Breaking the Age Barrier

getty_rf_photo_of_mans_hand_holding_caneIt can be difficult getting yourself to a gym weeks at a time for results that sometimes seem small. Other times the barriers of starting just seem too high, and not worth overcoming.

One concern I keep hearing from potential gym goers is the age barrier. Many men and women thinking about a personal fitness plan sometimes worry that “I’m too old to start exercising,” or “going to the gym is something for younger people, not me.”

This brings up a big question for potential gym-goers: How old is too old? Is there an age requirement at the front door that keeps everyone over the age of 39 out?

The obvious answer is no, but sometimes that’s easier said than understood.

A client of mine was talking about her father who endured a major lifestyle change late in life, and it reminds me of just how little age really matters when we want to start an active lifestyle. We’ll call her father Rob.

Rob lived an active lifestyle in his earlier years, which allowed him to age relatively gracefully as he got older. Even in his mid 70s, Rob was still walking the golf course three to five times a week, actively playing tennis, and traveling abroad whenever he had the chance.

During his travels, Rob had an accident, falling down a set of stone stairs in Istanbul and tearing up both of his knees. He had emergency surgery and endured months of physical therapy, but was told that as a man headed into his 80s, he would never be able to walk unassisted again.

Now for some people at Robs age, two torn-up knees and a prognosis like that might mean spending the rest of his life glued to a walker. And for a while, Rob was glued to a walker. After living a life of constant movement, suddenly being confined to the house was not an enjoyable concept. But from his point of view, he had little to no choice. This was just a part of getting old.

But after months of relying on others for transportation, some good natured ribbing from friends, and some guidance from family members, Rob decided to do something about his sedentary condition, old age or not.

Rob started going to the gym, worked with a personal trainer, and set a tangible goal for his future: to walk around the block without a cane. For someone who could walk 18 holes in an afternoon, a block might seem inconsequential, but Rob knew he had to start somewhere. He began leg exercises, started a healthy diet, and kept at his scheduled work-outs.

And it payed off. Today, Rob is walking around the neighborhood unassisted, playing golf, and traveling up and down the coast. He still carries the walker in the trunk, but mostly for peace of mind than for actual use. Rob still has a lot of progress in his future, but he is already miles ahead of where he started.

There’s a lesson we can learn from Rob, and it’s something I hope you spend some time thinking about this coming week. Rob decided that spending the rest of his life on an easy chair was not an acceptable future, and decided to do something about it. He set goals for himself, made a commitment, and stuck to his regiment.

Age isn’t the barrier we face. It’s the belief that age somehow defines what we can or cannot do. Rob, an 82 year old man who had to relearn how to walk, has no excuses. So what’s yours?