Use It Or Lose It

As I inch closer and closer to the age of retirement, I find myself focusing more on health and fitness. I guess that’s a normal thing. When we’re younger, it’s not so much of a concern. Bad things only happen to old people (not true) and we’ll always be able to get out and do the things we enjoy most (also not true, unless it involves a lot of sitting).

We talk a lot about dreams and success, but none of that really matters if we’re too frail or out of shape to enjoy it. When I was in the Navy, we made a port visit to Monaco. A group of us went to the Jacques Cousteau museum, at the top of a cliff next to the port. We had to climb several hundred steps to get there. And, believe me, it was worth the climb.

Now, I’m pretty sure we could have taken a taxi, but we were young and it was a nice day. Besides, the scenery was awesome. And not a one of us was tired when we reached the top. But if I tried that today, I’d never make it past the first 100 steps. And that’s with several rest breaks along the way.

That bothers me, because there are some magnificent attractions in this world that you can only access by climbing stairs. Pyramids don’t have elevators, and I don’t think you can get a helicopter to drop you off at the top. And even if I did make it to the top, I’d probably fall trying to get back down. It’s an attraction I’d have to admire from the ground.

Pick up any travel or leisure magazine, and they’re full of pictures of people zip lining, bungee jumping, or simply hiking up a narrow trail to swim at the base of a waterfall. And never once do you see them sitting on the side of that trail with an inhaler and a bottle of nitroglycerine. These people are having the time of their lives.

Most of us will work for at least forty years before we’re able to retire. All the more reason to set aside some money and do it while we’re still young, but that’s not always an option. Between paying bills, raising a family, and climbing the corporate ladder, life has a way of pushing our plans back. “Next year” we say. “Keep that magazine handy, because someday we’re going to do that!”

Well, magazines are a good way to feed your dreams and, if you’ve been reading these posts any time at all, you know I’m a proponent of dream-building. But if you neglect your health and fitness along the way, all the dreaming in the world won’t fix that. You may still get to your destination and you’ll have fun. But think of all those things you won’t be able to do when you get there.

Make no mistake – as we age, our health and physical abilities will deteriorate. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t mean we have to passively accept it. And most doctors will tell you that physical activity, even a little, can make a huge difference in not only our level of fitness, but also in our physical and mental health.

I used to bowl on a league, and one night they stopped us mid-game to wish a member of the league a happy birthday. He was 103. More than a hundred years old, and still at it. They handed him a microphone and he told us he’d been bowling his entire life, and that if he hadn’t remained active, he’d have died years ago.

Now, my guess is the ball he was using weighed about half as much as mine, but it’s not about how much you can do – it’s about doing something. Anything to get you out of the house and moving. I see people in the gym who are much older and in much worse shape than I am, struggling to walk a leisurely pace or lift ten pounds. But you know what? They’re trying. They’re doing something.

We all have visions of a better, more relaxing life, and we spend most of our days on this planet working to attain that. And, for most of us, that day will come. We may not retire on a tropical beach or have the means to travel the world. But there’s something to be said for playing with the grandkids or getting through the grocery store without having to stop and take a breather.

So, as you work toward those dreams, make sure you take care of the body that will help you make the most of them. If you’re young and healthy, don’t take that for granted. And if you’re older and less fit, do something about it. Every little bit helps. It’s your life, so make the most of it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved