used to.  I am aging, but I donít feel any of the ravages of time at the moment.

How do you start the day?

It doesn’t matter where I am or how little sleep I have had, I always get up before the sun.  I work out with a two and a half hour kick ass series of exercises that are sort of taken from the military and my own training experience.  After that workout you are ready to catch the tiger by the tail.

I can look in a mirror and certainly see that I have lines on the face and breasts that are hanging a little lower than they used to.  I am aging, but I don’t feel any of the ravages of time at the moment.

There is no question that you are physically fit, how do you maintain your mental health?

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My mental health comes down to reflecting – am I upholding the ethics and morals I believe in?  Am I upholding the values I have come to cherish?  If I feel I am, then I think my mental health is in balance.

You are very open in discussing personal issues in Find A Way.  What does “find a way” mean to you?

Whether you are looking to fulfill a dream or whether you are in a do or die circumstance, such as facing cancer, you can find a way if you just donít give up; dig down to every ounce of your resources; but also have the grace to say, I turned every corner, I overturned every stone; I tried and now I have to find my way to peace and grace and let this dream go.  When I say find a way, I say get up, get engaged with your own life and the lives of others.

You recently announced Everwalk, a movement crusade. What is your focus with this project?

We have become a sedentary society.  We have forgotten what simple movement is.  You donít have to be a triathlete, just get up and walk.  Walk before the day starts, walk after dinner with your friends, or walk two miles to get lunch.  We are kicking it off in August at the Ohio State Fair.

 

You can find more information about Nyad’s walk at everwalk.com.