I love the film series John Wick. Keanu Reeves, 53-years-old, plays a hit man who is virtually made of teflon. The ageless Wick spends the bulk of the films taking, and giving, a beating in every possible way imaginable. Whether run over by a car, stabbed, shot, or jumped by 50 assassins, John bounces right back into action. Wouldn’t it be awesome if real life were like reel life? (I don’t know about you but I’d love to recover in mere seconds.) Wouldn’t it also be nice if everyone you admired, especially action film and sports stars, told the truth about his/her fitness struggles? Then we, mere humans, wouldn’t constantly be compared to seemingly ageless adults who have a literal team of people whose job it is to make them appear celestial.
As I write this, my muscles are sore. The day before I did a chest workout with my 23-year-old training partner. (I lift heavier than he does despite being old enough to be his dad.) In a few days, my efforts will be rewarded but for today it sucks. Where is my support team of trainers, physicians, therapists, personal chef, nutritionists, healers, corporate honchos, to get me back to the gym? Wait, what am I saying? I can’t afford that. I’m not Tom Brady!
Here’s what I believe. It’s okay to act your age. Before you scream heretic and click off, hear me out. If being youthful is a state of mind, note feelings are fickle. Aging is a constant. Your feelings can affect your body but your body doesn’t care about your feelings. Positivity alone doesn’t cure arthritis. Until we can stop time, reverse the effect of gravity, you are who you are. You are your age, chronologically, biologically, legally. Why not just feel great about age and own it?
Accepting your limitations is not equal to readying your final resting place. You just leave kid’s games behind you. You create opportunities. Find new athletic rewards. There are many exciting things to choose from that don’t involve training for American Ninja Warrior or Crossfit. How about learning to surf? Play non-contact sports? Tai chi? See, you can still have an adrenaline rush and remain averse to increased likelihood of injury. Risk and pain are unavoidable in a growth cycle yet can be managed.
The truth is every fit person, at every age, is living in some form of managed pain. This goes for any dancer, athlete, soldier, olympian, physique model, action star or anyone who uses their body daily. Look past the awards, the painted on smiles, the money, and the fame. Part of the gig is not talking about the negative and that silence is misleading.
Here is the unsaid, real world athleticism is not just about hard work, diet and glory. It’s about refining technique, preserving strength, managing injury, injury prevention, getting your rest, constantly checking your ego and living with consequences, some painful. The choices we make today show up decades from today. A mature athlete encounters greater risks and requires longer repair time. Even Keanu Reeves, out of character, realizes he’s not a young man and has to check himself.
However, there are always cautionary tales. One shouldn’t expect 55-year-old Tom Cruise to stop trying to sell he’s the same actor we met in 1987. Five months after an accident, performing a stunt on the set of Mission Impossible 6, Cruise’s ankle is still broken. Iron Tom ain’t got time for the pain. He’s still working on his hobbled leg. No one will dare mention to him the longterm ramifications of his vanity and work ethic on his health. Denial resides in a production studio in Hollywood.
I treat my body as an adult in his forties should. Even then when working SMART, I am sore. There are days when I spill out of bed with my muscles throbbing, joints aching. And before you think it, it’s an age thing. It hurt even when I was twenty-six. The difference is with age, you don’t spring back as fast.
Training-wise, I am methodical. I have an individualized strength training plan that incorporates lifting weights, sustaining my aerobic endurance, building my core, and maintaining my mobility/flexibility. I insure I work on everything from my rotator cuffs to building my calves, my sole focus isn’t just my chest and arms. I’m also not performing generic, adrenaline-fueled workouts that fulfilled me 20 years ago. Why? They don’t produce the desired results anymore. Why risk injury?
It’s a hard fact to accept that you do not recover as well from injury after 40. This has nothing to do with muscle hypertrophy, which is part of the training process. After age 40, muscles contain fewer satellite cells — specialized stem cells that help tissues repair themselves. With fewer satellite cells, minor muscle tears can turn into major injuries.
Being an active aging adult can be a lighthearted experience. Be serious about training and the adaptation process. Leave the shenanigans to people who still have something to prove. Choose better battles.
Life goes on.
I appreciate feeling good about myself, emotionally, physically and sexually. It is worth the time spent performing selfcare. This confidence that allows me to let you know that I don’t need to be perfect. I can drop the facade that the training process doesn’t have its bumps. A well-trained body that cooperates with your goals doesn’t come easy. Here’s a few more quick tips…
- Make friends with ibuprofen.
- Get a massage, it’s therapeutic.
- Guard against yearly weight gain.
- Train according to a plan not your ego.
- Be honest.
And remember you can still be inspired by the movies, by actors, by sports figures, and accept that you exist in different realities. Choreograph your real world activities to your strengths. Let the stuntmen in your life, aka kiddos, do a bit more of the heavy lifting as you enjoy their toils. Haven’t you earned the right to take it a little easier? Let yourself off the hook.