Wednesday, October 12, 2016
A Runner Looks at 50
It finally happened. The big 5-0 found me. Well technically it was a bounty hunter hired by Father Time. The big 5-0 is his nickname. His mission is to make people succumb to the aging process. I was turning 50 and was scheduled to be his next target. I had heard rumors that he had been seen around town, asking people where to find me, conducting stakeouts waiting for me to unsuspectingly cross his path. Yet, despite his best stalking efforts I had managed to elude him. Until finally one day I woke up and there he was, staring me in the face with a cocky, victorious smirk on his face. Upon recognizing my acknowledgement of being captured he proceeded to read me my rights;
You have the right to slow down.
You have the right to complain about aches and pains. If you do not currently have any aches and pains, some will be provided to you by the stress of life.
You have the right to throw in the towel.
You have the right to settle for status quo.
You have the right to get fat.
You have the right to join AAR…
That’s it, I had heard enough! Before the letter P could be uttered I gave him a quick and powerful elbow thrust to the chest before jumping out the closed window in front of me. As shards of glass rained down I tucked and rolled, quickly springing to my feet. Realizing I had managed to avoid injury I turned my head back to look at the Big 5-0. With a smug look on my face I shouted to him, “Get some rest 5-0, you look tired!” Extreme Ways by Moby played as I speedily fled off into the city.
Okay so this is how it went down in my mind. In reality it was less dramatic. It didn’t play out like a Jason Bourne movie. I did of course run because I am a runner, that’s what I do. But its purpose was to clear my head of clutter and think about what turning 50 means to me, not flee from some pursuing character. Although really I guess in a sense I was. Running would hopefully allow me to flee from negative thoughts and leave them far behind.
Fifty is an often dreaded landmark age. An age associated with reaching the top of “the hill” and beginning the descent down the other side. But is it really? Does it have to be that way? These are questions that run through my mind as I run through the neighborhoods near my home.
I’ve always viewed age as just a number, a number representing how long I’ve been on this earth, but not dictating how I feel or act. Yet, the stigma associated with 50 is hard to completely ignore.
Life can be bittersweet. In our youth we have enthusiasm and energy on our side, but are lacking the knowledge and wisdom gained through life experiences. As we live life and gain wisdom we typically become less energetic and enthusiastic. It’s as if the universe is playing a cruel joke.
But I feel it doesn’t have to be this way. In my 17 years as a health and fitness professional I’ve learned a great deal about the mind/body connection. How and what we think has a tremendous affect on our physical health and quality of life. In other words, if we think old and unable we become old and unable. If we think young and vibrant thoughts we age more slowly and live without limits.
50 can and really should be an ideal age. If you’ve led a healthy lifestyle and have a positive mindset it contains a wonderful mix of maturity and youthfulness. You are old enough to have gained wisdom yet are young enough to still have many new and exciting experiences.
Personally, when factoring in both the physical and mental components of health, I feel the best I ever have right now. The anxieties I experienced throughout a great portion of my life have dramatically diminished, enabling me to approach each day with a greater sense of calm. I have developed a better understanding of how important it is (and how great it feels) to contribute to the world by giving back, having compassion and spreading positivity.
My experiences and accomplishments have elevated my self-esteem, resulting in a greater passion for life. These two things feed off each other. Having new experiences, taking on new challenges and learning new things increases self esteem, which increases passion, which leads to a greater desire to have new experiences. Passion is common characteristic in people who age slowly. They, simply put, have more fun. This passion for life lights up the brain leading to a healthy attitude and a healthy slowly aging body.
One’s ability to continue to perform at a high level athletically is often brought into question starting as early as 40, but more so at 50. However, despite common misconceptions, an endurance athlete (like me) can in fact, still perform and compete at a very high level. Research shows that if the 50 + athlete performs high intensity interval workouts on a regular basis, any reductions in aerobic capacity will be extremely minimal.
One major reason why athletes experience a significant decrease in performance after 50 is that they tend to drift towards focusing primarily on long slow distance training (LSD). LSD training-while a necessity because it builds endurance- doesn’t help maintain or improve aerobic capacity. A higher aerobic capacity translates to being able to run, bike, swim etc...at a faster pace.
Also, the 50+ athlete often doesn’t strength train, thereby promoting the early onset of muscle fatigue. If the athlete is willing to do interval training and strength training –while providing adequate recovery from both-they can continue to perform well for years to come. I am totally willing to do this!!
With this acquired knowledge and optimum state of health why should I waste it by just accepting the standard perceived limitations of age? I decide I’m not going to. I am looking at 50 as a new beginning. My first 50 years involved building the foundation of the person I am supposed to become. Now I will make my remaining years my best in many ways and become the best person I can.
Life is a journey not a destination (I heard that in an Aerosmith song although I’m sure it’s not an original Steven Tyler quote). I will continue to learn and grow. I will not just exist but I will live. The only limitations I will have will be those I place upon myself, which I don’t intend to do.
I don’t know everything the future holds but I do know it involves me never using age as an excuse. It will also involve me working on my martial arts skills. Father time can be ruthless. I will be prepared should his bounty hunters return.