In a few days I will reach 78 years of age. While not a seminal birthday, such as 80 or 90, it’s still big enough to lead me to pause and think. My first thought was, “How did I get here so quickly?” I suspect many of you know that feeling.
In terms of fitness, the good news is that I’m able to do virtually everything today that I was doing 25 years ago – just not as quickly. I’m not the first guy up a hill on my bike, but I do make it. I long ago accepted that the golf ball is never going to travel as far as it once did, so I’ve moved up to a more appropriate tee box.
Last year I did a cycling trip with my son, his wife and a dozen of their friends, all much younger than I. We cycled for 10 days in Sardinia and Corsica in very hilly terrain. It was the hardest athletic activity I’ve ever done. The good news is that I completed every day’s ride. I have no intention of doing a similar ride again. As Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
I have a good friend who prefers anonymity who will turn 91 soon. I’ve never heard him say anything about how much longer he expects to be around, or any concern about the topic. Maybe I’ll ask him sometime, but I don’t think so. It’s more interesting challenging him about his belief in the continuing growth of Apple. He can recite details of their product successes and cash flow, outstanding for his age. He still exercises daily and complains loudly when he hits a poor golf shot. I suspect both contribute to his longevity.
Jack, a fellow cyclist in his mid-60s in Bucks County, PA, has atrial fibrillation, which he manages with one medication. His cardiologist recently said they should talk soon about when he will be giving up cycling due to his age and health issue. Jack said that before they have that conversation he would like his doctor to meet me, a dozen years his senior, and Alan, another cyclist, soon to turn 86. (I can’t keep up with Alan going up hills – he’s a former professional cyclist.) The doctor got it.
Many decades ago I developed the habit of regular exercise. I was a runner until a lower back problem developed. Then it was swimming laps, along with cycling. I was addicted to tennis for a several decades, playing several mornings each week before work. Golf came later, after retirement. Today I do fitness exercises, cycle three days a week plus play golf and pickleball several days a week.
What would I be able to do now if I hadn’t exercised regularly for years? I don’t know, but I don’t think it would be anywhere near what I can do today. The future belongs to the fit.