Today's guest is 2-time Olympian Marsha Mark-Baird, who competed for Trinidad and Tobago in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens, Greece in 2004. She is a heptathlete who retired after the 2004 season, but she resumed training and competing over a decade later. Since she first started Masters competitions, she has achieved 10 champion titles, including setting a world record in the women’s 4x100m relay in her first competition! Marsha is a friend to all she meets, and she has worked as a school social worker and track coach for a Utah school district since 2000. Marsha's biggest fan is her husband, and she has 3 sons.
Kyle and Lil also talk briefly about the importance of cognitive health.
Hello and welcome to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life. My name is Kyle Case, and I'll be your host on this amazing journey as we attempt to help you get the most out of your life. Joining me in our studio today is my co-pilot, Lil Barron. Hey, Mr. Case! Lil Barron, how are you? Doing good. Today's a good day. It's a good day. Just things are going great. Yeah, today, Lil, we're just we're gonna do it again. We're gonna talk about cognitive health. Oh, you thought we were going to talk about Cheetos. You're not going to be able to eat your Cheetos right now. Today we're gonna talk about gut health. And I'm gonna tell you like, this is something that is constantly on my mind. And that pun is actually intended because I've got a family history of Alzheimer's and dementia. And I just, I know people and we see it, we see that it's a big deal. So listen, we all know that you got to brush your teeth if you're going to prevent cavities. Everybody knows you've got to work out if you want to strengthen your muscles, and that we ought to wear sunscreen when we're outside to protect ourselves, right? But we also need to remember that there are some things that we can do to keep our brains sharp and healthy and strong. And I want to talk a little bit about a few of those things today. Perfect. So they did a study in 2019. This won't come as a surprise to anybody, I don't think but they did a study of 200,000 adults. So this is a giant study. This isn't one of those well, you know 10 people had this result. And no, this is a big one, 200,000 adults, they found that those who had a healthier lifestyle were less likely to develop dementia over the course of the eight years of the study. So even if they were genetically at risk for dementia, having an active, healthy lifestyle meant that they were less likely to go down that road. And then they did another study in 2020. And they came to the same conclusion. So there is something about just being actively healthy and pursuing a healthy lifestyle that can make our minds strong and lessen our chance for dementia as well. According to Dr. Douglas Scharre, the best thing we can do is to do all kinds of different things that exercise our brains in different ways. So he says variety is great. The more you do with your brain, typically the better it is. And so I have a list of exercises for a brain that can help just get started. Let's get it. Okay. The first one is to workout. Okay, now we've talked a lot on the show about the connection between the heart and the brain. So it seems that one of the very best things that you can do for better cognition is physical exercise. It increases blood flow to the brain, it reduces the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all three are risk factors for developing memory problems. It also lowers inflammation, which has been implicated in dementia. In fact, in a 2023 study, so just a recent one of 1300 women 65 and older, they found that for every 31 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity that a participant did every day, she had a 21% lower risk of developing dementia. That's a big one, right? Meanwhile, a 2022 meta analysis conducted and concluded that people who regularly participated in walking, running, swimming, bicycling, dancing, yoga, sports and exercise machines had a 17% lower risk of developing dementia than those who didn't. So physical activity has got to be on everybody's list. Now, there's no silver bullets, right? You know, that doesn't, that doesn't guarantee anything or everything, but it's a significant act. So physical activity. Number two, I love this one, I think you'll like it too. Okay, play a sport. Oh, so not just exercise, but actually play a sport. So if you want to take the benefits of exercise to a whole new level, consider a sport that requires you to play with other people as well. So on top of the physical exercise, research shows that sports require you to make quick decisions and solve problems, such as, where's my teammate? Or should I run faster, which strategic play might work best right now? All those things are going on as well as the physical activity and it gives you the opportunity to socialize with others as well. And that brings us to the next one, which is to socialize. Okay, so number three, socialize seriously, getting together with people is extremely good for your brain. You have to use your eyes to see their expressions, their nonverbal