By believing in herself, Carol Frohlich is inspiring others by competing in triathlons at the age of 75.
As a professional violinist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for 38 years, Carol Frohlich played marathons of concertos and concentrated for days on various arias from Bach, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. This mental focus, attention to detail, and patience with the process, constantly pushing herself to be better, to hit that next note, to finish strong, has prepared her for something she could not have imagined ten years ago.
Carol Frohlich, at the age of 75, is now a triathlete. Determination and strength of will was instilled in her as a child. She comes from a musical family, growing up outside of Detroit. And while they were mentally tough, exercise was not emphasized. Frohlich received a music degree from the University of Michigan then went on to played in the Evansville Philharmonic and String Quartet . She achieved her masters of violin from Indiana University and joined the ISO in 1967, retiring in 2005. Frohlich met her husband Ed when she joined the ISO. Ed was also a violinist.
In 2008, after her husband passed away, Frohlich went to Orlando and visited Disney World with the aid of a motorized scooter. “I was bone on bone in both knees,” says Frohlich, “so I came home and scheduled my surgery.” She had both replaced at the same time.
Staying dedicated to her physical therapy, Frohlich experienced an excellent recovery, becoming more mobile than she had been in years. “When you play the violin, there’s lots of sitting involved and the main exercise is mental,” says Frohlich, “But that’s not physical exercise.”
Motivated by a mission trip to Kenya through her church, Frohlich joined the Jordan YMCA in November of 2012. “I knew I was one of the oldest people going on the trip and I wanted to be strong enough to get up if I fell,” shares Frohlich. She was encouraged because her minister, Terry Thomas, of Northminster Presbyterian is also a member of the Jordan Y.
Frohlich started working with trainer Mark Ewing, whom she credits for encouraging her to keep striving to do more. “He would train me to reach a certain goal, and then I would say, ‘what’s next?’ And I keep asking ‘what else can I do?’” says Frohlich, who lost over 50 pounds in the process.
“Carol takes every challenge that I give her and rises to meet it,” says Ewing, “She will look at me thoughtfully as she considers what the next challenge is and comes back with questions the next day.”
“The encouragement part is huge,” shares Frohlich, “Whether you are two years old, a 73 year old in PT, or a highly trained 28 year old athlete, we all need the ‘high five’.”
One year after the Kenyan trip, which went smoothly, Frohlich was encouraged to join Multifit, a program at the Y for running, biking, and swimming. “I thought Mark was nuts to refer me to MultiFit, his response was ‘it’s only three sports’,” shares Frohlich, who initially felt overwhelmed with the challenge.
However, after working with a walking coach, swimming with the Master Swim Club coach, and training with a cycling coach, Frohlich completed her first sprint triathlon in July, 2014. She has since completed three. “I always come in last, and it doesn’t matter,” says Frohlich proudly, “It is a wonderful group of athletes and it doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow, everyone has their own challenges and everyone is supportive of one another.”
She does win awards, however, she wins the “Oldest Participant Award”.
This year she participated in the 5k walk in the Mini Marathon. She completed it with a speed of 18mph, which is amazing since a year ago she was on treadmill and walking at a 24mph pace. Frohlich continually challenges herself to improve her time.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Frohlich’s fitness commitment is that she has the endurance to play with her young grandchildren. “My oldest grandson, James, used to ask me to get down on the floor to play and I couldn’t,” shared Frohlich, “Now when I visit, my bike is strapped to my car and I am already on the floor to play when I call to him.”
Frohlich has taken a 7-day bike trip on a fully recumbent bike in the Outer Banks, and now is able to ride a Townie Electra 2-wheeler, 7 speed. The pedals are slightly forward which aligns perfectly with her 90 degree range of motion in her knees.
“Having someone tell you that YOU CAN do something and challenging you to do that is incredibly empowering,” says Frohlich, “With all of my training and rehab, there has never been any negative words. I find myself saying, ‘I can’t do it YET’ and I just keep trying. I encourage others to do what you can, do not give up.”
“I used to do crochet, and now I don’t have time to sit,” confesses Frohlich with a smile and a hardly laugh.
“Carol started training in Jan. 2014 and in August of the same year competed in her first triathlon. She inspires me so much with her determination and consistent improvement,” says walking coach Wanda Ocasio who is an IRONMAN triathlete, “I hope when we are all 75, we have carol’s positive attitude. She is funny, jokes around, and she is simply inspirational! I love being around her.”
Another member of Team Frohlich is Artie Clark, a massage therapist at Heal Thy Self, who helped Frohlich work through and heal her frozen shoulder.
“She had been in quite a bit of pain and we were able to work through gentle stretches and strengthening techniques. After she improved a bit, I suggested a MELT class,” says Clark, “A person taking the class must get down to the floor and back up several times. This was almost impossible for her to do. Carol was determined. She had to use two different bolsters and the wall to get up and down and over so she wouldn’t fall off. Very soon she was in the middle of the room with no help at all.“
“I never knew that something this hard could be so much fun and rewarding,” says Frohlich after completing her third sprint triathlon.
This article first appeared in Broad Ripple Community Newsletter June 2015.