At 78, He Sets the Pace for Healthy Living

By Mike Morris June 15, 2010 16:08

Frank Oyung jogs at New Melones Reservoir/Photo by Ben Hicks

At age 78, Frank Oyung refers to his bicycle as his “commute vehicle.”

His bike is how he gets around town. The ride from his house to downtown Groveland and back is about three miles.

Oyung jokes that his pickup truck – a more conventional, yet less aerobic mode of transportation – is only used to haul firewood (which he also cuts himself).

“My philosophy is, the more active you stay, the more you can maintain your health, both physically and mentally,” he says. “Exercise helps your blood circulation, and blood is your lifeline to a healthy lifestyle.”

Oyung gets his blood flowing not only by strapping on his helmet and pedaling, but by hiking and running. Throughout the year, he leads weekly hikes sponsored by the Sierra Club. Favorite spots include Yosemite National Park, Table Mountain, and foothill reservoirs such as New Melones and Don Pedro.

When he wants to pick up the pace, Oyung participates in community runs, including the Orient Express, a four-mile race in Chinese Camp in February, the 6.2-mile Jamestown Run in March, and Columbia’s Old Mill Run, a 6.2-miler each April. “I’ve been doing those off and on for the past seven years,” he says.

He starts every morning with about 10 minutes of stretching to “loosen up” after sleeping, and tries to be physically active for at least an hour each day. He also credits a vegetarian diet with keeping him healthy. When arthritis started to bother him in the mid-1990s, he stopped eating beef and pork, and a few years later gave up poultry.

“Since I’ve stopped eating meat the arthritis has gotten much better, it pretty much doesn’t bother me anymore,” says Oyung, who has maintained his 145-pound body weight for decades. He doesn’t follow a special diet, but eats a salad almost daily “and lots of rice and tofu.”

Although his arthritis has improved, Oyung has been injured in falls from his bicycle. Over the past four decades, he has broken his collarbone four times, the result of misjudging road conditions. “It was either wet or there was oil or sand that I couldn’t see,” he says.

He hasn’t stopped enjoying the fresh mountain air. “That’s how I stay in shape,” he says during an interview at a Groveland cafe. He rode his bike there, of course.

“I used to do 100-mile rides in my younger days,” Oyung says.

Those rides were back in the 1970s and ‘80s, with a group of dedicated cyclists in the Bay Area. “I was mainly competing against myself,” he says. “I was trying to build my stamina.”

But his real focus on health began when he moved to Groveland 18 years ago after visiting friends there. His 61st birthday was fast approaching, “and I knew exercise would keep me from feeling the aches and pains, such as arthritis and back pain.”

Born in Grass Valley, Oyung graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in forestry. His parents were both Chinese immigrants. His father, a gardener, and his mother, a homemaker, raised seven children.

In 1952, Oyung was drafted into the Army. Poor eyesight kept him out of combat in Korea; he served in Germany with the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Later, he went on to a 32-year career with the U.S. Forest Service. He worked various jobs, including timber “mensurationist” — a person who measures trees. Oyung, who is divorced, has a daughter in Oregon and a son who lives in the Bay Area.

A resident of Pine Mountain Lake, Oyung has become a well-known community member who is active in many groups, including the Southern Tuolumne County Planning Commission, Yosemite Foothills Fire Safe Council, Sierra Club’s Tuolumne Group, and Garrotte Lions Club.  For seven years, Oyung has volunteered at San Jose Family Camp east of Groveland, which led to a part-time job leading nature hikes for campers.

He’s also involved in Groveland Area Involved Neighbors (GAINS), a coalition of groups working to improve life in the south-county area. Chairperson Barbara Broad, who often sees Oyung cycling through town, calls his rain-or-shine devotion to fitness “amazing.”

”I walk with my dogs 2 ½ miles, five days a week,” says Broad, 76, “but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what Frank does.”

It’s not just his body, but also his vocal cords that get a workout. For 14 years, Oyung has been a member of the Pine Cone Singers, a Groveland-based community chorus.

“It’s kind of an outlet,” this devoted athlete says, “and it keeps your brain cells active because you have to concentrate on the music.”

To participate in the Sierra Club’s foothill hikes, call Oyung at 962-7585, or go online to motherlode.sierraclub.org/tuolumne/outings.htm.

© 2010 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

By Mike Morris June 15, 2010 16:08
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