I just finished a week of triathlon training here in Arizona. It was so wonderful to be back doing what I love and for the most part, fairly normally.
In the past 15 months since the crash I have only really swam laps once and I only managed 500m. This past week during the six days of camp, we swam over 10,000m.
Thankfully, I have been running since a month after the surgery in December 2015, but even with that, I sure felt the speed and hill training that came along with 36kms of running in less than a week. But it was during the 240kms of cycling that I heard someone say the title for this article.
On the second last day of camp we cycled 108kms including a portion that took us uphill for two hours, then a ripping fast downhill to a mountain lake (Bartlett Lake/Reservoir). Obviously, a big downhill is followed by turning around and heading up hill. Being out of shape and a lot heavier than my camp-mates, I was slower heading back up and was riding along alone. Eventually I passed a gentleman that I would have guessed to be in his late 60s, or maybe older. He had white hair but was right there on the same road as me, riding his bike up that mountain. I made a comment that it ‘sure was easier coming down the other way’. He half smiled and said to me, “Don’t get old son.” We were only in ear shot for a brief moment, but I said back, “It beats the alternative though, have a great day!”
I feel like I know what he meant though. Seeing me ride much faster and seem to zip by him, I probably seemed pretty young and he wouldn’t know that I am a lot closer to 50 than 45. He was probably thinking back to his younger years when he likely could have taught me a thing or two about riding a bike fast up a hill. He also wouldn’t know that having nearly died just over a year ago I was serious; I am pretty happy to be alive and growing old.
To me, being 25lbs over my usual weight and a lot slower climbing my bicycle out of a mountain lake area is still a lot better than…well…not being alive. I am actually pretty happy about getting older in that respect. Yes, my eyes are not as great as they were before the crash or when I was 30, and my hearing is a bit off on one side now, plus add in a shoulder that isn’t right and a dodgy knee…and…well, I am still happy to be alive and getting older.
We seem to be at war in our society with getting older and I certainly feel that now more than ever. I would rather my body stayed 30 something while my mind kept learning stuff, but that isn’t how it works. There is something we can still do about it and that fellow was in the midst of it – he was exercising. He was pushing his muscles and his heart and lungs to stay fit and healthy and young. That is what we can control because getting older will, if we are lucky, happen no matter what we wish for.
Eating great food and exercising is the only fountain of youth that is real and under our control. I know that my time here is limited and the odds of me getting faster are coming to a close some day (not ready to admit that one yet).
The body is still a machine and it still works the same way no matter our age. Resistance training, coupled with good food, water and adequate rest, create adaptation and change. We, as humans, can still grow new muscle tissue at any age. Yes, as we get older the recovery takes longer, the speed to change slows, but the fact remains – we can still adapt. Exercising with intensity causes the release of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and that makes us younger and healthier. The worst thing we can do as we age is stop those three things – training, eating well and recovering. So that man riding his bike up a mountain was creating the same changes I was and although he seemed sad at the memory of years gone by, the fact of the matter is, he was doing what he could to stay young.
Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.