I was fascinated to read Joe Nocera's recent New York Times column about his turning 60 years of age.
While Nocera's chief lamentation was the near total destruction of his retirement savings, he also complained bitterly about his failing body.
He wrote, “...if there's one thing I can say with certainty it's that 60 is not the new 50.” Nocera said his “...body creaks and groans. (His) eyes aren't what they used to be. (He) doesn't sleep as soundly as (he) did just a few years ago. (And), lately (he's) been seeing a lot of doctors just to make sure everything still more or less works.”
Ouch. That's sounds like a mighty old 60. I'm turning 58 today and, in virtually every way imaginable, I'm much better than I was at 48.
Let's start with the non-physical components. In the last 10 years, I've written a book that was published by McGraw-Hill, been named a weekly columnist by Inc.com, become a stand-up comedy performer, named PR News blogger of the year, studied improvisation, created and launched two, first-of-a-kind Peppercom services and raised tens of thousands of dollars for my two favorite charities.
On the fitness front, my 58-year-old self could run rings around his 48-year-old predecessor. I began mountain climbing in 2005, added rock and ice climbing to my repertoire a few years after that and am now attacking a new alpine challenge every single month. I've completed 200-mile bike rides, many half marathons and continue to play squash as well as ever.
I've experienced my real personal Renaissance, though, in just the past six months. In that time, I've simultaneously embraced the wonderful worlds of Kangoo (www.mariothetrainer.com) and boxing. Yes, Virginia, boxing. My dad and son were, and are, boxers, so I thought it was high time I laced on the gloves. By co-mingling Kangoo and boxing, I've literally bounced and punched my way to new fitness heights.
I think Nocera is like many of my peers. They give up on exercise and wellness when first hitting middle age. As their bodies naturally start to degrade, they do little, if anything, to alter the inevitable. These are the people who join gyms, try it once or twice, and then never show up again. They're also the types who are constantly trying the latest fad diet. They'll drop a quick 20 pounds, only to gain 30 more back.
I don't know Nocera's personal health history, but I'm maniacal about wellness. That's because my family history is replete with heart disease, stroke and cancer. And, I intend to do everything in my power to avoid all three.
I also believe lifelong learning should include physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. Most see lifelong learning as simply a mental exercise.
Being better at 58 requires the same type of discipline Nocera needs to crank his out New York Times columns. Apparently, though, he's never experienced the runner's high that comes with extreme exercise, the sense of accomplishment (and serenity) one feels when setting foot on a three-mile high mountain or the rush of having 100 people laugh at one of your comedy bits.
I'm sorry to hear Joe's a cranky 60. And, I can't imagine what he'll be like if, and when, he hits the big 7-0. As for me, I'm planning on keeping my mind open, my legs climbing and my fists punching. Joe and I will both end up at the same, final destination, but I'd like to think I'll have lived a much fuller life. And so can you. Pre-existing medical conditions and catastrophic injury aside, the only thing preventing you from being a better 58 than 48 is you.