What would you do if you came to the realization that you were out of shape?
At age 36 Hilo resident Violet Tanimoto was asked to do a lap around the NAS complex before entering the pool and discovered that she was out of shape.
“I went to a fitness class at the NAS pool being given by Mr. Keliipio and he had us do some calisthenics first and before hitting the pool he told us to jog around the complex,” Tanimoto said.
It was just one mile around the NAS complex, but Tanimoto soon discovered that it was a very long mile for her.
“I was huffing and puffing on a slight uphill grade and decided I was out of shape and this isn’t going to do,” she said.
What Tanimoto did following her lesson with Mr. Keliipio was to take a yard stick and measure the distance around her backyard to see how many laps she’d need to do to complete a mile.
“I used a yard stick from my clothesline pole and measured the boundaries and found that I needed to run 75 laps to make a mile,” Tanimoto said. “The first few times I tried jogging it the back of my neck started to throb, but I kept it up and after resting at intervals my neck stopped throbbing.”
Tanimoto’s backyard mile was in 1968 and since that time, this now 78 year young woman, has made enormous strides in elevating her physical performance.
“I later learned about and went to Hoolulu track and did the half mile loop twice to make a mile,” she said. “That was way better than doing 75 laps.”
Tanimoto moved her running laps to Hilo High track where she met and befriended some old timers like Benny Uyetake, Nelson Doi and Fumi and Kiyo Hamakawa.
This third generation Hilo girl grew up at Waiakea Mill Camp 1, behind the Hilo Shopping Center, where she would play baseball on the narrow plantation roads using rubber slippers as bases.
“I remember playing a variety of games such as hopscotch and okanapio which only our generation would know about as we used homemade equipment,” she said. “Every summer our parents would pack us six children in the old Ford and take us camping to Kawaihae at Spencer Park which is where my Dad taught me to swim.”
Tanimoto is a retired Licensed Practical Nurse and had spent 40 years working for the State, 25 years at Puumaile and Hilo Hospital and the other 15 years at the Hilo Counseling Center.
“While I was working at the Counseling Center Dr. Mike Compton was directing a fun run for the YWCA and it was a 10K (6.2 miles),” she said. “At that time I had worked myself up to doing 5 miles on the track so I was apprehensive with signing up, but decided to enter anyway.”
Tanimoto had never entered a race prior to the YWCA 10K and to her surprise she not only finished, but came in first for her age division.
“I was so happy to be able to run 6 miles and that was the beginning of my racing career,” she said with a wide grin.
Since that time Tanimoto has been a regular at the 5K and 10K race distances and had even completed a few half marathons (13.1 miles).
In 1983 Tanimoto entered and completed her first full marathon (26.2 miles) and returned to Honolulu again in 1992 to complete her second marathon, this time running with her brother Don.
But running is not Tanimoto’s only method of fitness as this young minded person has continued her regular swimming while entering several Hapuna and Richardson Rough Water competitions.
“After retiring I joined some hospital retirees for swimming at Carlsmith Park every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 am,” she said. “I started swimming with them regularly, three times per week in January 1995 and they were my inspiration for me to continue to come back, week after week.”
Tanimoto used to swim for an hour each time, but with age she has cut back to 30 minutes of lap swimming.
“Carlsmith is my favorite swimming spot in Hilo as the waters are clear and cool,” she said. “There are turtles and many varieties of fish while the view of Mauna Kea is just gorgeous.”
This past January Tanimoto also added another fitness routine to her schedule as she joined Hui Okinawa Kobudo Taiko.
“We practice rigorously on Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm and on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 pm,” she said. “Walking, swimming and taiko make me feel so alive.”
Tanimoto’s parents set a good example for her as they ate lots of fruits and vegetables which continue to be her steady diet.
“My Dad lived to be 85 and my mom, 94,” Tanimoto said. “I can’t say at 78 that I’ll get to reach their age but I do eat a fairly healthy diet.”
Tanimoto will have a smoothie made from plain silk soy milk, plain nonfat yogurt, almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, blueberries, bananas and some greens for breakfast with a tuna or salmon sandwich on whole wheat for lunch.
“For dinner I’d have a big bowl of green salad with tofu,” she said. “I like to waterless steam my veggies in my stainless steel pot.”
And why does Tanimoto maintain this healthy lifestyle filled with good food and moderate exercise.
“I chose this lifestyle because it keeps me moving and it makes me feel healthier,” she said.
A good part of Tanimoto’s success in health and fitness can be attributed to her happy, positive attitude. When I met her for the first time I was impressed with her kind spirit and youthful vigor.
And someday should you happen to see a happy jogger running the coastline of Hilo Bay remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”