The Beatles sang “When I’m 64”, way back in 1967; I was 20 years old and the idea of personally being that old was horrifying. Actually, I couldn’t even grasp the concept. 2011 was 44 years in the future, after the turn of the century, so I still had pretty much forever until I was 64. Well, apparently forever is almost up, because in less than 4 months I’ll be 64. How do I feel about it now?
First, come back with me now to a simpler time; 1987, when I turned 40. It was awful. Nothing bad happened per se, but when you’ve just been in your 30’s and now you’re half-way to 80? Obviously the good part of life is over. I remember clearly sometime around 1987 looking in a mirror and thinking, “Wow, you’re old, and you’re never going to be any younger than you are right now”. So imagine how I felt when I turned 50. I agreed with Peter Townshend’s lyric “I hope I die before I get old” back in the 70’s and 50 was the number I had in mind as the cutoff, so you do the math.
Now if you know that I started riding an exercise bike everyday after work in my early thirties you may be thinking “What gives?”. It’s true, I was doing that, and I did get a lift everyday from it that I would not have given up for anything in the world, and I’m sure that overall I was in better shape because of it. I shudder to think how much worse off I would have been if I didn’t have that daily release from lethargy when I got home. But it still wasn’t enough to totally counteract the day-to-day effects of aging, so I still felt old.
Ok, we’ve established that turning 40 was bad and 50 was unthinkable even after it happened. I must have really been dreading 60 when it came around. Actually, I didn’t. It was just another number. So what happened between age 50 and 60 to make the difference?
Answer – I started jumping rope when I was 55. I was working at home and I would ride the exercise bike at noon and again in the evening when I knocked off work. Essentially I was looking for some variety and hopefully something that would be less time-consuming. So I decided to try jump rope. I had always ridden the bike to music. It didn’t make me actually like riding, but it sure made it less tedious. And sometimes you could get into it so the music and the pedalling all went together and it actually was enjoyable. So of course I started jumping to music from the beginning.
For awhile it was really tedious because I couldn’t jump at all. I had to force myself to hold my feet together and hop instead of doing an awkward little skip. It was like I was afraid I would fall over. But even so, it was enough of a workout that I could get what I needed in just a few minutes – jumping and missing over and over again is really hard work – so I kept it up for a few minutes every afternoon.
Gradually I got better. At some point muscle memory kicked in and I could jump consistently. That’s when it started to become fun. The rest is history. The more I jumped, the better I got at jumping to the music and the more fun it became. What I didn’t expect is that it would start to make a difference in my body. By now, eight years later I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. And all because JumpRock is fun. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t jump as much.
So let’s look at the chain of events:
- I started jumping as a new way to burn off lethargy after work – to achieve pleasure
- Jumping turned out to be fun, so I spent more time jumping everyday than I had spent riding everyday
- Because I jumped a lot, moving around to the music, my fitness improved
- Now I’m about to turn 64 and as far as I can tell I’m in better shape than when I turned 40.
The only bad thing is that no matter what, old age does have to be a death sentence. Fortunately you can make the wait on death row less unpleasant by hanging onto fitness as long as possible. I’m trying to show you how to do that by focusing on pleasure. It’s the most trivial reward, but it’s also the most immediate one. It’s the one that appeals on a visceral level and will keep you coming back every day. But you have to nurture it by being consistent and making a good-faith effort.
It doesn’t have to be JumpRock. For me it’s the only fun exercise that doesn’t require money, expensive equipment, location, or other participants. But at least find something you can tolerate to burn off lethargy after work every day. Take back your evenings. Maybe you just watch tv. It’s a lot more fun when you feel good.
So in summary, other than being another year close to death, I don’t mind turning 64. I plan to be in even better shape when I turn 65. Well, not actually plan. I jump to have fun and feel good. Being in good shape is gravy.