Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman, once said, “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” The first time I heard it, it really didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t until I was forty pounds overweight, had severe back pain and was always tired that I really thought more about it. I mean, I was 52 years old, still felt like I could do a lot of things I had given up like softball, mountain biking and weight lifting. But all I heard was that I was just getting old and that’s what happens. We get fat, we can’t do sports any more and we get aches and pains we didn’t get when we were younger.
I had my scheduled physical with my doctor that year and I mentioned my lower back was bothering me. With a sarcastic chuckle (he’s a few years younger than me), he quipped, “that’s called aging.” I’ve heard the same thing form peers, family members and gym buddies. Any ache or pain was just because I was aging. But the more I educated myself, the more I came to understand that I AM an athlete any age does not tell me when I need to stop.
My back wasn’t aching because of my age. It was aching because of inflammation, possibly lifting too much weight, lack of proper hydration and a host of other controllable factors. Not to say age doesn’t play a part in my body breaking down but is that where we are now? Where once we reach a certain age, aches and pain are just part of life we need to accept? And even sadder, the cure for all of this is simply more medications prescribed by our doctor. I was at a cocktail party recently and the question was asked regarding what medications we all had in our medicine cabinet. Other than aspirin and some cold medicine in mine, I was SHOCKED at the list of prescriptions almost ALL my friends were taking daily. That was their cure! Not a mention of changing their lifestyle.
This may all be because the cult of youth. After all, when we reach 40, 50 or 60, we are silly to consider running marathons, mountain biking difficult trails, lifting heavy weights or playing organized sports. We are expected to begin focusing in on retirement, not injuring ourselves, taking it easy. Let the young ones have fun. Which reminds me of a quote from George Bernard Shaw stating, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
And truer words cannot be spoken. I AM an athlete. I know that lifting weights is making me stronger and giving me better bone density. I know that eating clean has helped reduce my back pain and allowed me to drop 30 pounds of fat. I know that a mountain bike ride with my wife improves my cardiovascular capacity. And I know this lifestyle keeps me from having to take handfuls of pills.
A recent study by Penn State showed that lifting weights as you age cuts your risk of death by 46%! But so often I see older people just accept the fact they are aging, do nothing about it and struggle to walk down the street or have trouble just getting out of the car. It makes me sad and a little angry. Think of the years of quality life they are missing out on! I have a feeling we all know a couple people that are over seventy but their lives are VASTLY different because of lifestyles. If you follow Paleo, you are probably familiar with Mark Sisson. And if you need any proof that clean eating, exercise and not accepting getting old, you can’t argue with his results. This man is 63 years young!
We are ALL athletes. We may not get paid to play sports or even do ANY sports. But we need our bodies. We need our body to carry us to the store, the library, the movie theater. We need it to help carry out the trash, to lift boxes, to pick up our children and grandchildren. And it is NEVER too late to start walking, stretching, lifting or changing our eating. If your seventy years old, in ten years you will be eighty. Think of an eighty year old who has been exercising for ten years and eating healthy and one who does nothing and continues to eat foods that are bad for us. It is NEVER too late. SO to borrow another Nike slogan, Just Do It!