An Interview With Sharkie Zartman

This interview is only available on | By Sheldon Baker 

Sharkie Zartman is a professor of health and fitness at El Camino College in California where she teaches Yoga for Health and Fitness and Power Vinyasa Yoga. She is the author of nine books including her latest, Win at Aging, which emphasizes a proactive, athletic, and holistic approach for stepping up to the challenges of aging and enjoying our lives regardless of age. Sharkie is also a former member of the USA National Volleyball Team, a champion competitor at UCLA where her jersey was retired, and an award-winning volleyball coach at the college and club levels where she won several regional, state, and national titles. She is the host of Sharkie’s PEP Talk on interviewing top authors, athletes, coaches, and other experts in the areas of health, wellness, and fitness. And yes, her name is Sharkie. Her dad gave her that nickname when she was born.

NaturAlley: Have you always been passionate about health, wellness, and fitness?

For as long as I can remember, I was always going outside, exercising, playing sports, and getting dirty. Not a typical girl growing up in the 50s.  But I didn’t care. I remember people saying that girls should dress pretty, play with dolls, and not get into trouble.  I was different, plus I had a different name. My dad named me after a killer fish. So yes, health, wellness and fitness have always been a part of my life along with sports.  I was fortunate to get a job out of college teaching health, and fitness along with coaching volleyball.  I never really felt like I was working. I was just doing what I loved to do, and now at 72, I am still teaching yoga at a community college, hosting a radio show, and writing about health, wellness, and fitness. It’s so much fun.

What are a few fitness tips always on the top of your list?

I am glad you asked on the top of the list and not the entire list. I have about 30 tips and here are 10 of them.

  1. Make the commitment to exercise because you want to do something for you. No one else.  
  2. Remember to pick activities that you enjoy. Exercise is not a punishment.  
  3. Variety is the spice of life, so try some new activities to spice up your workouts.  
  4. Replace negative incentives with positive ones. Focus on what you want out of your exercise program instead of what you don’t want.  
  5. Make sure your exercises are safe and start any new program slowly. Don’t do too much too soon.
  6. If you can, exercise outside as much as possible. Not only will doing so improve your mood, but you’ll also get to absorb the sunshine vitamin, and vitamin D.
  7. See yourself as a fit individual and live the lifestyle. Don’t wait until you reach your goals to start enjoying life to the fullest. Remember, life is a journey and not a destination.
  8. Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. This is paramount as we age. Just because we can’t do a sport or activity we did before does not mean there aren’t several other choices to be active and reap the results of leading a fit lifestyle.
  9. Instead of saying I must work out, say I get to work out. Think of all the people who for whatever reason can’t be active because of health conditions or mobility issues.
  10. Remember that regular exercise is the closest thing to the fountain of youth and that most of the symptoms of aging are caused by inactivity, not chronological age.  So, make exercise and fitness a priority in your life and do something active every day.  

You have been honored as one of the top 25 female volleyball athletes at UCLA, and formerly a community college women’s volleyball coach with several league and California regional and state championships. It takes being in tip-top shape and stamina to accomplish what you did. 

Yes, it did, but I never really thought about it then. I was just enjoying what I was doing. Playing volleyball, coaching, and working out.  Also, I have always loved learning new types of exercise and, introduced numerous classes to our curriculum, including aerobic fitness, muscle endurance training (body pump), boot camp fitness, and most recently, yoga.  It’s fun to learn new types of workouts and bring these activities to our students.

Your book, Win At Aging, focuses on staying fit after retirement. People are retiring at a younger age these days. Does age alter one’s fitness routine?

Obviously, it can, but it isn’t so much about age because as we know, there are people in their 70s and 80s who are quite fit, and people in their 50s and 60s who are just the opposite.  What matters is starting where you are now, accepting it, listening to your body, and vowing to take good care of it.  Now is the time to make our health and happiness our top priority. Too many people give up just because they find themselves at a certain age or hate the term retirement.  I view retirement as an opportunity to finally do what I want to do, not what I have to do, even though I no longer work full time, part time is great for me. More time to have fun, travel, and workout.   

Sharkie’s PEP Talk has been a popular radio show for many years. What is the secret to your success? 

Easy. I love doing the show and only choose guests that I can relate to and have interesting topics. Our network, is all about natural health and positivity.  At first, I was nervous about being a host, but now it is second nature and I try to make the show fun, inspirational and informative for the listeners and guests.

Today, you teach power vinyasa yoga. How does this form of yoga combine mind and spirit?

Power Vinyasa Yoga is a physically challenging type of yoga, but it can be modified for all levels. In terms of combining mind and spirit, I feel like there is almost a merging between the two when doing any type of yoga. The mind becomes quieter, and the spirit becomes more active. Moving the body with breath (vinyasa) can almost feel automatic and be very healing for a busy, overactive mind which gets a good rest during yoga and our spirit enjoys the ride.  

Finally, do you place yourself in the super-ager category?

I don’t really think I am super. I have my challenges just like anyone else.  What might set me apart from most people my age is that I try to control what I can control, and not worry about the rest. I take a proactive approach to my life and health and am responsible for my choices now more than ever. As a younger person, I thought I was invincible and really didn’t take good care of my body.  Now, I do, and really feel alive, happy, and am having a blast at 72. 

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