communication cues. You pick up things that way and you make judgments explains Dr. Scharre, they tell a story. You're reminiscing, you think, oh, in regard to that topic, I have a great story to tell and then you share your story as well. Back to his initial advice of do a lot of things with your brain social activity, keeps your brain very, very engaged and can give a bit of a brain boost there. Number four, I'm not going to get into this but I'm just gonna say it, do some math. And then I'm just gonna leave it. Thank you. Five I learned a new language. Oh, I know that there are some of us here in the office that are working on Duolingo. Yes, lots of opportunities to learn a new language that are freely available now. Number six is to become a puzzler. So doing a variety of puzzles is the key here since different ones engage different parts of your brain, but number games, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, word games, all of these are particularly helpful. This is one that I'm actually doing myself, and that is learning how to play an instrument. Really? So my mom was an excellent piano player, just phenomenal. And she tried so hard to teach all of us kids to play the piano. She has six kids, none of us play. It's a regret that I have. And I remember as an eight year old sitting on the piano bench with my legs dangling in my mom, saying, You're gonna regret not learning and I was like, Yeah, right. I'm not gonna regret this. I hate this. I regret it. But I have decided to pick up guitar lessons, which is something I always wanted to do more than the piano. I wanted to play the guitar. Yeah, I'm horrible at it. I'm no good at all. But I am learning slowly. I'm picking up a few chords here and there. You know, I play the piano, right? No, I didn't. But I have seen you leave music before a funeral. So I thought there must be some training there. Anyway, performing music requires you to mix the physicality of touch with remembering and hearing in a short amount of time. So what's good for you? Number eight is to meditate. Oh, and then the last one on the list is to sleep. And we know we know that sleep is right. And yeah, that's also not easy to do. So it does keep your brain strong. So today's guest. Yes. Today's guest we are pleased to have with us two time Olympian Marcia Mark-Baird who competed for Trinidad and Tobago in Sydney in 2000. And then in Athens, Greece in 2004. She is a heptathlete who retired after the 2004 season, but then she resumed training and competing over a decade later, and since she first started masters competitions, she's achieved 10 champion titles, including setting a world record in the women's 4 x 100 meter relay in her very first competition. Marsha, welcome to the show!
Thank you. Thank you.
We're so excited to visit with you kind of hear some of your stories and your experiences. I got to ask you this because I'm a big fan of the Olympics. I don't watch all the sports, like I know that UConn won the NCAA championship, but only because it was on the TV when I was at the gym on my treadmill. I just, I mean, I tried to stay informed. But it's not something that I follow a lot. But when the Olympics come on, I love to watch the Olympics. I just love that idea of all the multiple sports and a lot of times the sports that don't get a lot of media time get a little bit more during the Olympics. But I got to ask you this. I've had the opportunity to go to Athens, Greece. What was it like competing in the birthplace of the Olympics in Athens, Greece in 2004?
You know, it was breathtaking because there is so much history there and just ancient everywhere you turn around. Yeah. No, just it was an honor to think wow. This is where it all began. Yeah. Yeah, it was pretty. It was pretty cool.
Yeah, that's amazing. I had a chance to go to the to the Olympic Stadium and then some of the ancient sites as well, where they held the Olympic Games and yeah, you're right. Every time you turn around, you're like stumbling over this ancient artifact. You know, it's just surrounding you everywhere you go, but to be there. For me being a part of the kind of the Olympic Movement was really special. I can only imagine as an athlete how just tremendous that must have been. It was. It was pretty awesome. Yeah, not at all. Like I really am here. I'm here.
Oh, that's awesome. I want to talk a little bit about your sport, so heptathlon. For those of us who might not be familiar with it. Tell us what is the heptathlon.
So I would love to because a lot of people think it has to do with biking or swimming, which is obviously triathlon, right? So I try to say it's all track and field events. It's seven events over two days. And the order of the events is the 100 meter hurdles, the high jump, the shotput, then the 200. Then we get a night's rest and then we come back and do the long jump, the javelin, and the 800.
Oh, I didn't realize that there was a specific order to it. That's new to me.
Yes, it has to be in that order. Okay,
that's interesting. So they start with the, with the hurdles, and then they end with the 800. And then like you said, kind of just throw everything else in the middle.
