Saturday, December 11, 2010

Obstacles, Barriers, Goals... and Age

Obstacles. They're inherent in training, regardless of where they came from. We place them in our paths as a means of pushing ourselves to become better. Sure, most people call them goals. They're still something that gets in our way of our journey. The journey is about getting physically better. To get better, we have to become more than the obstacle.

There are other obstacles though. There are the unwelcomed and unexpected ones that pop up here and there. Work, travel, or injury are different than our goals because they slow down the process of making the journey. It's all just something else that has to be conquered. Still, there's one huge obstacle that we all have to deal with someday: aging.

Things on our body don't seem to work nearly as well as we start to get older. We're a collection of a several trillion cells that make copies of themselves over and over again. Just like a piece of paper on the xerox, the copies of the copies get duller, weaker, and lesser quality as you keep going. Old age is the lead-up to the ultimate barrier to all of our physical endeavors: death.

Even as I enjoy what is presumably my physical peak, I'm not deaf, dumb and blind to the fact that at some point, age will join the list of obstacles that impair my ability to reach goals. Lord knows I've heard from everyone I meet over the age of 40 that I just won't be able to do the things I do know when I'm their age. I get sick of it too. What I refuse to accept is the idea that age-related breakdown is a barrier.

ob·sta·cle \ˈäb-sti-kəl, -ˌsti-\: something that impedes progress or achievement

bar·ri·er\ˈber-ē-ər, ˈba-rē-\: something material that blocks or is intended to block passage

Do we have to stop the strength journey just because we get older and become a less-sharp copy of ourselves? Someone forgot to tell this 66 year old woman...

Yes, I fully realize that there is a lot that's wrong with this picture but there's even more that's right about it. Strange would be a gentle way to describe a grandmother in that kind of condition wearing a bikini and a wig. Amazing might be another. Grannies in bikinis should be something seen in a "Girls Gone Saggy" video. Instead, she decided to give old age the middle finger and not go down to degeneration without a fight.

The might be the key point to the journey: keeping the right outlook... a positive outlook. Assuming aging is a barrier to movement is the negative way to look at things. Treating it like an obstacle to overcome is a better outlook. Bob Delmonteque even goes so far as to declare that it's possible to get younger as you get older.
While I have questions about how long that can be maintained through natural means, I don't doubt that it's possible to do such a thing to some degree. Take Sally's recent blog entry regarding aging and muscle for example. In it, she said...

I’m 35 years old and I’m stronger, slimmer, with less body fat and more muscle than 10 years ago. In other words, I’ve been able to reverse that trend by taking action.

I’ve not done it through ‘cardio’ or by starving myself. I’ve done it through regular weight training and a good diet.

This is not about how great I am or what sacrifices I made. I’m not a professional athlete or bodybuilder, just a regular person who has committed to being in good shape for as long as possible

I don't know how long I can keep up what I'm doing. I don't really care. I'm going to keep at it and simply work around my limitations, hopeful to exceed them or just happy that I can keep going despite them. Either way, I'll keep moving. Hopefully, I can surprise myself and others with how well I can do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Justin,

There are always things we can improve as we age. Clarence Bass's book "Challenge Yourself" is a good book that speaks to the concept of always trying to improve. I am in my early 40's and have strived to stay strong all my life. I found in my late 30's my ability to increase strength with weights stopped. (but hey, I improved for 20 years..) I set new goals for body weight workouts and have found I can make progress on them. (I still mix in weights with the powerlifts) I figure I am going to keep exercising until I die... I will just do what I can and let the chips fall. Your blog is good. Stay strong and live well.