Life is about feeling young

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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.”

Greg takes a moment during a bicycle ride high in the Rockies for a selfie.

Greg takes a moment during a bicycle ride high in the Rockies for a selfie.

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.

One of the views that Greg enjoys during his high country bicycling rides.

One of the views that Greg enjoys during his high country bicycling rides.

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.”

6 Comments

  1. Great piece, Greg, and an excellent message: it’s all about feeling young, I couldn’t agree with you more. Well said and lovely pictures!

    I remember the first time I realized the years had passed for me, I was still relatively young, about 55 (if I recall rightly) and on duty travel in Peru for the United Nations (I was working at the time for FAO as a project evaluation expert) and I had decided to take off on a Sunday and go visit Machu Picchu. On the little train chugging up I had this young German girl sitting next to me, she was my daughter’s age and reminded me of her, same blond hair and narrow built, so we started a conversation and soon became friends. We visited the whole site together and that’s when I realized the years had passed for me: she jumped up the stone stairs (very steep and hard to climb at that altitude!) and darted in and out of every temple and house. I was out of breath trying to keep up with her! But we enjoyed the same things and walked away with the same memories…So inside I felt good, even if outside I didn’t look it!

  2. Thank you for a terrific post and so timely as I celebrated another one of my 60’s birthdays. Two years ago I celebrated a friend’s 100th birthday, and he did it by giving a presentation on major Supreme Court cases at a local law school, and with out notes. Later that evening, as he finished dancing his third or fourth dance, he told me rather pointedly, that today 60 is the new forty, so don’t hold back just go for it. I think I will.

  3. So true! I, however, at 59, have someone to chase I can (usually) keep up with; a retired CA lifeguard (Bob, 82, I think) who bikes, swims and (in season) monoskis daily with his wife (mid 70’s) & dogs. It’s always good to have a role model who doesn’t cut you any slack!

  4. Greg, With the way you take care of yourself, I’ll wager that it will be many years in the future before your body tells you to quit. My wife’s mother plays tennis twice a week, does boxing at the gym, belongs to a bike club that regularly goes on 50 and 100 mile rides … I should also mention that she celebrated her 80th birthday by partaking in a 35 mile family bike ride through the rather hilly terrain of California’s wine country. I think the title of your piece says it all: Life is about FEELING young!

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