For most, the vision of retirement is one of a slow pace in a warm place with a body unable to move with the agility or strength that it once had. That is, unless you are Forest Park resident Carolyn Bednar.
Go outside any day of the week, and Bednar will be speeding past on roller skates. Bednar has been roller skating for the past 30 years and ice skating since she was a child. She said the practice eases her mind and trims her body: Bednar still fits into her high school clothes.
“Most people can’t believe I’m 66 when they see me skate. My face shows aging, but my body doesn’t feel like a 66 year old woman’s,” she said.
Bednar was born and raised in Oak Park, where she first learned to skate at the age of six. Her childhood predated the Ridgeland Commons ice arena, and in lieu of a rink, her father iced down their driveway, where all winter long she said neighborhood kids would skate. At the time, the only rinks available were ponds and patches of ice at school playgrounds. Once Ridgeland Commons was erected during Bednar’s teenage years, she learned to properly ice skate.
Fast forward a few years and Bednar married and relocated to sunny Dallas, Texas, where she received a degree in Horticulture and gave birth to her son. There, she also transitioned to roller skating.
Bednar’s first foray into roller skating took place at her son’s seventh birthday party, when she went to a roller rink with his summer camp in July.
“One counselor grabbed me and invited me to skate with them, but the roller skates were so different than ice skates that I kept falling,” she recalled.
Bednar got used to the iceless skating and started skating with her son on a regular basis, finding it to be a perfect activity that both allowed them to exercise together and have fun. Bednar’s son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and she credits roller skating for helping him deal with the condition.
“It was something that helped him direct all of his energy; he could go fast and he liked going fast,” she said.
Once her son reached teenage years, she said he hung up his skates and spent more time to hanging out with friends. But Bednar had found her passion.
Since then, Bednar has skated everyday she can. Every Monday night, she skates for two hours at the Lombard Roller Rink. Not even the Chicago winter can stop her.
“As long as the streets are plowed and there’s no ice, I can roller skate,” she said.
Bednar’s commitment to exercise is nothing new, as she has been an endurance athlete her entire life. In her 20’s and 30’s, she was an avid runner and competed in multiple half marathons. That is, until her knees started to give out.
“My doctor told me to find another sport. Running hurt my knees and I found that skating wasn’t heavily load bearing,” she said.
Along with type of exercise, Bednar’s approach to exercising has evolved with age. “It’s not sustainable to work out for self-image. You need to find something that you want to get up in the morning and do. Find something that brings you joy,” she said, adding: “I can’t stress enough how competition should not be the end all. If there’s any competition, it should be with yourself.”
Bednar sees roller skating, and exercise in general, as a part of a holistic approach to living, and she integrates exercise into a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and healthy thinking. While she enjoys the youthfulness that her lifestyle has afforded her, she is not naive to her aging, and she embraces it.
“I earned these wrinkles,” Bednar laughed.
She also understands the caution that needs to be taken with her aging body. A recent broken wrist, which required eight weeks off of skating, is her reminder of that.
Both Bednar’s mother and grandmother lived to 99, and “I expect 30 more years and I want to skate for as long as I can,” she said.