Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

You were born to be an athlete every day, all day

Imagine the single best time for your body. Is that now? Is that thirty or twenty years ago? In the future? Do you understand that your body is a full-time, changing entity, a transitional achievement that never stops evolving? Or do you hold to a single moment, a photo, a place setting where you felt your best?

There are times you and I might see ourselves in a prime moment. That might have been in high school or on the day of our wedding, at the top of our physical ability, or whatever was our Best Moment, as we might imagine it.

In 1988 Oprah pulled a wagon of 67 pounds of fat on stage, wearing her size ten jeans. Is that her Best Moment? Just because of weight loss? Is that the single best time of her life, that fleeting second wearing size ten pants, which she almost immediately lost the second she returned to her favorite foods?

Or is her Best Moment, anyone’s Best Moment, right here and right now? Every second of every day?

You and I can hold onto that Best Moment, moon over a photo or rewind a video again and again. Or, we can understand that we are in fact, athletes. All the time, any time. We were created that way.

The other day I read an article by one of my favorite performance writers, Brad Stolberg. He points out that we are in fact athletes. Day in, day out, 24/7. I love this concept, because it argues strenuously against this quaint notion of “when you were in your prime.”

I have a number of photos of myself somewhere between 64 and 65, and in every way in the best shape of my life. It’s fun to see those photos, especially now that I’m sporting a few quarantine pounds from two months of being isolated from my beloved gym, my stairs, my pool and everything but running around my neighborhood. This will change and shift as do all things, but for now I have settled into an uneasy but polite acceptance of the slight chocolate almond-induced stretch in my workout pants.

This is in part because I just drove from Denver to Eugene, and am in a hostel for the next month as I search for a new house. Every routine I might have once had was already upended by the pandemic. Now I further threw everything into disarray by moving wholesale to another city, where I know nothing, nothing’s open, and all I have is set of weights, a yoga mat and not much else. Yet I’m still an athlete, 24/7.

Those photos could be a source of terrible pain. They aren’t, for I am so very aware of what it takes to work hard, be patient and stay with the program. I now need to locate places to exercise at the same time I’m searching for a home for the next few decades. Distracting at least, a challenge at best. Workout programs work when they are regular, and my life right now is anything but. The bulk of my belongings is in a huge trailer en route here. Yet there is so much I can still do, for leaving off isn’t an option.

I still have to move, to maintain, to work. I can’t stop. For at 67, stopping is an invitation for sarcopenia (age-related muscle deterioration) and reduced lung capacity.

Stulberg also points out that a solid nutrition program and sleep aren’t optional. They are your program. I work hard to ensure that I get plenty of restful sleep. There’s a supply of apples and orange tea in my room in case I get hungry or need to snack. Especially since things are in an uproar, it’s easy to want comfort food. That’s the last thing I need, since my normal of workouts two hours a day is impossible for now.

Here’s Stolberg’s article:

The Keys to a Consistent Physical Practice
"The athlete that dwells in each of us is more than an abstract ideal," said George Leonard, the philosopher of human…

Each of us is an athlete in our own right and in our own way. It’s our birthright, no matter who we are, our age, our body type to be active and healthy. What that looks like, what that feels like is ours to discover. Every moment of every day we can be that athlete, without feeling as though we have to be some Olympic ideal.

Being an athlete is a mindset. It’s not so much a time of life, but a way of thinking. The body is a perfectly designed machine which loves work and movement. When we fuel it correctly for our time in life and activity level, it does a superb job of responding to our requests for work and movement.

Instead of worrying about an end product, that perfect picture that we can pull out to brag about our prime, having an athlete’s mindset can help keep us fit and functional forever, until it’s time to retire our physical form. Every move is important, every rep, every step. Being in the mindset of an athlete for life is what keeps the spring in our step at any age.