Age is just a number for active senior Rick Orzino


A normal week for senior citizen Rick Orzino Sr. of Franklin County might include swimming, biking, jogging, lifting weights and training for a triathlon.

Orzino, 75, is often told he doesn’t look his age. Having been active for the past 50 years, since 1971, he is living proof that changing bad habits can reverse damages to one’s body.

“I quit smoking and started running in 1971,” he said.

Orzino explains his usual, weekly routine.

“I usually swim three times a week, 1,700 to 2,000 yards,” he said. “Once a week, I do intervals of 50- to-100 yards at a pace of 90 percent of my capacity.”

In the summer, Orzino includes swimming in a lake to his routine as well as bicycling three to four times a week, usually 20 to 50 miles during the warmer months and 15 to 35 in the winter if the temperature is above 45 degrees.

He also enjoys mountain biking on trails occasionally for two hours.

“My working out only takes part of the day, which leaves me time to do chores around the house,” he explains. “As I get older, on some days, depending on how I feel, I have reduced my workouts to once a day.”

Orzino gets around. He works out at Planet Fitness cycling, jogging or walking and lifts weights once a week, normally spending close to two hours exercising indoors.

It may sound like Orzino hits the floor running every single day, but he does rest up on Sundays to attend church.

“Our family is Christ- centered,” he said.

Down time for Orzino includes reading nonfiction and religious books, playing Sudoku and working on puzzles almost daily. He also says he enjoys his senior naps and watching sports on TV.

Going into more detail about his intense workout routine, Orzino explains how he stays fit.

“During my workout sessions, I swim under one hour; jog in the water 20 minutes with a jog belt once a week; cycle about two to four hours, depending on the distance; and run for one hour.”

He does switch it up, however, swimming a half mile, biking 15 miles and running two to three miles once a week in the summer.

That could be an extreme workout even for someone decades younger, but what’s key perhaps at Orzino’s age is staying flexible.

“I do yoga once a week for 30 to 45 minutes,” he explained. “I run/fast- walk twice a week for two to three miles. I stretch on a ball with various exercises and do sit-ups nor- mally every morning.”

In preparation for an upcoming triathlon, Orzino has started to run less and bike and swim more.

He recommends swimming as the best all-around exercise that works one’s entire body. His first love has always been running but has now changed to cycling.

“My running has been severely reduced as I age. I used to be a marathon runner, training 15- to 20-mile runs a few times a week. Now I run a few times a week.”

Orzino’s best marathon time is 3 hours and 15 minutes.

“I love to bike and see God’s wonderful creation,” Orzino said. “I often talk to Jesus and express my gratitude for the day and ability to be active.”

Swimming and biking are the biggest part of his training these days, but he also considers walking a good activity.

“However, one must pick up the pace occasionally rather than walk at one pace to gain benefits from walking,” he advises.

Competitive by nature, he has entered many running races in the area. He started cycling and swimming in the 1980s and was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was a fair cyclist.

“I bought several books on all three sports and trained myself,” Orzino said.

Growing up in South Hadley, Massachusetts, he says he was an average child who loved sports, baseball and football.

To earn extra money in high school, he picked tobacco, mixed concrete and performed other odd jobs.

Orzino graduated from South Hadley High School in 1963 and joined the Air Force. He retired in 1993 after a 30-year career in the military.

He finished his associate’s degree while in the military.

Orzino worked at Motlow State Community College in the Workforce Development Office from 1993-2018 and has been happily married for 53 years.

“My wife, Mary, has been the mainstay of my life,” Orzino said. “She is my soulmate, and anything I have achieved would not be possible without her constant support.”

For more than 20 years, he and Mary enjoyed playing tennis together.

They have two sons, Rick, who works for Nissan, and Chris, who is employed with the town of Smyrna.

Orzino is a member of the Knights of Columbus and strives to be active in their church in Decherd.

One can’t talk fitness and overall health without mentioning how a diet fits in the picture.

Orzino explained how his diet has played a part in his ability to remain healthy and active.

“I was able to get away with eating fried foods and sweets for many years,” he said. “But, as I aged, I gained weight.”

Orzino said he stopped drinking any type of soda, and now drinks just water, tea, coffee and juice. He doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Furthermore, he educated himself on the best nourishment for optimal health.

“I bought a CD on Amazon entitled ‘Forks over Knifes,’ and it led me to an amazing journey into the vegetarian world,” he said. “I have since tried to eat a Mediterranean diet, but I do enjoy my hamburger and French fries occasionally.”

Studies on New Year’s resolutions have shown that motivation oftentimes dwindles as one struggles to pursue a regular workout routine, and Orzino admits there are days when he doesn’t want to work out. He explains what motivates him.

“Sometimes I do not want to exercise, but I know that if I do, I will feel better afterwards,” he said. “I also can live a quality life for my age. I like to train for competi- tions, and the camaraderie and goals I set keep me going. I still have a competitive spirit.”

Orzino has competed in more than 100 triathlons (swim-bike-run), biathlons (run-bike-run) and Aquabike (swim- bike) events.

He has also participated in more than 100 running events, including several marathons, winning several awards in many of the activities.

Most recently, in the Tennessee Senior Olympics, he won the bronze medal in the 5k time trial for cycling.

Orzino has also won three first-place finishes in the Aquabike competition for the Mach Tenn Triathlon and the Huntsville Triathlon.

In addition, he has won several running awards and ribbons, which he has on display in his home. Yet, he remains humble.

“I consider myself just an average athlete,” Orzino said. “I train and set goals, and sometimes, I am fortunate.”

Hard work, motivation and the determination to stay healthy and fit certainly play a big part in helping to achieve these goals.

“I attempt to eat healthy and watch portion control, exercise almost every day, and I find quiet time each morning to read scriptures and pray,” he said. “I believe that exercising for quality of life can take away many sins for eating unhealthy. However, over time, unhealthy eating will take its toll!

“I do attribute staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle as key contributors to a good outlook on life.”

Orzino also keeps a close check on his health and takes a joint supplement and vitamins each day.

“I go to the chiropractor once a month for an adjustment, and I also receive a decompression session once every six weeks, which keeps my back in good condition.”

Orzino admits he has had some health setbacks, just like other seniors, but he simply refuses to let that slow him down.

“Despite some of these setbacks, I press on,” he said, “But for the grace of God, there go I. As I get older, I am very thankful that I am able to get out and exercise.”

Reprinted by permission Herald Chronicle, May 4, 2021