Coaching one of the world’s best athletes keeps Tannie Ans ever-young – but she says there are key lifestyle factors that allow her to keep working well past the age of 65…
With her 79th birthday approaching, Anna Sofia Botha, affectionately known as Tannie Ans, is still the trusted coach of world 400m record holder, Wayde van Niekerk. She has no intention of slowing down and the pair are planning their next Olympic Games together.
What is her secret, particularly in a COVID-19 world?
“First, you have to swallow your vitamins and immune system boosters every morning. That’s one part of fighting this virus, but on the other hand, Wayde is so attentive and strict about looking after me. It also has a lot to do with the relationship between Wayde and I. It’s very precious, and he is always worried about making sure I am not going out and exposing myself [to the coronavirus].”
Fitness is another by-product of Tannie Ans’ work. “At my age, if you’re an active coach, you really move a lot on the track and you get your training session there. Also, if you want, you can go to the gym to do a bit of work there as well,” she says.
Along with a strict, healthy diet, it is the emotional connections that might just give Tannie Ans a little more vuma than others for her age. “I love helping young children achieve their dreams and, by doing that, I help myself as I have the privilege of being with children. In a way, it’s a way of keeping my thoughts positive.”
There is considerable research showing that regular engagement in meaningful social interactions has a protective effect on cognitive health in older age, says Head of Wellness at Vitality, Dr Mosima Mabunda.
“There is strong evidence that the more you stimulate and challenge your brain – and the earlier you start and longer you do it – the greater the protection against cognitive ageing,” says Dr Mabunda.
Screening and self-care is important
As a fan of the Vitality 65+ programme, which encourages health eating, fitness, social interaction and tailored screening for those over the age of 65, Tannie shares that these tenets are part of her own approach to life.
She adds that with travel being an essential part of her work too, she has to be careful about COVID-19 infection. “It’s really a stressful and weird situation to be in, but I realised that it all depends on myself – how I react and how I look after myself. This was not only for myself, but also to be on the safe side for my athletes, especially for Wayde.”
She says vulnerable people should still be careful, and practise social distancing and maintain safety protocols. “It is still your own responsibility to stay safe and adhere to the rules and regulations,” she says.
Dr Mabunda agrees, noting that maintaining essential self-care, medical care and routine screening is key, particularly for South Africans over the age of 65.
Wayde adds that he appreciates that Tannie Ans takes care of herself, so she can care for her athletes: “She’s an amazing woman, she has played a huge role in what I am today. She doesn’t see me as an athlete but rather as family. I respect her as a coach and mentor, I’m grateful I could trust in her work and I think it speaks for itself.”
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