I hear the voices all the time.
Often the voices come from friends and family. People who will shake their heads when hearing about a race I’ve done and tell me, “You’re getting too old for that stuff. You have to accept you’re not young anymore.” Their voices only grow louder when I’m nursing a sprained ankle or pulled muscle.
Often the voices come from me. I have days when I feel every bit how we imagine a 46-year-old guy should feel. Days when I’m stiff and tight, when I have no energy. Days when the thought of a punishing workout just seems unimaginable. That’s when the voices creep in and say “You’ve had a good run. No shame in hanging it up at your age. Time to let it go.” I can hear the voices loud and clear, and can almost see them tempting me with wings, beer, and a comfortable couch.
For anyone on the far side of 35, there are moments when listening to those voices can be tempting. And it gets more tempting the older you get. But those are just moments, and moments pass. Even when you’re old.
Many people have the mindset that when you hit a certain age, it is time to hang it up. That giving up on strenuous physical activity is a natural progression of life. Not giving up? Well . . . that’s weird.
Sometimes when they hear about a race, people will say it sounds like fun or that they wish obstacle racing was around when they were younger. You’d think it would be easy to convince them to try a small race. But even that seems impossible to them. They dismiss the idea, saying those days are gone, resigning themselves to the notion they have already been defeated by old age.
Some of them were athletes when they were younger, but they can no longer perform at the same level they once could – their reflexes aren’t as sharp or they’re not as energetic as they once were. They find it discouraging and, not being able to measure up to their former selves, they stop challenging themselves and they give up.
Of course, nobody has to give up and resign themselves to a life of sitting on the couch, no matter what their age. But overcoming that fate requires a change in mindset, a new perspective.
It requires that a person stop comparing themselves to that physical peak of their youth. Instead, they need to seek out the best of who they are today; to squeeze the most out of their present potential. It may be discouraging at times. It may be difficult to harness the energy and motivation. It may be more of a struggle. But there is also something more beautiful, more inspirational in overcoming those obstacles and continuing to battle.
I have no illusions. I know I’m getting older. We all get old. Our physical abilities incrementally fade. In the end, we all lose. But along the way, if we keep moving and challenging ourselves, we can at least slow the process. Plus, obstacle racing is a lot more fun and rewarding than sitting on the couch, even if you’re a little slower nowadays.
As I write this, that voice in my head is loud. Like many people, I recently enjoyed the holidays, which I often view as my annual end-of-year “rest and recovery” period. A period that too often turns into an excuse for sitting on my arse and stuffing myself with too much food and heavy winter brews.
This year’s holidays were particularly . . . “restful.” Lots of sitting, lots of mashed potatoes, and many, many slices of my mother-in-law’s apple pie (because having only one slice is just rude). Sure, it was fun. But now I feel terrible. I’m heavier than I’ve been in a while, I have no energy, and I know that any challenging workouts are going to feel like hell. Most of all, I feel old.
Once again, I hear the voices.
Once again, it’s time to ignore them.
(This article was originally published on Mud Run Guide.)