Nyad’s last name alone could foretell her destiny. The word “naiad” in Greek mythology signifies nymphs that protected waters for the gods.
By age 12, Nyad was practicing six hours a day, even on Christmas. Her goal was to make the 1968 Olympic swim team. When that didn’t happen, she embraced long-distance swims in open water, and in 1975, swam around Manhattan in 7 hours and 57 minutes.
Nyad’s marathon swim three years later proved impossible. Harsh winds and waves forced her to stop after almost 42 hours. The following year, her resolve returned and she swam 102.5 miles, from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas to the Florida shore. That 1979 feat would be her last for the next 31 years.
Chasing a lifelong dream
As she approached her 60th birthday last year, Nyad decided to prove that middle age can be the prime of life. The 5-foot-7 powerhouse, who hadn’t taken even a leisurely stroke all these years, was motivated to begin swimming again—and to prepare for this summer’s big adventure.
“She’s her own best trainer. We’re just there to help out,” says Stoll. Five years ago, they launched a virtual business, BravaBody.com, which caters to women age 50 and older, offering healthy menus and fitness tips.
“We wanted to share our belief that a fit body gives one a better chance to face heartbreak, to enjoy this beautiful planet, to feel confident in every aspect of life,” Nyad says.
Their home workout videos feature exercises that “can be done in the space of a beach towel.”
Entrepreneurial and ambitious, Nyad has also authored three books and distinguished herself as a TV sports announcer. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Lake Forest College near Chicago, she pursued graduate course work at New York University.
Besides the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Nyad has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
But Nyad’s greatest claim to fame lies ahead. When she finally sets foot on the Florida shore after that 100-plus-mile journey from Cuba, Nyad hopes that millions of boomers will be inspired to chase their dreams—or reach for their personal “shores,” be it as a painter, novelist, business owner or adoptive parent.
“Our best days are not behind us,” Nyad insists. “The joke is that 60 is the new 40. To me, it’s not a joke.”
Susan Kreimer, who swims to stay in shape, is a writer in New York City.