People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
– The Who, My Generation
At 65, I’m close to being a leading edge baby boomer. I hate to say that I’m ashamed of most of my fellow boomers. A recent study found that we’re in worse shape than our parents were at the same age. There’s a surprise. Pathetic losers throwing what’s left of their lives away. I wouldn’t care, but they’re destroying the health care system. What irony, we have the best medical care in history and it’s overwhelmed by the laziest generation in history.
It’s not just being the laziest and fattest generation that infuriates me. We were the generation that was going to change the world. And we definitely weren’t going to grow up to be our parents.
How’d that work out? Our parents saved the world from Adolph Hitler, so maybe they’ll turn out to be the greatest generation after all. God knows it’s not us. Look at the fat, greedy jackasses in congress for a snapshot. Age of Aquarius my ass.
I can’t speak to the open corruption and hypocrisy in how our country is run because I have no answers to moral turpitude, which listens to no one, but I do know a little about being fit in old age, and it just isn’t that difficult.
Exercise every day. Too hard? Start to exercise every day and quit as soon as you want, but do it every day. Eventually you’ll start to notice that you feel better after even a short session and it all builds from there.
The easiest way to start is a stationary bike. You’re sitting down and all you have to do is turn the pedals. That’s pretty much all I did from age 31 to 55 (weights off and on, mostly off), but I did it every day. Sometimes more than once a day if I needed an extra lift.
I can’t tell you how many times that has saved the day when I ate a heavy lunch and came home after work dreading some engagement in the evening because I was so full and so miserable. I remember one time very specifically when I lived in West Los Angeles. There was a Mexican restaurant in the business park where I worked and I had a burrito supreme or something similar and a couple of glasses of wine (it was the 80’s). Never mind that I was going to drive to Canyon Country for a big chili dinnner. Somehow I made it through the afternoon, but after work I was bloated, drowsy, irritable, and generally miserable. Certainly not looking forward to the evening.
But I climbed on the bike and did my thirty minutes, and amazingly, after I took a shower, I felt great, and had a great evening.
Another specific instance is from about ten years later when I was working at home and stayed up till about 3 am programming. When I finally went to bed I was wired from too much coffee and programming. Of course I didn’t sleep well, and when I got up I felt like crap, and still wired. What a miserable day it was going to be.
So I literally dragged myself onto the bike and started slowly turning the pedals. Horrible? Yes. But like I always do in that situation, I asked myself how I would feel if I stopped. The answer – miserable and hopeless. Hopeless because I was facing a day of feeling this way. The best I could do was just lay around. I didn’t feel like reading, or watching television, or programming, or much of anything.
So I kept pedaling, and pretty soon I started feeling a little better. I kept it up for the full half hour, and once again, after a shower I felt great. The best part was that now I felt relaxed, so I was able to go back to bed and sleep for a couple of hours, and the day was saved.
Over the years there had to be hundreds of times when, after riding and settling in for the evening, either at the computer or watching television, I would notice how much better I felt than when I got home and be amazed. How could I have felt so bad and now I feel so good? Most of the time I would just take it for granted and not notice. But when I did – the difference still amazes me, although it shouldn’t. It’s just biology. If the right chemicals are not there, you feel rotten. If they are, you feel good. The only way to get them there is to fire up the processes that flush out the old bad ones and create the good new ones.
At 55 I discovered jump rope. It probably took at least a month before it started to be fun because I was so terrible. But that was ok, because each workout only lasted about 5 minutes in the beginning. 5 minutes of missing over and over again wears you out just from frustration. So when it came time to exercise it was “30 minutes on the bike or 5 minutes of trying to jump rope?” Now I have to be truthful and admit I usually had already ridden the bike that morning. But this time I was exercising at least a couple of times a day to get that exuberant feeling I had come to crave. I used to have trouble describing it, I now realize it’s euphoria.
Anyway, I stuck with it and eventually I was able to actually jump for more than a couple of minutes and jumping to music started to be fun, which the bike never was. Tolerable, yes, fun no, although the imaginary bike races where I was always ‘the kid’ were sometimes a nice diversion.
Once jump rope started to be fun, it all became easy peasy. I’m 65 now and in the best shape of my life. I started doing weights every couple of days or so about 18 months ago and that’s really enhanced the results both physically and in how I feel. And for Christmas I got an Iron Gym, which is a pull-up bar with a number of hand positions. When I’m feeling drug out and it’s too soon to jump again or do weights, I do a few pull-ups and take a shower. Another big improvement.
I see infomercials for extreme workout programs where all you have to do is workout 40 minutes a day to get amazing results. Just bring will power. Hey, if I had that much will power, I wouldn’t need their program. I have great admiration for people who can do them, but it’s not me. I have no will power. I proved that to myself from age 14 to 31 when I started and quickly gave up on one workout program after another.
The only one I couldn’t give up on was army basic training. I was in mediocre shape when I went in, in pretty good shape when I finished basic, and in terrible shape at 247 pounds when I got out two years less eight weeks later. So that’s how that went.
And on the morning news they have the one-minute workout. Do this one, and do this one, and do this one, and do this one… Great if people actually do them, and if they do them every day they’ll probably be successful. Or the jillions of healthy recipes. Again, great if you take advantage of them, but it’s just too much for me. I need for things to be simple, and I need to feel good immediately afterwards. Otherwise, I’m not going to keep it up for very long.
And walking. Don’t get me started. Great if you have a couple of hours every day and walk at a brisk pace, but strolling around the block isn’t going to do it, either for your health or in improving how you feel. Maybe you’ll have that illusion for a couple of days, but unless you step it up that will fade, in my opinion.
Woody Allen said something like “Eighty percent of success is just showing up”. My generation can’t even do that. Easier to sit on our fat asses and be miserable than to make an effort to even feel good, let alone be fit and healthy.
But in the end it’s not about the generation you’re in or even about being a good influence on others. For something to really happen you have to make an effort to feel better than you do right now and accept that exercise can make that happen. If you do that, and follow the steps I’ve gone on about ad nauseum in other other articles on starting an exercise habit, you can save the quality of your own life and actually enjoy doing it, or at least not hate it; because on the personal, day to day level, it’s not about how much weight did I lose or how much muscle did I gain, it’s about how I feel better both physically and mentally after exercise. And how that makes the quality of life better each and every day.
And if you can jump safely, and start with jumping to music, and stick with it past the tedious part of learning to jump, it will start being fun right away.