an older man using weights to do bicep curls

Going with the Flow: Staying Fit After Seventy

Throughout each decade of my life, I’ve mixed a variety of sports and other outdoor activities to maintain fitness: baseball, basketball, track, distance running, golf, tennis, racquetball, softball, hiking, backpacking, and, in the last few years, rock climbing.

Each sport or activity has yielded some memorable results: varsity letters, team championships, a hole-in-one, a no-hitter, summiting Mt. Whitney, a couple of three hour marathons; and, most recently, climbing Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park with my oldest son, Devin, during a rock climbing excursion just before my 71st birthday. Given my level of athletic ability, I don’t think I could ask for much more reward than I’ve experienced.

Reevaluating my fitness goals

I’ve never been a gym guy, except to play basketball when I was younger. The gym seemed too static. No adrenaline. No competition. A good feeling when I completed a workout, but nothing I could add to my athletic resume, nothing to boost that ever nagging ego of mine. But after my climbing trip in September, I began to reevaluate my fitness goals, especially in relation to the diminishing number of sports I can play and the health issues I’ve faced in the last ten years.

How do I stay fit and injury-free?

Referring back to the list in the first paragraph, age and nagging injuries have eliminated many of them. Realistically, I’m down to golf, hiking, seasonal backpacking, and rock climbing, and recently I’ve cut back on the rock climbing. I love it, but I started late, I think I’ve peaked in my ability, and the risk of injury is ever-present. I won’t quit it altogether, but I’ll be selective about when and where I climb, and with whom I climb. Just can’t keep up with the youngsters anymore.

While coronary artery disease and prostate cancer really haven’t slowed me down that much, they’ve made me aware of the difference between the teenager who still lives in my head and the body that’s into its 8th decade. Add the old shoulder surgery, the bicycling accident knee injury from a few years ago, and the arthritic right hip (too much sliding into second base?), and the data suggests that a new approach would be prudent. How do I best stay fit, healthy and injury-free if my goal is to make it to at least 90?

Joining the local YMCA

Our city’s YMCA is an eight minute walk from my house, most of it through a park. I joined in early December at the senior rate of $43 a month. It has everything I need for both cardiovascular health and warding off additional muscle atrophy. I bump into friends and acquaintances every time I go there, and it’s great to see so many seniors working out to the best of their age and ability.

It’s a long term insurance policy that I hope will help me maintain a high quality of life for the next twenty years. Adventure will still be on my fitness menu, but twice weekly trips to the Y will be my foundation. It’s about time.

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