(That image above is Lucas Cranach’s “The Fountain of Youth.”)
First, a little rant. After encountering the umpteenth reference to an “anti-aging” expert, or vitamin, or diet, or serum, or face cream, or pill, or mask, or… WHATEVER… I found myself sputtering like Yosemite Sam. AGING IS A BIOLOGICAL THING. It happens. Aging is the alternative to dying earlier. (“We’re born, we live a little while, we die,” in the words of Charlotte the spider.) What matters is not THAT we age, it’s HOW we age. And to some extent, most of us can make decisions NOW – today – that help determine how the rest of our aging is going to go, no matter HOW old we are. That’s kind of the whole point of this blog.
Maybe I’m growing more sensitive to this “anti-aging” nonsense because I am increasingly experiencing the slights, stereotypes, and shrinking professional opportunities that come with being over 50 in a culture that fetishizes 20- and 30-somethings. I do not wish to be 20 or 30 again. I am enjoying a sense of wholeness, alignment, and a growing ability to (eventually) quiet my relentless inner critic that I couldn’t even dream of then. It’s so much easier to live inside my 58-year old head than it was to live in my 30- year old head. That is worth its weight in bench presses.
“Everyone wants to live long, but no one wants to get old,” writes Daniel Lieberman (in a book I returned before I finished the first chapter, because I found the whole premise so irritating). Look. There will be things we can’t do as fast or as long or maybe even as well as we did at 25. But there will be other things we do better – because we know more, have practiced longer, and have a better sense of what we want to prioritize in our remaining years.
In post after post, I try to feature “role models” who have either stayed active – and even competitive in their chosen sport – far longer than the average human, or who have taken up a sport or made a commitment to wellness for the first time in their lives, when most people have long since decided they’re “too old for that.” It is almost never too late. Start where you are, and enjoy the journey from there.
See that Instagram embedded on the left? I am not at all sure I can do an 18″ box jump. But you’d better believe I’m going to try, now.
We know that one of the realities of aging is that we lose a bit of muscle every year, IF we don’t preserve and nurture it with strength-training and a protein-rich(er) diet. I have confessed before that I’m noticing how much more difficult it is for me to do movements that used to come easily: moving larger furniture, hopping over obstacles, climbing, etc. Obviously, I need to crank up the weight workouts. But I don’t want to just manipulate some barbells and dumbbells. I want to be able to move or lift what I weigh. So I have been Googling some body-weight calisthenic workouts, lately, trying to get my nerve up. (If reading about exercise, and watching YouTube workouts, and listening to podcasts about exercise COUNTED as exercise, I’d be in the best shape of my life.) Good old calisthenics can be a GREAT workout routine, combining strength and mobility training with a bit of cardio – especially if you put the exercises together in a kind of circuit routine. PLUS, many basic calisthenic exercises can be done anywhere, any time of day or night. That is a big bonus in my overscheduled life right now.
I’ve had to contemplate postponing my 2021 triathlon goal; I just can’t figure out how to fit swim workouts into my week without cutting the dog walks short, or getting even less sleep. But THIS goal seems doable: by the end of this summer, I want to be doing pull-ups, L-sits, and a handstand. And I will commit to providing video proof.
Speaking of sleep… (I was, up there…) If you thought you slept badly before, wait until you listen to this Rich Roll podcast interview with sleep researcher Matthew Walker. The first hour – which is as far as I’ve gotten in this marathon podcast – contains enough terrifying information to leave you lying awake staring at the ceiling for hours, worrying about whether your sleeplessness (or your poor quality sleep) is going to give you cardiovascular disease, or dementia, or cancer.
I don’t have as much trouble falling asleep as I have staying asleep. But you know what has been helping with that? Guided meditations right before I go to bed. There are lots of free ones, specifically for sleep help, on the Insight Timer app.
I leave you with another role model, 70-year old vegan chef and athlete, Chef Babette… < Click that link for a great interview.