The thirty year reunion for my High School is this year. There’s a lot of chatter on Facebook amongst the alumni. Many of them are now living out-of town and are organizing festivities for reunion weekend. One woman (from out of town) was talking about how she’s going to go for a run across the BK bridge and get a few miles in. She invited all who are willing to join her. Now I won’t join her or the others, because I think running is stupid.
Actually, I don’t think that at all. I would like to mix it up a little and go for the occasional run. But whenever I try, I get some serious pain in my hip. It only goes away after I stop running for a few days. If I try to keep running through the pain, it gets bad enough that I can barely walk. It’s hell getting’ old, ain’t it.
I talked to my doctor about it and told him I thought that since riding never bothers my hip, I could just do that for exercise and forestall any hip replacement or anything. He was cool with that. Besides, he explained to me that running is dumb. Hey. He's the doctor.
Anyway, this woman from High school. She’s all “Hey people. Reunion run! Who’s in?” Then she starts calling certain people out. “I know Bob wants to put bandaids on his nipples. C’mon Bob. Run with us!” etc.
Some of the responses reminded me that all the kids I went to high school with have been aging all this time even though I haven’t seen them that much. I am 48 and a half. It makes me feel younger to say “and a half” because only children say that.
One guy responded with, “Run? Are you kidding me? I could barely get out of a car and walk to the bridge, let alone run.”
Then another guy (Jimmy) said, “It’s hell gettin’ old, ain’t it?”
No Farmer John. It’s not “hell getting’ old”. On the contrary. It might be one of the easiest things to do ever. It involves virtually no action on your part. All you have to do is sit there. And before you know it. Tada! You’re old.
What’s tricky is not getting old. Jack Lalanne simply refused to believe that getting old was necessary. I think he actually believed that if he took care of himself correctly, he would not grow old and die. And even though he paid the ultimate price for his folly, it’s hard to argue that his obsession with fitness didn’t play a part in his 96 relatively healthy years.
But I’m having a little fun here. We know what Jimmy meant. But it’s wrong. It’s hell getting out of shape. It takes a certain effort to get into or maintain fitness. It is more important to stay fit as you age, because it is more difficult to get it back once lost. Not impossible. But certainly more work. It’s like maintaining a speed vs. accelerating back up to speed after slowing down (accelerating is harder).
In many of the past incarnations of me getting into shape, I’d get to a point where I didn’t see improvement and quit. I’m not going to do that anymore. I was missing the point. This year I realized that these fast bike riding mother fuckers I ride with can’t be getting faster year after year. In other words, they are maintaining. As previously mentioned, I am a slow learner.
So now, I plan to just get as good as I can and maintain as much of it for as long as possible. I will say that I don’t believe an old body is suited to losing fitness and regaining as I’ve done over and over for the past 15 years.
It helps that I was never in top physical form when I was younger. I know a lot of these guys from high school were active and see that they can’t do what they used to, so they throw in the towel. Some of them have worn themselves down one way or another. So I get that.
I was always suited more to endurance type of activities than others around me. Luckily for my ego, I never much pushed myself to my limit so whatever I achieve these days usually surpasses what I did when I was younger. Mostly.
When I was a 19 year old smoker who never exercised, I once told a girl I could swim a lap of the pool at the YMCA (2 lengths) underwater. Well I was really out of breath when I came up, but I actually ended up going 2 laps (4 lengths) without coming up for air.
Last summer, I was in what I considered to be my best shape ever. Jack and I went swimming quite a bit. After a few weeks, I decided to see if I could get one length under water. Nope. Maybe half. Part of that was my brain. It’s better now than when I was 19. Last summer, my brain said, “Hey, go on up and get a breath. You will positively love it!” I wanted to continue, but I thought it unwise. So I didn’t even make it one length.
When I was 11, I made 1 length under water with jeans and a t-shirt on. It was part of our swim lesson training and I was the youngest one in the class and I was showing off.
So there it is. Proof to me that no matter how hard you work to maintain or even improve fitness, age becomes a limiter.
But the comment. The one about “hell gettin’ old.” It struck me. Yes – I frequently make comments about my age. Or Shim’s age because he is way, way older than me. Like 2 years or something. Which by my math, puts him over 50. The magical “all down hill from here” age. Go for a bike ride with Shim and he will repeatedly show you the true meaning of “over the hill”.
Rider one, struggling up some climb: Shim’s over the hill.
Rider Two: No shit. But where is he? Oh you mean literally.
I’ve heard everything really starts going bad at 50. I heard it about 40 and 45 too. I will hit 50 in about a year and a half and I completely expect to wake up on that day suddenly weak and completely out of shape. I imagine, I’ll get on my bike and ride it painfully to the Trek store to trade it in for a recumbent or a comfort bike or maybe even one of those recumbent 3-wheel jobbies or something.
When I talk about some of the things we do, people say “At your age?” But that’s only because they’ve forgotten the most important thing. That they would do well to eat some shit and then go ahead and die.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine broke his ankle. He was on his skateboard. Well, I assume he wasn’t at the time of the break. He posted photos of himself lying in serious pain at what looked like the bottom of a pool. Thankfully, the pool was empty or he might have drowned. Actually it was probably a skate park.
Anyway, he’s about my age. We went to high school together. Reaction to his mishap was mixed. Some people were obviously supportive and admired the fact that he was out there living life. Others (who I think I might hate – I should look into the reason some time) suggested that he’s too old for that sort of thing.
Umm. Why? Young people break their ankles, right? So to make sure I’ve got the thinking here, after he broke his ankle, he was laid up for a while and couldn’t do much of anything. He was injured. People were saying he was too old to be active. He needed to lie around and do nothing.
Lying around doing nothing is for injured people. Not old people.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some mall walking to do.