POLK COUNTY – The words “senior games” may call to mind images of lawn bowling, shuffleboard, scrabble, golf, euchre or bocce.
And, in fact, all of those competitions will be offered at this year’s Polk Senior Games. But they're not all that is offered, either.
Yvette Fox, for instance, is busy preparing for this year’s games, but the Winter Haven resident isn't training for any of those sports.
A year ago, Fox, who is 61, woke up early to run the Bok Tower 5K in Lake Wales as a “warm up.” After the race, she drove to Winter Haven for the opening ceremonies of the Polk Senior Games, after which she placed first in the Games’ 100-meter dash event in the 60-64 age group. After winning the race the morning of Feb. 23, 2019, Fox drove to Lakeland and set two Polk Senior Games powerlifting records – a bench press record of 100 pounds and a new deadlift record of 295 pounds.
Beginning later this month, Fox and around 2,500 area seniors will be competing in the 28th Annual Polk Senior Games at various locations — and in various competitions — from Feb. 29 to March 16. The games include powerlifting, track, archery and a 5K road race among their many offerings.
When she is not working out, Fox is studying for her master's degree in etymology, or drawing the meaning out of scripture and communicating it to others. She calls her daily routine “Fox Faith and Fitness.”
Like anyone else, Fox has had to deal with setbacks, but she says her faith helps her get back on her feet when she falls.
“I wake up and do as I am led,” Fox said. “There are no guarantees in life and every moment is a gift. Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn. I have no idea what will happen on February 29, but since I know I have nothing to prove to anyone — and that whether I compete in all three competitions or not, whether I win or lose — it'll be alright. Have fun. Love, lift, laugh.”
An amateur bodybuilder in her 30s, Fox said she has always tried to stay in shape. Around five years ago, she was at a local crossfit gym when a friend asked whether she knew about the Polk Senior Games.
After getting a pamphlet in the mail, Fox said she paid the registration fee and gave it her best.
“I didn't even know how to breathe,” Fox said.
During the competition, she met her current strength coach and Polk Senior Games volunteer Scott Lamb, who gave her pointers on technique, including on how to breathe while competing.
Since then, Fox and Lamb say they have met many other inspirational senior athletes.
Last year, for instance, a woman in her 90s competed in powerlifting. Another woman, in her early 60s, benched 285 pounds in 2019.
“It's pretty neat,” Lamb said, reflecting on the feats of the senior athletes. “I think it's awesome.”
Last year Lamb convinced his mother, Carol, to compete in powerlifting for the first time. Carol Lamb is competing in powerlifting again this year and Scott Lamb says he is just as ruthless training his mother as he is with other clients.
Over the years, the Polk Senior Games have become known as something that can be fun to watch, as well as a place to network with some inspirational individuals.
On March 3, there will be a horseshoes competition in Rotary Park in Winter Haven, beginning at 9 a.m., and checkers at Spring Haven Retirement, beginning at 2 p.m.
On March 4, there will be a basketball shooting competition at Kirkland Gym, in Lake Wales, beginning at 9 a.m.. A trap shooting competition that day will take place at Imperial Polk Gun Club, in Winter Haven, beginning at 1 p.m.
On March 5 there will be a Punt, Pass and Kick competition at Bartow High School, beginning at 1 p.m. On March 6, there will be bocce competitions at Carefree Country Club, in Winter Haven, taking place throughout the day.
On Sunday, March 8, there will be a euchre competition at the Bartow Civic Center at 2 p.m. and, on March 9, there is a table tennis competition in Haines City, starting at 9 a.m.
The closing ceremony for the 2020 Polk Senior Games, as well as a health fair, is to be held at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland on Monday, March 16, beginning at 12:30 p.m.