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Cecilia Hedström, 56: Stronger Than She Thought

From avoiding exercise, on doctor’s orders, until the age of 29 and overcoming deadly cancer to beginning to compete athletically at 56, Cecilia Hedström is daily proving to herself just how strong she is — in body and mind. She has never been fitter, is madly in love, and is enjoying her supportive community of fellow athletes.

We are stronger, braver, and more capable than we may believe. As an asthmatic child, she was discouraged from taking part in physical activities, and stayed rather inactive until she was 29. At 44, she was diagnosed with tubal cancer, which many do not survive. Having given birth to her daughter years previously, she told herself that if she could do that, she could do some pretty hard things. So she persevered.

She is now training hard to compete in the World Masters Athletics, sprinting the 200 meters. It is about athletics, but also about joining a like-minded community that celebrates what we can do at any age. Athletics can be a metaphor for all of life. Holding ourselves back rather than expressing the amazing excellence we all possess would be real pain. For so many of us, we are afraid of becoming that best version of ourselves, as we may fall short. Her pro tip: spend as much time complimenting ourselves as we do trash-talking ourselves. We are all quite amazing, and when we express that, we, like Cecilia, can be beacons of inspiration to others. 

Cecilia Hedström

How old are you?
56 and a half.

Where are you based?
In the lovely north, Sweden.

How did you get into running?
After the birth of my daughter, 29 years ago, I took my first running steps. I realized that if I could bring a healthy baby girl into this world, my body must be strong enough to run.

“A doctor stopped me from exercising and running, even swimming, because my allergies made me weak”

I grew up with severe asthma and allergies. And back then, when I was just a girl, the doctors would tell me to rest into healthiness. A doctor stopped me from exercising and running, even swimming, because my allergies made me weak. The problem was, all the resting only made me weaker. Luckily, this idea of resting is no longer around; now, we encourage kids with asthma to be active. So, I became a very late and a very slow bloomer/runner…

Cecilia posing in her running outfit

At 44 years old, I was training for a marathon in France. But I was held back because of a UTI, or so I thought. I went to my house doctor; he did find a UTI, but he also found cancer. If I hadn’t signed up for that marathon, I would never have gone to a doctor for the infection in the first place, and the cancer would then probably have been detected too late. Death rates in tubal cancer are very high, just because it’s hard to detect. So running saved my life ❤️

“If I hadn’t signed up for that marathon, the cancer would then probably have been detected too late”

Do you train with your husband?
Yes, we love working out together. We got married last August, after 2.5 years. He is the love of my life. We run, do strength training, and Bikram yoga together. We always have a blast. Even if he is much stronger and faster, he calls me the Volvo that looks like a Ferrari (I might look like high maintenance but I never quit or give in, like a Volvo).

What is the feeling you get from running on a good day?
Mental clarity, freedom to know that I can. And joy. I’m always in a very good mood but that brings it even higher. In Sweden, the doctors are allowed to give walking and running on prescription. I think that is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, most doctors are not runners so they don’t trust the process. But if you are a runner, you know the direct impact on your mood, even from a slow jog.

Competitive running involves pushing through pain. How do you manage discomfort?
For me, that pain is pure…satisfaction. It’s like a receipt, that I pushed my body further, that I’m getting stronger. And for me that is a good thing; it means that I’m healthy and alive. On the other hand, sad emotional feelings are what I consider real pain. That can hurt more than you can handle, but body pain from working out is pure joy.

Cecilia Hedström after finishing a race

“Body pain from working out is pure joy”

Have you had any injuries you have needed to overcome?
Small injuries, of course. At my age, it’s inevitable. hahaha. The cancer 12 years ago was my hardest setback for my body. A sore hip or injured knee is easier to  fix in rehab workout. But, so far, I’m good. But starting to compete at 56, like I am doing, requires patience. Because if I push my body too hard it will break, I need a lot more recovery these days.

