The Aging Question

You look great for your age.

How’d that make you feel? I can’t think of any age where I’d want to hear, “You look good for your age.”  It’s always nice to hear that you have benefited from your years of life experience. Who doesn’t like hearing they provided sage advice? I think no matter how old you are, you feel good about your accomplishments. Doing well, making the most of your abilities, being recognized for a job well done feels good at every age. So why do we quantify our compliments with the phrase, “for your age?”

Tom Brady isn’t a great quarterback for his age. Tom Brady is a great quarterback. He’s earned that distinction through years of discipline and doing what it takes to maintain play-readiness. From the outside, looking in, it doesn’t appear that Tom Brady is making considerations based on his age. What seems clear is that he makes decisions based on how he wants to perform.

There’s another phrase that I don’t love: I’m getting too old. It’s possible that your age might mean that you take a little longer to warm up. Folks with a few more birthdays might need a little more time to recover, but they’re not too old. You can be in better condition for certain activities than others. If your knees are shot, you shouldn’t train for a marathon. If an old injury has led to arthritis, you’ll need to approach physical activity with that fact in mind. Your age is not the issue. Your physical condition is the logical conclusion of a number of factors: time and genetics play a role, but your lifestyle and history are significant contributors as well.

When the question of age comes up with my clients, I ask them to describe their desired result. We examine what’s controllable in their lives and we remove every obstacle between them and their healthiest selves. Before we allow ourselves to explore age as a limitation, we have to take an honest inventory of everything else in our lives. Are we eating well? Is our exercise regimen appropriate for our abilities and current condition? Are we properly outfitted? If we don’t remove every excuse in our lives, “I’m too old” becomes a crutch.

Let’s revisit the earlier article I wrote about taking a road trip. If we begin our journey without checking the air in the tires, making sure the alignment is right, and we don’t adjust our driving according to road conditions, our vehicle is going to be a mess at the end of the journey. However, if you make different decisions at the onset – if you decide that you’re going to get the oil changed on schedule, keep good tires on it, and drive it according to its design, the age of the car will never enter the conversation. Yet, we hear the guy driving the beater-car complain and the first thing he says is, “I hate this old car.” An old car can be a car that is proven, that is reliable, and that you’re happy to see every time you get to the driveway. An old car can be a car with advantages, but it’s going to require care.

Being too old to do something means you physically can no longer perform that function because of the stage of your life. Rarely do I hear the phrase, “I’m too old” in proper context. Not rarely, never. I’ve never heard someone accurately describe their age properly as the source of their limitations. Do we all face limitations as we age? Of course. But we are not our limitations.

Let’s do a quick exercise. Finish this sentence: I can’t live the life I want to live because_______________.

I bet the first word after “because” is “I.” What follows after “I” is a myriad of excuses. I am too old, I am not coordinated, I don’t have enough money, I am tired, I have kids, I work too much. The list of self-imposed limitations goes on and on. I find that the people who can name the obstacles in their life are the same ones who don’t see the obstacles in the lives of the successful. It’s as if they’re saying that a successful person hasn’t had to overcome a business schedule, physical limitations, financial concerns, and the world around us. It’s as if they chalk the success of others up to luck and their own failures as unfair disadvantages. It’s a mindset that exists at every age, every economic level, body type, gender, and ability. But more and more, Age is the one that folks like to return to when discussing their limits.

It’s important that we celebrate the benefits of every stage of our lives. As you get older, your financial stability usually increases. Your temperament changes, you likely have a better sense of the things that bring you the most joy. Getting older means knowing more about yourself and the world around you. Matching your physical well-being only makes sense.

If we agree to that mindset, “I’m getting too old” begins to sound a lot like, “I’m giving up.” I’m not in the business of giving up and usually, my clients don’t come to me because they’re ready to quit. They come to me because they’ve sensed a barrier between them and their best selves and they want to remove it.

Let me tell you about Roger Bannister. Prior to May 6, 1954 no one had ever run a mile in less than four minutes. In fact, the term “the Four Minute Barrier” had been applied to attempts at a faster one-mile run. Roger Bannister was the first person to run a sub-four-minute mile. Imagine that. No one, not one person, had ever been measured running that fast. Bannister wasn’t interested in what no one had done. He was interested in what he could do. What’s fascinating about the story of the first four-minute mile is how long it took for someone else to come along and break that record. The number of runners who could boast that speed went from zero, to one, to two in just 46 days. Since then, over 1400 athletes have run a mile in under four minutes. It’s a standard by which middle distance runners are gauged. So, why am I telling about Sir Roger Bannister? Because he broke a barrier and people followed him. It’s like the world just needed to know that it could be done. Somewhere out there may be the first runner to run a mile in under three minutes. That seems impossible, but so did the four-minute mile until May 6, 1954.

Am I telling you to get into the sprint lane down at the local high school track? No. What I am telling you is that you probably don’t really know your limitations. You may believe that you can’t be successful at maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it’s true. But you don’t believe that because it’s true, it’s true because you believe it.

If you continue to believe that you are too old to do something, it will remain true and eventually you’ll believe you’re too old to do anything. We believe what we tell ourselves. We make it true. However, if you will decide that your age brings with it wisdom and tenacity, then we’ll break every Four Minute Barrier life presents you.

Let us know your positive discoveries surrounding your age.  How did you celebrate?  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@ptfitness), and Instagram (@ptfitnessdfw). Share #theagingquestion so we can encourage and celebrate with you. See you soon!