Well, everything else in sequential order. Yeah. Wow. When you do different meets, like Olympics is way different than regular meets because in regular meets, we get a half an hour break between each event. So let's say they have four heats in the hurdles. When the fourth hurdle heat is finished, they will start the clock, and we have 30 minutes to do all: our warm ups, get our high jump going, and then they will start the high jump 30 minutes after that event is done. But for Olympics way different experience, I had no idea. But we ran the hurdles in the morning, maybe did the high jump 11 o'clock, came back at six o'clock to do the shotput. And then ran the 800 at 8pm at night. And so they have to work you in between the other events because it's all televised.
Yeah, yeah, I was gonna say that probably has a lot to do with, with the television and the timing, and all those things. So do you feel like that was an advantage or a disadvantage?
It actually was an advantage because we got a lot more rest. It kind of had its disadvantage at the same time, because you have to warm up all over again every time. Whereas the other way, you just go straight through and you warm up the start of the events. And basically you're warm the entire time. So it had its pros and cons. But at the same time as a heptathlete you're used to shifting from one event to the next event anyway because a practice day does involve like two or three events in one day of practicing, not just I show up and I run. I have to throw, I have to jump, I have to hurdle. And so it's a mix of everything. So you become pretty flexible in that
The heptathlete. And then for the men, the decathlon. It's kind of like the original cross training event, right? I mean, it's like you really have to master a wide variety of different things.
Yes. And I don't know the order of the dec. We call it the dec, decathletes. But they do have events they have that we don't have. They have the discus. They have the pole vault. And their running events are the 400 meters. And the 1500 is different. And they also have the 100 meters and the 110 hurdles. Okay, so
you do both the hurdles and the sprint. Yeah. So what what are your thoughts on that? I've talked to a couple of heptathletes, female heptathletes who are like, I want to do the decathlon, like I want to do that. Others are like, No, I'm fine with what we've got. Like, that's plenty. What are your thoughts on that?
I'm one of the others, I'm fine. For me is that pole vault. Like I don't even know if I can pole vault! Well, that's the one that's a bit. And so one day, I'll try it, but I I'm good. I'm good with seven. I would like them to reduce the 800 to 400. That would be ideal. Yeah. Well, I
love that. Years ago, I used to run another sporting event called the Utah Summer Games. And one of my goals in that event was to try something new every year. And one year, I did the the pole vault. And, like you, I didn't know how to do it. I never tried it before. I didn't know what I was doing. And it was just like my guitar. I'm not good at it. I wasn't good at it then. But it was a fun experience. But it's a little nerve racking, you get up in the air, you could just as easily go backwards as you do go forward. So...
Correct. But are you serious? Did you actually, like hold a pole for the first time at the meet?
No, no, I actually went. Okay. But almost, I mean, almost. I probably had practice maybe three times before the meet. So I went with the with the college track team. And they tried to give me some tips and some pointers, which I was grateful for. They gave me a few drills to do that honestly, I could not master. They were like here, if you sit here and you do this, this is the movement. So you want to move your arms and your shoulders this way. And you actually did it sitting down. And my brain just couldn't, I couldn't wrap my head around that drill. But I could kind of do that and I mean, kind of literally, I could kind of do the pole vault. So you don't need to
look pretty. You got over the bar. I'm sure my
form was just ugly. But I got over the bar a couple of times. I couldn't go up anymore, but it was fun. So, you've had this amazing Olympic experience, you've been able to compete for two times at the Olympics representing your country. Just the highest level that's gotta be just like this amazing, amazing experience. You reach a point where you're like, Okay, I feel like I'm ready to take a break and do different things. But then you decided to come back to the sport. It took you a few years, but you decided to come back and compete at masters. How did you make that decision?
Well, I had a friend from Trinidad, her name is Geraldine and she keeps bugging me. You gotta come do master Masters. I'm like, Oh my gosh, I don't want to compete again. But I'm gonna exercise whatever and she could finally convince me. And so I started training. It literally, it takes about a year and a half to two years to like get back in competition shape. Yeah, even you know. So when I came back, I came back several times between the age of 30 and 40. So like a decade. I quit, I had kids, I tried again, I had more kids, I tried again, I quit. And then at 40, so at 38, I started training. And then at 40, I competed in my first masters championship in Lyon, France.
