In a few weeks I turn 37. Some days ago, an attentive barber trimmed hair that now grows on the outside of my ears. The music I enjoy is now enjoyed ironically by hipsters and I’ve heard the phrase “Back in my day” come from my lips more than I care to confess. I’ve never been in better shape.
Middle age is not the time I thought would be marked by athletic ability but I’m running further and lifting heavier things than I did a decade ago. Sure, it’s hard to avoid a touch of jealousy when I see how quickly early twenty-somethings recover, but I’m finding consolations as I age.
If you’re my age you’re probably in a long-term relationship. You might be married. If it’s lasted any appreciable length it’s likely you talk to each other about what’s important to you. Hopefully you support each other. You have that extra nudge to get off the couch and go train, you share cooking with someone who knows you don’t eat Frosties for dinner and you might have someone to cheer you on at competitions. Want to talk about training? They’re contractually obliged to listen. I know this has made a difference to me. If you have this, make sure you’re supporting them too.
Some say the best things in life are free. I’ve never heard this phrase in a Nike outlet. Hopefully you’re making more money now than when Friends first aired. Want great coaches? Money helps. Injured? It’s annoying, but the physio is more attainable. Fancy a seminar, a competition, nutrition coaching or some new equipment? Check your bank balance and hopefully you’ll find it healthier than back in the days of student discounts.
Back in college I really wanted to put a lot of weight on a bar. Moving that bar was an afterthought and I happily abandoned good technique to convince myself I was strong. The idea of dropping back weight to do a movement properly was horrifying.
This became less of a problem as I got older. I’m okay with admitting I have areas to work on. I’m okay with seeking out great advice. I’m okay with practicing with an empty bar if I have to and I’m definitely okay learning that this makes me stronger, more mobile, and less injured.
Ageing isn’t without its downsides and there’s a reason Olympic athletes look like they’ve only recently stopped wearing school uniforms. But our brains keep going. Maybe you’ve got a decade of knowledge under your belt. Great! It hasn’t gone off. If you’re new to this, you still have decades of experience with your body, with making goals, with seeing projects through. Your brain will keep learning, adapting, and finding unexpected links between the life lessons you’ve had and the fitness game.
It’s possible that you’ve made it to your mid thirties without learning to cook. Avoiding an essential life skill for three and a half decades is an achievement of sorts and you have my most half-hearted congratulations. If you’ve eaten three meals a day for thirty five years you’ve chowed down a total of 38,325 times. It would require supreme effort to hit this number without learning how to combine heat, pans and ingredients into something that can pass your gag reflex without a grimace. With a bit of luck you can make a few decent dishes out of ingredients that look like they once saw a farm. If so, you’re fuelling yourself better than you did when people talked about pre Euro prices. This helps.
Knowing What You Want
I never thought about fitness goals in my youth. If I had, I’d probably have settled on a desire to look good naked and lift heavy things. Fine goals, it’s true, but never clarifying them meant I never really worked toward them. My goals are different now. They’re written down, my coaches know them, and I keep them in mind when making training or eating decisions.
And for the record I look great naked.
Knee a bit stiff after squats? Don’t worry about it. You’re 20, these things sort themselves out. But when you hit an age where shop assistants start calling you Sir or Ma’am, you have to pay a bit more attention.
This can be a good thing.
You can get away with fudged technique when you’re young. You can’t when you’re older. You can see this as a weakness or you can look at it as a reason to catch problems earlier, get better at mobility, and get your technique right. There are no prizes for guessing which approach will give you an advantage.
Maybe some items on the list don’t quite apply to you. Maybe you can think of a few advantages I’ve missed. (Do comment if so.) Whatever your own personal list is, remember to look over it once in a while. When you get to be as old as me you realise that focusing on the good in life can take you far.
Happy training – Geoff