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Why is a 70 year old Swede Roller Skiing Across Canada?
By:  Nick Nilsson   (2005/06/01)


Ever thought you were too old to exercise or that it was too late for you to start getting in shape? Think again! Read all about how my 70-year-old father is in the best shape of his life and how his secrets can help YOU get there too!

Here it is, right up front: your age is just a number. It's not who you are...it's not your limitation. It's just a number.

How do I know this? I need to look only as far as my father, Alex Nilsson, who turned 70 years of age last December. At this very moment, as you read this, he is roller skiing across Canada, covering more than 50 to 60 miles per day (80 to 100 km)...every day...until he makes it all the way across the entire country!

That's how I know that age is just a number. You see, at 70, he's not only in the best shape of his life, he's in FAR better shape than anyone I know, regardless of age!

When I set to writing this article, it was tough for me to choose the best path to take with it. Do I talk about the training techniques that allow him to perform astonishing feats of endurance (and Swedish stubbornness) like this...do I talk about how incredibly motivating it is to see someone pushing their body to the limit in this fashion (at any age, much less 70)...do I talk about the great cause he's promoting as he crosses the country (Type II Diabetes awareness - Type II Diabetes, through good nutrition and regular exercise, is COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE)...or do I talk about the trek across Canada itself?

It was a tough choice, so I thought, why not do it all!

1. The Trek Across Canada

Roller skiing, if you're not familiar with it, is basically cross-country skiing on wheels instead of snow! The stride is the same, the action is the same, the demanding, total-body nature of the exercise is the same.

Starting on June 25th, 2005, from Victoria, B.C., Canada, Alex began his roller skiing trek across the country. After going up and down all the many steep mountain passes of British Columbia, in three weeks, Alex is already into Saskatchewan, having covered more than 1000 miles (1600 km) in that time. His goal: to reach the Atlantic Ocean at St. John's, Newfoundland, by Labor Day.

I've been documenting the journey in detail (like roller skiing up a huge mountain pass in the pitch black and pouring rain with no guardrails) on the website I've created for him:


There, you will learn more about how he's doing it, how far he's gone, and much more! You can also sign up to be notified whenever I've made updates to the site and trip log as well. Be sure to click on this link and have a look!

2. Raising Awareness for Type II Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of people around the world. There are two types of diabetes:

Type I Diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas whereby it doesn't produce enough effective insulin to control blood sugar. Type I Diabetes is not, unfortunately, preventable, though very treatable with insulin.

Type II Diabetes is the focus of my father's journey. Type II Diabetes occurs when the pancreas either can't produce insulin or releases insulin, but the body isn't able to utilize it properly. The onset of Type II Diabetes can be prevented or delayed. Through good nutrition and exercise, one can manage blood sugar levels. Type II Diabetes is on the rise with the increased consumption of sugary foods and inactivity by much of the population (especially in North America).

Diabetes is a serious disease and, as he rolls across Canada, Alex is hoping to increase awareness of Type II Diabetes and how preventable it is! More information on Type II Diabetes is available through the links below:


At SkiCrossCanada.com and Diabetes.ca, you'll also find information on "Team Diabetes," which Alex is participating in to help bring in donations for diabetes research. It's an excellent program and I really encourage you to read more about it, especially if you know someone who is diabetic or you're diabetic yourself!

3. Motivation For Any Age

The most powerful way to lead and motivate is through example. When I think of my father, I don't think of him as a senior citizen. I swear, he's going to live to be 140. By age 70, the typical person is barely active and fighting weakness and disease.

The human body was not meant to wither away in old age! Your health and strength can be maintained well into the 60's, 70's, 80's and beyond!

In the town of Creston, B.C., where Alex lives, and the surrounding area, he has inspired a tremendous following of people who see how he lives and trains every day. They are inspired to try and do better with their lives and make the effort to be active and eat healthier.

Alex shares his knowledge generously and freely with anyone and everyone who asks - he's touched a lot of lives that way! He is truly an example of how excellent health can not only be preserved but constantly improved. Age IS just a number.

Let me put it this way...when I was growing up, I thought it was perfectly normal to have in the basement a home-made gym created entirely of steel pipes, duct tape, plywood, bungee cords, and whatever else could be functionally incorporated to work the body (I think that's where I get my own exercise creativity!). But, most importantly, I grew up thinking it was perfectly normal to have physically active, healthy parents.

The most inspiring thing is, as Alex gets older, his personal challenges are actually INCREASING in difficulty (present challenge included). I'm waiting for the day when I find out he's going to unicycle north-south along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains while wearing a 50-lb backpack (don't think it hasn't been mentioned!).

When Alex completes this trek across Canada, he is going to share his experiences with others as a motivational speaker for seniors' health.

4. Training Secrets

Here are some of Alex's easy-to-follow training secrets that can help anyone improve their health and fitness at any age:

  • One of the biggest training secrets that has helped Alex continuously improve his fitness is stretching. It's not glamorous but, in addition to actual activity, he spends an equal amount of time stretching to maintain and improve flexibility. Stretching is relaxing and is something that can be done whenever you have spare time in the day.
  • Looking for a "power food" that is rich in protein and essential fats? Look no further than sardines. They're inexpensive and one of the best sources of fish oil there is.
  • Don't let that little voice in your head talk you out of an activity. Life throws challenges your way but sometimes you need to seek out those challenges or even actually create them for yourself! Even it's just walking a little further or a little faster each day or lifting a little more weight, challenge yourself. When you succeed (not if), your confidence in yourself will grow and you can move up to bigger challenges!
  • Even if you're an endurance athlete, train with weights. Strength and muscle mass built with weights will directly improve your endurance performance.
  • I would also like to ask a little favor of you...one of Alex's major goals with this trek is to raise awareness for Type II Diabetes and how preventable it is.

    If you have connections to media outlets (such as TV stations or newspapers), if you have a website you could publish this article on, if you could forward this article to everyone you know, or even if you could just tell people about the website, I would greatly appreciate it. The more people we can get this out to, the more lives we can change for the better!

    On the website, there is also a contact form where you can send Alex your best wishes and wish him luck on his journey. I know he would love to hear how fitness has changed your life.

    Once again, the site is:


    If you have any questions about Alex or his journey, please don't hesitate to contact me at betteru@fitstep.com!

    Nick Nilsson
    BetterU, Inc.

    Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of the online personal training company BetterU, Inc. He has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been inventing new training techniques for more than 15 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding eBooks including "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "Specialization Training," all available at http://fitness-ebooks.com.

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