Johnson City woman, 73, competes in World Championship triathlon

Bogart enjoys a workout on the Elizabethton side of the Tweetsie Trail. Photo by Lance White.

Bogart enjoys a workout on the Elizabethton side of the Tweetsie Trail. Photo by Lance White.

By Lance White

Barbara Bogart, 73, ran, swam and biked as a member of Team USA at the ITU World Grand Final Triathlon Championships this year in Chicago. Bogart said not only is she in great shape for her age, but she is arguably in the best shape of her life.

Surprisingly enough, Bogart started her journey to physical fitness for monetary reasons.

“The last few years I was employed, I worked in billing,” Bogart said.  “When I lost that job, I still couldn’t apply for Medicare for another four years.  At that time, I weighed 215 pounds, my blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels were too high.”

With her health insurance being pulled, Bogart realized she couldn’t continue her current lifestyle. She reasoned that whipping herself into shape would be preferable to paying for health insurance out of pocket. Bogart went to the doctor to get some professional advice on what she needed to work on.

The results were daunting. She was overweight, her cholesterol was too high, and her family history showed she ran a high risk of developing diabetes. Her asthma, a condition that causes a tightening of the chest and shortness of breath, wasn’t doing her any favors either. Bogart had the odds stacked against her, and she certainly was not ready to set out to compete in the Olympic Triathlon. Instead, Bogart started by simple lifestyle changes.

 Bogart at the ITU World Grand Final Triathlon Championships in Chicago.

Bogart at the ITU World Grand Final Triathlon Championships in Chicago.

“I started eating better and exercising, and I started out on my bike to begin with,” Bogart said. “I started riding in 1995.  I didn’t get to stick with that for very long though.”

Bogart’s dream of becoming healthier was about to get a bit more complicated. She has been fighting the odds since she started, and not just against her age and pre-existing health conditions.  Bogart was in an auto accident that nearly cost her independence, if not her life in 1996.  She broke her neck, collarbone and three ribs during the incident.  Her left arm was crushed and she had minor fractures in her leg.

“It was by the grace of God that I’ve been able to stay active,” Bogart said.  “When they performed the surgery, and I was in ICU for about three days before they even began the operation, they said that it went so much smoother than what they expected. They were shocked.  If I had any more breakage in my spine, I would have been a quadriplegic. I came very close and for whatever reason, He [God] blessed me.”

Bogart now teaches fitness classes through a group called Silver Sneakers throughout the Tri-Cities.  It is a program designed to promote physical fitness among the elderly.  If anyone has the right to talk about getting into running shape later in life, it’s Bogart.

“I just love the friends that I’ve made,” Bogart said.  “I love my Jonesborough class; we have a lot of fun.  I about kill ‘em though,” she chuckled.

Bogart wasn’t in very good shape for most of her life.  When she talks about her life before fitness became a part of it, it sounds like she’s describing an entirely different person.  Bogart said that before she felt better about herself through exercising, she just wasn’t happy.  Her unhappiness led to an increase in her stress level and general anger.

Bogart after her swim at the world championships

Bogart after her swim at the world championships

Now, Bogart does everything she can to stay in shape and has fun doing it. Bogart knew the chances of her being able to compete in another Grand Final ITU race were slim to none if she didn’t do it this year.  She is in debt as a result of the funds needed to enter the race and travel there, but she smiles ear to ear when she talks about it.

“I know the ITU Grand Finals aren’t usually held in the United States,” Bogart said.  “So when I heard about Chicago, I knew I had to do everything I could to get there.”

Bogart is not sympathetic to those who “don’t have the time” to exercise, and even less so to people who just “don’t feel like it.”  Bogart says that if you want to get in shape, you just have to do it.

“I’ve been blessed and I don’t know why,” Bogart said.  “I guess so I can tell people about my story and how I owe it all to God.”


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