Staying Fit As You Age

Ever since I hit the big “p” (as in puberty), and all the way through high school, I was a tad on the chubby side. Even after I joined the Air Force, I was heavier until one day I’d just had enough of it. I don’t remember the epiphenous (is that a word?) moment, but I’d bet the bag of Keebler Soft Batch I was eating at the time that it had something to do with self-loathing. The next day I walked the 75 yards over to the Army health club on the base I had to live on and made friends with the civilian guy who worked there. Over the next year and a half, I went from 170 lbs of mostly water, bone and fat, to 155 lbs of water, bone and lean muscle mass.

I would like to take moment here and personally thank Cindy Crawford for putting out “Shape Your Body,” without which, my winter workouts (and my fantasies) would have suffered.

Over time though, my overexuberant quest for physical perfection left me with multiple ruptured discs in my back, leading to two back surgeries after I’d left the military (you never let military surgeons open you up unless you have a bullet lodged in you and you’re bleeding out on the table).

It’s been twelve years since I got out of the military and since then I’ve gotten married and now have two kids, which, if you’re married, then you know…if there’s one thing that will derail your health regiment, it’s marriage and kids. I also unfortunately have a metabolism that quickly adjusts to any attempt to kick-start it by going into “starvation mode” and storing everything I eat on the off chance I’ll fall off a boat in the Adriatic Sea and need the added warmth that only a spare tire will afford.

But even with all these excuses, I’ve been pretty consistent, only missing the gym due to surgeries, sinus infections and vacation. But lately, the toll is starting to get to me. There’s not much that doesn’t hurt, my back most of all. Sitting is especially joyful, and working in a cubicle farm is a particular kind of hell from which there is little reprieve.

So my question is, when is enough…enough? At only 34, there’s no way I can give up working out, but at the same time—in my mind—why bother working out at all if you’re not trying to make gains? Sure, I could go in there day after day and go through the motions like all the other zombies, but my heart wouldn’t be in it, and would I really be doing any good anyway?

If my wife knew how much pain I was in, she would berate me to no end with something to effect of, “I don’t want to be married to a 45 year old man who can hardly walk! You need to stop.” At the same time, she also knows I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had to stop.

So what do you do? I guess it comes down to what’s most important to me. Do I live life with a zealous “carpe diem” attitude and all the pain it entails, or do I listen to my body and take up namaste yoga and accept the inevitable weight gain and mirror avoidance that’s sure to follow?

Is there a happy medium? If so, it’s going to require more than just a change of exercise routine; it’s going to require a mindset change and that’s perhaps the hardest exercise of all.

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