Wow, how did it go? The first time, I know you had some success there.
It was pretty. It was awesome. I mean, it was a lot more competitive than I was expecting. I was surprised the kind of shape I was in because a decade later, like not nearly as in shape as I was when I was 40. But I think the highlight for me is, when you do masters, you can drop down an age group, but you can't go up in age group, right? So between 40 and 44 was my age group. And I dropped down to the 35 to 39. And that's where I ran the 4x100 relay? Okay, we got the world record. And so I was the slowest and the oldest because they were all in their 30s. And so yeah, that was quite an experience, because most of the girls on the team, I think all three of them were past Olympians as well. Really? So yeah. And they were all sprinters. And I have never been a sprinter. I've just been, so I have to learn a lot, like they really drilled. I learned so much about 4 by ones that I was like, Oh my gosh, all this goes into it. Stress about dropping the baton already and missing the handoff all of that. But there's so much technical: distances, timing. Oh, yeah. It was awesome. I think my first masters championship got me hooked because being there with people my age, and seeing that people in their 90s, 95, anyone 90 and over. When they step out on the track, and their event starts, they get standing ovations. It's the best thing ever. It's like a whole Olympics again. So that really just got me, I really want to keep doing this because I love it. I love the people. I love the fact that people are moms and grandmas and career people and you know, just your age group. And you're not like, you're competitive. But it's not like, Oh, I wish you false start so I can win when you're in college. Right? It's like, all right.
I've heard that sometimes in here. I love that. Yeah, I love that you shared that. And that your juxtaposition between, you know, really the highest competition level in the world at the Olympics. And then, you know, you come into a master setting. And you're, I mean, you're totally right. And it's the same thing at the Senior Games as well. Like, it's still competitive, like people want to do their best, like nobody shows up to do mediocre, like, everybody wants to do their best. But there really is a different feeling right? There's just, there's a lot less pressure, a lot less stress, a lot of camaraderie and friendship and just, you know, hugs and high fives and it just it feels like there's kind of a, you know, there's obviously pros and cons to both, but just a different feeling. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, you make amazing connections. Like I have connections with people all over the world now. Just from competing with them. And, you know, being able to see them at the championship meets again, a lot of us live so far away that we don't just compete against each other, except for big meets. It becomes this huge reunion, Big hugs, high fives. You know, we're cheering each other on in the high jump, you can do it! You know, we're clapping and we want everybody to do their best. It's just such a good feeling like I've trained for a year just for this. And that is so satisfying to be there and have that support. You're supporting others and they're supporting you.
Yeah, you've just perfectly defined what we love so much about being a part of the Huntsman World Senior Games. Yeah. So thank you, and congratulations on your success. And what are your thoughts? Are you going to keep going? Or are you going to reach a point where you're like, yeah, it's enough.
I know, someone just asked me this past week. So you're still training? I said, Yeah, why not? I'll stop when I can't go anymore. So I have no intentions of stopping again, although I retired like four times because my kids were little, and so now that they're, you know, I've got 2 driving, and my youngest is 13, I don't want to stop again, unless I'm injured. And even if I'm injured, I'm gonna recover and come back. So I literally have to not be moving in order not to compete.
I love it. Wow. That's that's such a great way to approach life. Yeah, I mean, what it regardless of what your sport is, if it's track and field or softball or golf or, you know, maybe it's just running around after the grandkids or whatever it is, to keep yourself moving, to keep yourself active is just the way to go. Right. That's the way that we enjoy life.
Yes, yes. And not everybody loves sports. I mean, there's so many other things that they have loved and enjoyed in their youthful days that they've given up. And I hope people can just find that flame again. Because once you love something, and you reconnect with that, it brings you so much joy and just so much fulfillment in life, to just keep going and have fun with it. The older you get too, it's less stressful. You're like, I'm just having fun. Yes, I'm working hard. I'm training hard. But it is fun.
