Jack Lalanne, the amazing health pioneer of the 50s through the 80s (and beyond, naturally, as his legacy is ongoing), was famous for saying (about aging) “The reason that you can’t do what you used to do, is because you stopped doing it.” He was referring to the myth that aging alone is what causes us to not be able to run, swim, jump, climb, etc.
The truth is far simpler: not taking care of yourself on a regular basis is what makes you older. If you keep playing (and that’s what we’re going to call it, not “working out”) hard regularly and take care of your lifestyle (nutrition, rest and relaxation, exposure to nature, and general attitude), the strength you gained during your youth will not go away.
And don’t think you’re too old to start back up.
Yes, recovery does not happen as quickly when we are older. But it does happen. So we have to take our time about things and listen to our bodies. And we have to take more interest in what we eat and how we live – including taking time for sleep and rest, de-stressing our lives, and understanding some of the things we can do to make our bodies thrive.
But there are a lot of myths about aging that are attributed to getting older that simply aren’t true – because there are other life factors that are doing those things for us. Mark Sisson wrote about a few of them in his article “The ‘Inevitabilities’ of Aging: How Inevitable Are They?” Things like creaky joints, hearing loss, lowered testosterone, and more are actually more due to long-term stress, poor diet, and too much lack of movement are catching up with us at this point. But it has nearly nothing to do with simple aging – it’s an accumulation of bad practices (not our fault, we’ve just been following the best advice that conventional wisdom has for us) and food hitting us now.
And you’ll see this hit some people earlier, some people later, and even some people not at all. We all know people whose health seems to have gone downhill earlier and then those folks who we just ascribe lucky genes to who are still exercising and having a great time into their retirements. But let me tell you – a lot of that has little to do with lucky genes and everything to do with treating the body right.
Take a look at this guy: Jon Stewart. Jon was 52 last summer and competed in the American Ninja Warrior competition on TV. Check this out:
And I’m also going to use an example from my own life: my parents. I am extremely proud of my folks, who are in their early 70s at this point. When they retired, they made a lot of great changes in their lives, including starting on the South Beach Diet, moving to a community where they could be outside and having fun a lot, giving back to their communities, and basically living a comfortably and very healthy lifestyle. Last year they climbed the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up. They’re both active in hiking communities (including volunteering for trail repair in their area of southern Arizona), walk and run regularly. But they took great steps to take care of themselves and to enjoy life. They’re traveling all over the world (hiking wherever they go, including the Alps, Ireland, and more), too, and making time to visit their grand-kids in three different states.
And there’s me. I’m 46. I ran my first obstacle course race in 2011 at the Warrior Dash at 41 and haven’t let off the gas since. I started on the Primal Blueprint plan in 2008, lost around 40 pounds that haven’t sneaked back on, and have improved my life immeasurably since then. I’m in better shape now than I was twenty years ago when I ate like crap (standard American “healthy” high-carb low-fat diet), worked out wrong (alternating days of weights and cardio – mostly with machines, and sat in the car/office all day), I am happier than I was back then, I have a better outlook on where I’m going in life than ever before, and I’m attacking things like new technology and spirituality concepts with a fervor that I’ve never had before.
And, what I’m most proud of, I helped lead a team of folks of my age, some older and some younger, through their first obstacle course race. I had help, no doubt, from friends like Lori Crock of Movestrong Kettlebells and Jeff Turner of Fit2Play, but we all did it together and had an awesome time.
It only takes one decision – to live as though your age doesn’t matter. Get in that mud. Go for that degree. Get that certification. Learn that stuff you want to learn. Try out that new sport. Remember: YOU have the power to take back your life from those who want to tell you it’s over. Jack Lalanne knew it back then, and we know it now.
So how have you learned to take back your life from those who want to make you think it’s over? Tell us below in the comments!