BoomerCafé Co-Founder and Executive Editor Greg Dobbs has always lived an intensely busy and physically active life. While the years have stacked up for him – as for all of us – Greg is looking at the core of his driving force, and part of it is feeling young.
The other day I was talking with a friend here in Colorado about my physical workouts — not at the gym, but skiing hard on mountain runs in the wintertime and biking hard on mountain roads in the summer. And in the course of our conversation, I suddenly heard myself say, “I’d better get in as much of it as I can now because I’ll be 68 soon and who knows how much longer I’ll be able to do these kinds of things.”
Suddenly, I wanted to kick myself! I’ve never lived by the calendar and don’t intend to start. But I guess somewhere deep inside, I harbor this fear that one day, maybe one day soon, I won’t be able to do what I do now.
It’s not unnatural, or irrational. I went to a website not long ago that allows you to simply plug in your birthdate, and once you do, it tells you how many times your heart has beat since you were born, how many times your lungs have sucked in air, your knees have served as shock absorbers on hard pavement, your ears have tolerated inhuman levels of sound. The numbers are astronomical; the zeros stretch on for a mile. You walk away thinking, no wonder I’ve slowed down!
And in my case it’s true. I neither ski as aggressively as I used to — jumps, shmumps! — nor pedal up mountain passes as strongly, or painlessly, as I once did. A couple of years ago I went mountain-biking out in California’s Sierras with my two sons, both in their thirties, and while I was glad and even a little bit proud to be out there with them at all, every time we came to a stop, then took off again, they went from zero to 60 in a fleeting moment and I felt like a ’64 Chevy Corvair against their 2014 Corvettes.
So the day after I wanted to kick myself for predicting my physical demise, I decided to put an end to that kind of thinking by going out and pretending that I’ll soon be 28, or 38, or even 48, instead of the reality of 68. I got on my bike and set out to scale the granddaddy of mountain passes in my neck of the woods, Colorado’s Mt. Evans. The top is actually more than 14,000 feet above sea level; it’s the highest paved road in North America. I climbed it on my bike back in my 40s, but I know my lungs wouldn’t support me now, so before reaching the access road to the summit, there’s a lower summit at 11,400 feet, a 16-mile climb from the bottom (7,800 feet), and that would do.
And I did. Not as fast as I once could — two younger bikers (I could see dark hair sticking out from under their helmets) passed me during the course of my almost two-hour climb. But you know what? They’ll be lucky to be riding at all when they’re close to 68-years-old. And who knows? They might not even be able to lift their legs above the crossbar when they’re as old as I am now. So I’m satisfied.
What’s more, it’s not about being young; it’s about feeling young. Once I got to the top, I did. There’s a moral to this story and maybe more than one: our bodies will tell us when to quit and we can’t do much about that, but let it be your body that sends the message, not the calendar. And, while maybe once the motto you lived by was, “First place wins,” today it is, “Finishing wins.”