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Local track, cross-country coach shares fitness tips

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Local coach and fitness advocate Perry Toles on Monday shows the Roswell Runners/Walkers Club a cap with pins and medals that he’s collected over the years. Seated to the right of Toles is his wife, Sherry. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

When Perry Toles ran his first marathon as a sixth grader, it wasn’t a pleasant experience by any means.

“I could barely walk for two weeks after the race,” he said. Toles said he got talked into running a marathon by his older cousin and some neighborhood kids.

“For some reason I thought it was going to be fun, but it was a terrible decision,” he said.

The race was held at Artesia College, which is now the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Toles said to train for the race, he ran five miles a day for two weeks, which was wholly insufficient for a distance of 26.2 miles.

Toles is now going into his ninth year coaching track and cross country at Gateway Christian School.

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“My greatest satisfaction is hearing kids call me ‘coach,’” said Toles, a Roswell native.

Toles also is known in the community for his decades-long avocation of competing in marathons, triathlons and pentathlons. The pentathlon is an Olympic event that focuses on shooting, swimming, fencing, equestrianism and cross-country running.

Toles tried out for pentathlon in the 1988 Olympics but didn’t make the cut.

Although 30 years have passed, Toles told the Roswell Runners/Walkers Club, an informal group that meets monthly at the Roswell Adult and Recreation Center, that he is still pursuing his “Olympic dream,” which is a lifetime commitment to staying active.

Toles is a retired attorney and owns a small oil and gas production company in Roswell.

After his unpleasant experience with distance running at age 11, Toles said he wasn’t motivated to run again until he was in law school, where he needed to do something to help reduce stress.

He said he enjoyed running, but overdid it and his “knees blew up.” He was advised by a doctor to supplement running with cycling. He also added swimming to his workouts.

For the past 37 years, Toles has completed in triathlons, which are endurance events that include swimming, cycling and running in that order.

Toles said he is accustomed to telling his story to elementary and middle school students, so “sharing his Olympic dream” to a room full of older adults was a new experience.

“As we age, the wheels start coming off the cart,” he said.

Toles offered several tips on how to remain physically fit as an older adult.

First, running has to be a discipline, just like brushing your teeth.

Second, running is most enjoyable and endurable when done as part of a community. Toles said for the past 25 years he has been running with Jan Oleskinski, a former Polish pentathlete. Oleskinski now coaches several sports at the New Mexico Military Academy.

Toles said he and Oleskinski are now part of a group of up to 20 runners who meet three days a week to run at the Cielo Grande Recreation Area.

Third, Toles advised the group to cross train.

“That’s very important,” he said. “I started taking martial arts with my kids — kickboxing and taekwondo. You need to make sure your body is well-rounded.”

Fourth, Toles encouraged the group to use “speed play” while running. Rather than running an entire distance at a steady pace, do short sprints of 15 seconds or so, or one minute strong and the next minute easy.

Fifth, Toles said there is new science that supports that hard, static stretching should not be done before running. Dynamic stretching — doing movement like jumping jacks, for instance — is much better.  Static stretching after running is OK, he said.

Sixth, Toles said it is important for older people to do resistance training, such as weight lifting.

“As I get older, I feel like an old wooden chair with a lot of loose screws,” he said. “I lift weights at least once a week and that helps tighten those screws.”

The Roswell Runners/Walkers Club has been meeting on the fourth Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Roswell Adult and Recreation Center, 807 N. Missouri Ave. The meetings are open to the public.

For more information, call Alvin Jones at 575-420-6233 or Joan Blodgett at 575-626-9051.

Community news reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.