Youth may be wasted on the young, but wisdom is wasted on the old when it’s too late to do anything with it.
We all probably sometimes wish, knowing what we know now, that we could communicate with ourselves in the past and advise changing some crucial decision to get a better result. The result which was then in the future and now in the past when knowing what it was is no help at all.
I unwittingly made such a decision at 31. It directly lead to my physical condition now at 67. As luck would have it, and I do mean luck, I made the right decision so now I’m in much better shape than I expected to be, the best shape of my life actually. So the only difference in knowing how it turned out is that I know I dodged a bullet. I could be in the normal shape of a 67 year old man who rarely or never exercises.
Truly try to think about that as if you were 36 years older than you are now, or at least into early or full-on old age. Less energy, less strength, less stamina, more health problems, visits to the doctor, hospital stays. A horror show relatively speaking. I mean what if all those symptoms of a running-down body were thrust on you now? That would be very, very bad. But it’s also very, very bad to live with them in the future, it just seems very far off to you now. A bullet that will in time find its mark. And then it won’t be abstract, it will be your life.
That’s what I avoided, so I don’t have to send back a message in time to myself. Instead I’d like to send it to all those people who don’t even know they have a decision to make, or haven’t wanted to think about it.
You can dodge that bullet. I’m sitting here right now in my own personal reality of being 67 years old and I’m telling you old age is coming for you. Old age will be here and then it will be now and you’ll have to live with it. There’s no going back and fixing it. But if you listen to me now when there’s still time you can start fixing things before they ever go wrong. All you have to do is exercise almost every day between now and the day you die.
It’s really that easy and it’s really that hard.
So how do you get past the hard part?
Let’s take it one step at a time. Easy or hard, I’m sitting here in my personal reality of right now experiencing the benefits. Looking back, it would be worth any amount of effort to avoid what it would ordinarily be like to be this old. But that’s easy to say now. It’s the same as planning an exercise program without thinking about the reality of having to actually exercise every day. When that reality actually rolls around day after day so things become hard in real-time the idea of old-age consequences as motivator becomes just too abstract.
Even though from the perspective of being 67 years old I can say it would be worth any amount of effort to be in this kind of shape going into old age, as a practical matter that’s not sufficient motivation to keep up an exercise program day after day.
So my message from your future is that it’s worth it to find that motivation. I can tell you absolutely that motivation for me is how exercise makes me feel afterwards, re-energized and with a renewed sense of well-being. I wrote in Exercise and Depression and other places on how to systematically expose yourself to those feelings so that exercise becomes and essential part of your daily life that you wouldn’t consider doing without.
At the simplest level you find some exercise you can tolerate well enough to make the effort to get the reward. For me it was twenty-four years of stationary bikes. I sometimes also did weights and aerobics classes, but the stationary bike I did every day after work was an essential part of my routine and my day. Even when I had long commutes my evening did not start until after I rode the bike.
Hopefully you can find some exercise or exercises that are fun. Then everything is completely different because there’s no real effort involved anymore and you start to become really fit. For me HoopRock and JumpRock are those exercises. I think anyone who likes music would enjoy them as much as I.
So think about it. I lucked into a decision long ago that made all the difference in my life now. I can’t think of how I could be in a better spot now.
It may have happened to me by accident, but you can deliberately make the same decision I did on purpose. Health in old age may be your initial motivation, but like me you can stay motivated by the day-to-day immediate rewards.