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You Snooze, You Lose.

by Adele Rogers on Friday 7 July 2017


The deep, dark depths of winter can be a sad and miserable place for some. If this is you, getting up in the morning has likely shifted from a moderately unpleasant task, to something that nightmares are made of.

Yes, we know you’re tired because you’ve been up late streaming Netflix like it’s your full-time job, and the ghosts and ghouls of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things are a laugh compared to the thought of hauling your sorry ass out of bed. 

But did you know that while you’re hiding under the duvet hitting your seventh snooze, someone else is already out there hitting the pavement? 

But who the heck are these people? And how does one harness such motivation? 

Well, chances are they didn’t accidentally fall out of their bed and into their Nikes. They worked up to it for weeks, years, decades even.  

They’ve been knocked down and gotten back up. 

They’ve taken that thing called life, held it with both hands, and said, ‘hey you, let’s dance’ . 

At 87 years young, Virgin Active Frenchs Forest member, Max Van Gelder, is the spring chicken of his record-breaking swimming squad.  


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Max and his three teammates, John Sheridan, 92, Ossie Doherty, 91, and Ray McGimpsey, 90, are not only keeping motivated but setting records while they’re at it, this year breaking the national relay age record with a combined age of 360 years.  

Yep, you read right. That’s an average of 90 years per team member. 

Max didn’t learn to swim in a chlorinated pool with a teacher and floating noodle. He taught himself in a creek in the jungle in Central Java while in hiding with his mother and siblings when his father was taken as a prisoner of war. 

He now trains 6 days a week - three swim squad sessions topped up by three strength and resistance training sessions at Virgin Active. 

Ozzie Doherty was plucked straight from the sands of Curl Curl by Warringah Masters Swimming team Manager John Pagnam, who’d spotted him there daily. At 90 years, Ozzie still walks the length of Curl Curl beach and swims 500 metres in the outdoor rock pool. Every. Day. Of. The. Year. 

John has since enlisted him in a bunch of national competitions where he “wins everything”. 

Sadly the oldest member of the initial 360 team, John William-Steen, passed away just 24 hours before their first 360 record attempt. 

Newest member Ray McGimpsey joined the team in John’s place, and although he hadn’t been much of a swimmer – thought maybe when you’re 90 you should try something new. 

So the team swam on behalf of John just 6 months later to take out the record and attracting a lot of media attention including a stint on Sunrise. 

It’s taken these men nearly a century to pave such consistent routines. Something that began as a part of their lives is now, well, just life. 

If you want to be a strongly willed fitness worrier in your 9th decade, our best advice is to start by just making one small change today.  


 The 360 Swim Squad at Virgin Active Frenchs Forest from left, John Sheridan, Max Van Gelder, Ray McGimpsey and Ossie Doherty.

Rather than starving yourself on a diet of water and celery, try eliminating just one poor meal choice per week, or having just one night without TimTams.  

Rather than smashing yourself on the treadmill 7 days per week, try mixing up your exercise routine with variety including things you enjoy including group exercise classes. 

Rather than neglecting yourself of your favourite television series, try going screen free for just one night a week. Bury yourself in a book or, here’s an idea, talk to your flatmate or spouse.  

Your best chance for success is to start with little changes now. 

Life is not a sprint, it’s a long, bendy, twisted, beast of a thing, and we still need to enjoy it, right? 

So throw on your favourite motivational song, set today’s goal, and hit it. Your 90-year-old self will be much more likely to smash a national record or two.   

Max and Ossie are competing in various events in this weekend’s 2017 Masters State Relay event in Homebush.   

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