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My oxygen and heartrate monitor flew off the dashboard of the elliptical for the fourth time in five minutes, landing on the floor, too far away for me to reach it without having to stop my progress all over again.


I am so clumsy with this thing. It’s hard. I hate it.

That’s the whole point.


I’ve been training on a rather ancient 1980s road bike, which I retired this past weekend. In primo shape, but it needs to land in some kid’s hands. I set up the Black Bitch, so named because when I first rode her in 2009, she sent me flying into the pavement with my first serious concussion. I had to be hospitalized. I still love her. I punished her by sending her to sit in my garage for four years until I needed to train for Kilimanajo at sixty.

We’re friends now. But I had plenty of discomfort learning to ride her all over again.

That’s the whole point.


The new machine downstairs is an elliptical. Someone else’s expensive castoff. I got it for $100 at a raffle. Nearly brand new. Retails at nearly $800. In my house it’s going to get some work. Once I figure the thing out, that is.

I moved the Black Bitch and trainer upstairs so that I can spend part of the football season watching games while riding. Well, at least that part of the season I’m in country.

Several mornings ago I restarted my yoga program. I’ve been doing Shiva Rea for many years. I hurt all over, trying to move through poses that not long ago were effortless. God I hurt. I came back from a recent adventure just beat to crap, and my body desperately needs to heal. Yoga does that. I went through the moves like a beginner, the familiar music soothing. I was as clumsy as a hobbled ox.

That’s the whole point.


In so many books and articles on aging, one of the themes I see regularly is that you and I, and kindly I’m 66, have to keep pushing a boundary as we evolve. That is, if we wish to keep our brains and bodies youthful. Not young, youthful. Some of the really fun suggestions, and believe me they work, are ballroom dancing, learning a new language, and orienteering. That last is one I am going to point myself at once I move next year. The combination of physical and mental effort outside is hugely appealing. Besides, when I was in the Army, I excelled at it. That was more than forty years ago.

That means I’m going to be uncomfortable. Awkward. Clumsy.


The best overall exercise, according to The Age Well Project: Easy Ways to a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders, is rowing. I’m all for that, as a kayaker. Just gotta move where there’s more water than in Colorado. That’s in play right now.

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The brain has a lovely way of getting accustomed to whatever habits we develop and then getting lazy. To wit: at my gym are people who have been lifting as long as I have (and I’ve been doing it for 45 years). They have seen little improvement and look much the same. They do the identical routine in the same order and have for decades.

The body’s response to this is ho-hum.

When you and I shake things up a bit, the body and brain respond with a hearty WTF?, sit up and take notice. Get engaged. For a good while, we’re uncomfortable.

That’s the whole point.

So over the many decades I’ve lifted, I have regularly changed my routine, taken breaks, hired trainers. I challenge my habits and my body responds with enthusiasm. There’s a reason I’m in superb shape at 66, and it’s not because I stick to the same things every day. My habit of lifting is consistent. It’s the regular change up of how I lift that makes the difference. Same thing with our reading habits, eating habits, social habits.

The gift to ourselves when we shake things up is that we demand that our entire person pay attention. Think. Watch. Look. Work. Be alive. Alert.

That’s youthful.

You do not have to do what I do to get results. The point is to find ways to engage yourself differently, preferably with a social aspect.

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I would point to my very lively buds at my community pool, who inhabit the shallow end for water aerobics. While I march back and forth next to the lanes to George Carlin riffs, these men and women, all above sixty, work and push and play and laugh to an instructor’s exhortations. They love it. It’s fun, they enjoy each other and they are working. And playing.

For my exercise dollar that’s a damned good way to spend a few hours.

Laugh, work, push, laugh again, fail, struggle, laugh. Works for them, works for me. The body, brain, attitude and funny bone all love it. That’s youthful.

Last night at my gym I met two grey hairs in their late sixties who were pushing iron in preparation for a very, very long canoe trip. Women of a Certain Age slinging iron to get their arms in shape. This is part of what I love about Colorado. Not every person in the wild is a twenty-something white boy. We older ladies and gents get out there too, and in doing so, we are making the kinds of demands of our brains and bodies that keep all our systems juicy.

Add to that the energizing social aspect of taking a friend along, going in groups or otherwise including people who feed your soul, these are among the key elements that make Blue Zone inhabitants successful.

For my part, because I play very, very hard, I have to deal with a lifetime of serious injuries. As I age, some of them are forcing me to choose different sports, do more PT and yoga, and in many ways adapt a bit here and there to a new reality. That’s not bad news. It’s just different. And uncomfortable.

That’s the whole point.

In the all out desperate rush to be young, we have in many cases lost sight of the vastly more essential aspect of being youthful. That’s an attitude. It’s also a state of the body. Beneath the sagging skin (my hand is up) on a great many senior athletes are muscles and bones that are as good as a 25-year-old athletes. Don’t believe me? Please see this.

Even if you take a few decades off, and lots of folks do, a return to regular exercise later in life can get you the same benefits, albeit perhaps not that youthful waistline, as I have written elsewhere.

In a lively conversation with Victoria Starr Marshall, editor of 3rd Act Magazine: Aging with Confidence, we were having a chuckle at what we have to give up as we age. Sometimes that’s very sad. Sometimes it’s enormously freeing. We were discussing youthful beauty and how at some point we simply have to wave goodbye to that and all the societal advantages that came with it. What we can have instead is a wholly different kind of life, one free of the addictions and compulsions and spending and agonizing that accompany the compulsions of youth.

But still be youthful.

When we are young, youthfulness (while not guaranteed, I’ve met some pretty cranky old twenty-year-olds) is conveyed automatically. As we age we have to work at it. Actress Bette Davis famously said that aging isn’t for sissies. The insults we endure as bits and pieces fail and fall off or have to live in a cup at night or have to be held aloft with industrial-quality hydraulic bras can defeat us.

Or we can find hilarity. That’s youthful.

We can continue to challenge ourselves.

That’s youthful.

We can eschew the rocking chair and go out rocking. To this I offer one of my favorite YouTube videos:

That’s youthful. Badass, wonderful, youthful. IN fact any time I begin to feel old, I watch that video.

For those of you (understandably) confused by the plethora of headlines that scream DO THIS AND BE YOUNG, I would offer the Age Well Project book. The authors collected all the hyperbolic headlines, did the research, asked the hard questions and present their findings with humor, affection and respect. They make sense of the hubris, and the claims that each doctor or guru makes that they have THE answer. The answer is wonderfully simple, but still hard:

Find your own way.

That’s uncomfortable.

That’s the whole point.

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You and I and every other living thing on this planet are on our own Titanic. While some organisms will enjoy vastly longer lives that we do, they will also go down eventually. The point is, as we re-arrange the deck chairs, can we please have one hell of a good time? My idea of a good time doesn’t involve lying in a hospital bed with a bristle of tubes in every orifice and a few I didn’t have when I was born.

And while many of us will have to deal with disease or accidents or injuries - which can come to the young just as easily as they do to the old- the point is to find a way to take it all in stride, even if our stride is reduced to a walker or a wheelchair.

The good news is that the book offers up just about all the choices you could imagine to make finding your way fun, lively and delicious.

You will likely be uncomfortable along the way, changing old habits.

That’s the whole point.

Youthful people take chances. Youthful people fail. Youthful people are perpetual rookies.

They laugh the entire time.

Right up until they die.

Can’t speak for anyone else but for my money, that’s one hell of a great way to live.

So if you will excuse me, I am going to go downstairs and wrestle with that @#^%$#@* elliptical again.

To the tune of Highway to Hell.