What is your training like?
I changed my routine from distance running and strength training 2 months ago. Now I do Plyometric training 2 times/week, and intervals 2 times/week. Some stretching and Bikram yoga if there is a studio nearby. I’m aiming to compete in the world championship this summer. 200 meters sprint. The days in between I do strength training to keep posture and upper body strong. I’m 184cm tall so I need good posture 😉

How do you train in the winter in Sweden?
Even if the winters are cold and dark, you cannot let that dictate your workout plan. So I train the same way all year around. Maybe a bit more treadmill running if the weather is too bad, cold or icy.

What is the World Masters Athletics?
It’s a competition taking place in Sweden this August. If you are +35 years or older you are a Master Athlete and very welcome to join. I will sprint 200 and 400 meters. People from 112 nations are joining and I know a lot of Americans are coming. It’s going to be a blast!

“To my surprise, I have never been fitter or stronger or even faster than today”

Why do you want to compete in the World Masters Athletics?
To encourage other people over 50 to do the same; to set a goal for your training, and that age is no excuse for aiming higher. My personal goal is to take my training to another level, something I couldn’t do when I was younger. To my surprise, I have never been fitter or stronger or even faster than today. So, even if my body never looked older, it’s in the best shape ever. It’s also a big step outside my comfort zone, as I never ever competed in anything in my entire life. But also because I can. There are people that never get a chance to do this because they are sick or, sadly, died too young. It feels somehow that I owe them that.

Have you always been active?
Not before I was 29, because of my childhood asthma. So maybe I’m just trying to catch up. 😌

What are your tips for someone over 50 wanting to become a competitive athlete?
Join an athletic club with a master division. Try different sports, see what you like, meet new people, and choose the division that has the best energy. Surround yourself with friendly people; it makes everything easier and so much more fun. And start slow! I can’t say that enough. Most people quit not because they want to, but because they start out too hard. Even if we feel young in spirit, our ligaments and joints are still the age we are.

“Start slow! Most people quit not because they want to, but because they start out too hard”

Cecilia Hedström running towards camera, on a track

Have you found a community through taking up running?
Exactly. The athlete community is amazing. I’m a rookie, but everyone is so friendly. I have a lot of non-athletic friends, and I love them all, but socializing with other athletes means a healthier lifestyle. I think past 50 we get a bit lazier, so the only thing everyone can join is socialising at dinner and party events. And that includes alcohol.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love to party, drink tons of drinks and dance all night (or at least until 3am😅) from time to time. But sipping wine every other day is not the solution if we want to be healthy and independent as we get older. It looks so easy when you see all these strong, glowing influencers in their late 70 on social media. But keep in mind that their youthfulness doesn’t come from drinking alcohol. But with a bit of luck, quality food, lots of sleep and workouts, we can all be that person!

What do you do for work?
I have been a portrait photographer and journalist for 30 years. But I’m shifting into something that has been my “passion profession” for some years now: working as an online personal trainer and health coach / nutritionist. Together with my daughter we are launching a new health concept, Nordic Day (www.nordicday.se). We want to share our healthy Nordic lifestyle. Skip processed food, water fast once in a week, maybe take a cold plunge and eat clean food with a lot of fat and protein, like our ancestors did. And they were both lean and fit up to old age. 

Cecilia Hedström

What are your 3 life non-negotiables?
1. To workout in some way, every day. 

2. Greet life, other people, and even challenges with a positive mindset. I don’t mean for us to pretend to be positive, but if we start our day with a positive mindset, that is the direction our day is taking. 

My personal theory is that we should give ourselves compliments the exact same amount of time that we spend trash-talking to ourselves, to balance it up. In time, you will change your brain neurons, the chemicals in your brain, by being positive. Then you affect others, and maybe one day we can spread love waves all over the planet. Somehow giving is receiving, and we definitely need more of that in our world.

3. My lovely family, both blood family and all of my extended family members as well ❤️

Connect with Cecilia:

Cecilia Hedström, superage quiz
See medical disclaimer below. ↓


  1. Love this story!!!! The athletic community is the most supportive, positive community for older women I’ve ever experienced. It halves the pain and doubles the pleasure. Thanks for sharing!


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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