Yeah, I love it. It's so true. And again, we just get to see that firsthand, up close, and personal. Yeah, here at the Huntsman World Senior Games. Now I did, I have to admit, I did a little bit of internet stalking on you. And I found that you and I are the same age. You're born on the 20th of January. And I was born on the ninth of January of the same year.
Well, mine can't be hidden. I have a Wikipedia page. That was on all over the internet. So
hooray, so yeah, you're
11 days older than me.
Just a little bit, but we're both 49. And I'm just gonna say it, that means that you're eligible to compete in the Huntsman World Senior Games next year.
I already know that. People are like, Oh, 50, oh 50. That's how I was when I was turning 40. I was ahhh. And then I'm like, I love being 40! What was wrong with me? And now I can't wait to turn 50. Like, excited because my implements are lighter. My Javelin is also lighter. My distance is about the same. My hurdles are closer, just so many benefits for me. I'm excited to do it, bring it on.
I want to tell you, that's the other thing I love about senior and master sports, but seniors specifically. And especially because like most people, you know, after a certain age after like, what, 14 or 15. Like you don't want to get older anymore. Right? Right. Maybe it's 21 or whatever. But you don't want to get older. But then you hit this point where it's like, I get to be the young kid and the age group. So every five years is like a celebration. Right? Right. I love it.
I've been to officiate and help at the Huntsman Games in the past. I was in my probably very early 40s. Loved it. Loved to be in there.
Well, we're very excited for this year. And we're looking forward to seeing you come and compete with us next year. Again, I'm just putting you on the spot because I will
I will be there like I have to be there.
That's fantastic. So you kind of touched on it a little bit. We've got about a minute left. What advice do you have for people as they're, you know, approaching aging? Like, how do you think that they should approach it?
Well, I will admit, when I was 15, I thought 40 was like oh, right, like, oh, gray hair. But as you get older, really the older you get, the wiser you are. And if you can't find yourself, the older you get, you'll be miserable. So go out there and find the things that you love to do. Even if when you did it back in, you know, when you were 20, you can't do it now, find something else, find something passionate to do. Because that's going to drive you every day. That's just going to bring you so much joy.
I think that's just great advice. And like I said, like that's not just about sports, right? It's just life, right? Just get out there, find your thing, whatever that is, and then latch on to it and just love it, just live with passion. Obviously, you've been able to find that for yourself, Marsha, we wish you the best. Yes. And congratulations again on all of your athletic success over the years. And seriously, we're excited. We're excited to have you come out next year and be a part of the Games and we're looking forward to some great things from you. And I want to see you pole vaulting because guess who else qualifies next year? Now there's the challenge. Yeah, we haven't we haven't offered pole vaulting up to this point. But we might have to introduce it. We might have to introduce it. Okay. Okay, so thank you so much.
You're welcome. It was a pleasure.
Nothing but the best in the future for you. Yeah. Okay, there's a challenge there. It is like the gauntlet is down. Okay, we got to figure out how to get pole vaulting into the Games. So now that would be a lot of fun. Hey, just a quick reminder, just to wrap us up here. It's time to register. Yes, it is. Now is the time you can do that as well as find all of our schedules, rules, frequently asked questions, all at SeniorGames.net. And be sure that you're taking full advantage of our early bird pricing, which goes until August 1, but we do fill up some of our sports rather quickly. So you might want to get yourself registered early and then just use that as a motivation to stay training and stay exercising to keep things moving along. Remember to tune in live next and every Thursday at 5:30pm Mountain Time on AM 1450 or FM 93.1 for the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life. We take this live show, we turned it into a podcast and you can subscribe anywhere where you find your favorite podcasts. If you are listening by podcast, take a moment and give us a rating. Write a quick review. You can do that very easily on your iPhone, just scroll down to the bottom of your Apple podcast app, and then shoot us some stars there. And then of course you can find previous shows right on our website. Once again, that is SeniorGames.net. So check that out. Today's inspirational thought is a great reminder when you get stuck in life, which sometimes happens to all of us, right? It's from Eleanor Roosevelt. She says, "You must do the things you think you cannot do." Until next Thursday, stay active.