Barrie Street believes big goals matter. It’s essential motivation to live a full life. He is already planning his second TedTalk – for his 90th birthday. Street plans to complete his 3000th Grouse Grind on his 95th birthday. After that, it’s to make his 200th blood donation on his 105th birthday. The fitness enthusiast and volunteer advocate is proving an old dog can most definitely learn new tricks.
Ready for a challenge
Barrie Street is feisty at 87 years old. To hear him tell his story it sounds like he has always been resilient and determined. A traumatic childhood where he was abandoned at six years old gave him a tenaciousness that has served him well. He fell in love with team sports like cricket, field hockey and soccer, and with that started a lifelong passion for moving his body.
“Fitness has incalculable benefits,” said Street. “It’s my passion. I can’t imagine a life with a passion.”
Street has an incredible life resume: math teacher, marathoner, blogger, Iron Man, TedTalker, volunteer . . . In recent months he has added pickleballer. Some of these pursuits came naturally and some he had to fight for.
Open to new ideas
The opportunity to take on a new challenge or learn something new will be far more rewarding than succeeding at something you are already good at, said Street.
“I was running marathons in my 40s, then around 45 I got an Iron Man [triatholon] craving,” said Street. “But at 50 I couldn’t swim a stroke. It took me three months to swim a length. Over the next three months, I learned to swim 64 lengths – a mile. But it took me an hour and a half. In the next three months, I learned to swim that mile in 30 minutes and thought I was ready for Iron Man.”
Street says it was work – some of the hardest of his life.
“It was the most challenging thing I have ever done – much harder than a marathon or an Iron Man. It was humbling to the nth degree. To start from nowhere and succeed makes it the most rewarding.”
As he approaches 90 he is still living by the goal to learn something new. He and a pal picked up some pickleball paddles recently and are getting a feel for the sport – “It’s good fun.”
He also took to the stage last fall for a TedxTalk sharing his passion for volunteering – which also has a poignant theme of valuing people society has written off.
Getting started and trying again
With accomplishments like more than 50,000 kilometres of running and 2400 Grouse Grinds, Street has set himself up for long-term health and fitness. He has also learned lessons that life doesn’t always play fair. He took a painful hit almost four years ago.
“February 6th. I wanted a change from my usual route so I decided to walk up Lonsdale. I parked midway up and started walking. Just after leaving the top, I was hit by a car coming down an incline from the side of a house. I broke 12 bones.”
Prior to that, at 83, he was walking 10km daily, worked out at the gym three times a week and did the Grind twice a week. After the accident, Street had to start again. He still is working to get back where he was.
“We can all be fit. We can adapt to pain,” he said. “The main step is to try and to be positive.”
On his blog Street very practical advice for adding fitness into your life. Simple steps like exercises to support balance and mobility. It’s a wealth of information that makes fitness success approachable.
“My advice for anyone getting started is to consult your doctor and get guidance on your abilities,” he said. “Set individual goals, there is no point comparing yourself to someone else – they have a different set of circumstances. Long-term goals are essential to have something to look forward to and short-term goals are needed to accomplish the long-term goals.”
While Street regards fitness as essential, he recognizes not everyone loves it as much as he does.
“Have a passion – spend time doing something you can’t imagine your life without – that will give you enthusiasm for life.”