This weekend was awfully busy… I cut down and logged part of a large tree on Saturday, then ran Sunday morning, chopped up a little more of that tree and bowled in the evening. A couple of my older friends commented at bowling last night that I would eventually slow down as I got older, saying that it was just a matter of time. Of course, I was told 20 years ago that I’d start slowing down in my thirties. Ten years ago they said, “Just wait till you’re 40”. Now I’m hearing wait until you’re 50 (or 60).
Just a few years ago when I cut my running down to two days a week I blamed it on the fact that I was getting older, after all I was almost 40 – and I thought I was right. Fast forward three years and I’m more active than ever (cycling, running, now splitting wood, you get the idea). At 42 I’m speeding up, not slowing down. In fact, some of the guys I ride with are faster and quite a bit older than I am – they’re not slowing down either… So what’s the deal?
Without looking up a bunch of scientific research to back up my feelings on the subject, I’m getting the idea that much of the age requirement for slowing down is not only vastly overstated, it appears that many people may use the notion as an excuse to slow down. It’s the only way I can explain what I’ve been seeing for the last 20 years or so. This isn’t to say that I won’t hit an age where I can’t perform at the level I do today – maybe, I’m sure it will happen at some point, but I’m here to tell you, I couldn’t have worked as hard as I did this weekend three years ago – there’s just no way. So my answer, at least last night, was a simple “I don’t think so” and I’ll leave it at that.
As usual, I have a feeling that this whole debate will come down to definitions. The real question will be; have I reached my physical potential yet so that I actually have a baseline from which to slow. Here’s what I mean… The idea that people slow down as they age is pervasive throughout society, right or wrong (I believe the latter). The question, of course, is how much of this is due to age and how much is due to desire (or lack thereof)? I can say, with complete truth and accuracy that I am vastly more fit this year than I was last – and I was vastly more fit last year than the year before that. And contrary to popular wishful thinking, I sped up, considerably. So I would have to define my true potential and whether I have reached it before I can even begin to consider whether I’ve “slowed down” or not.
That, I think, is the real trick to sifting through the BS for reality. Here’s a case in point:
6. Muscle loss is inevitable
It’s common to believe that once you hit 40, you can expect to begin noticeably losing muscle mass with each passing year. A Canadian study comparing active adults between the ages of 53 and 75 with sedentary adults of the same age found that the physically active group had muscle cells that functioned nearly as efficiently as those of 20-somethings. The take-home message here is that a sedentary lifestyle may be more to blame for the loss of muscle mass after 40 than the aging process itself.
To me, this makes sense. It obviously won’t win any “touchy-feely-warm hug” points, but the fact of the matter is I really don’t plan on slowing down until I’m well into my sixties. I don’t believe its a matter of having to as much as it is a matter of wanting to – and I don’t plan on stopping until just before my heart stops pumping. Now this last point is important: I really don’t need anyone to co-sign this – I’ll be just fine. Fortunately my beliefs don’t require anyone else share them – even if many do.
*** There are people out there with real medical limitations obviously – though the one guy I know who has one still manages a daily 3 mile walk and a 12 mile bike ride.