The Promise of Vitality

I think I’ll be able to keep this one relatively brief. Yet, however succinct this message may be, I believe it to be of critical importance for our community.

I was in a performance coaching meeting with one of my amazing clients the other day. After we dissected some workout programming, examined a few key performance indicators (KPI’s), and made some macronutrient adjustments, our conversation came around to the theme or mission of what we, and actually all of us, are (or should be) doing.

I’ll often talk about a vision-goal-plan continuum in program design or in the training process. One thing I’m always tasked to do in these coaching relationships is to help my clients most expediently accomplish their short and mid-term goals. Things like solving a chronic pain problem related to underlying movement dysfunction that has failed to respond to conventional physician and PT office visits or rest and medication. Tuning up body composition to drop stubborn fat, keep or build muscle, make the tight pants no longer so toit (thank you Austin Powers), and make the time with oneself in front of the mirror a positive experience. Just frigging feel better and have more energy. Smash performance goals like a well-defined KPI or a targeted event. At any and every age.

But I see numero uno, as far as the objective goes, and no matter what we call it…is the Promise of Vitality. Almost every person, in one way or another, says this: “I wanna be able to do the stuff I love (insert any sport, fitness pursuit, hobby, or family/relationship enrichment activity), for as long as possible. While that may, on the surface, sound slightly esoteric – it’s incredibly specific when you focus on this reality. 

The target for each person does of course vary, and it is usually more than just one thing. Here’s a short list of things people tell me that they want to do to the best of their ability, and from which they derive so much meaning and value, they don’t want to give them up too early or at all.

  • PLAY tennis, golf, hockey, soccer, basketball, or any other sport.
  • Run, ski, hike, bike, swim, boat, etc.
  • Be competitive overall or against my peers.
  • Travel the world.
  • Hunt, fish, camp, and stay entrenched in the natural world.
  • PLAY with my grandkids.
  • Stay functionally independent.
  • Be attractive and successful (however you define that) in relationships.
  • Achieve and maintain the highest levels of executive performance.

Those things and others only happen at apex status when we take the Athletic Avenue into Wellness and Performance. Athletic Longevity is a really cool (if you ask me) concept. The dual definition is to have a long career (life) of high performance capacity in sports and fitness while simultaneously expressing an athletic form of health with agile (dementia-free) neurons, flexible (plaque-resistant) arteries, powerful organ function…and the like. You make your athleticism have longevity and your longevity is athletic, vital, and relatively youthful.

You can’t be young forever but you can be youthful for most of your life. That’s a long healthspan and it’s only attained when nutrition, sleep, stress, training, gratitude, and all those other critical factors are in place. Humans are animals. We’re evolutionarily designed to be athletic through the lifespan. Modern life, and ignorance and laziness, are trying to take that from us. Don’t let it happen. Stay athletic. This is not necessarily easy but it’s always worth it.

The human experience is both nonlinear and filled with challenge. I don’t know anyone who has not dealt with some form of challenge in their life, and those who have persevered through have come out better in the short and long run. Disease, cancer, mental illness, accidental injury, bankruptcy…you name it. The journey is not perfect and it’s not even fair…but it’s what we’ve got.

At 59 I feel great and I’m performing at a high level. That stated, I’ve experienced a couple of knee surgeries, a few broken bones, a complete shoulder reconstruction, Lyme Disease, a concussion and whiplash injury, a herniated disk, and some other life garbage. The setbacks sucked and I’ve had to work around them. I’m pretty sure there will be a few more. But traveling the Athletic Avenue toward The Promise of Vitality is the only choice I see. So I want this message to feel encouraging.

Vitality is certainly being 25 or 35 and killing it at sport and life. But it’s really all about the 60’s, 70,s, and maybe 80’s. I’m not saying 65 is the new 35, but I think the models I’m developing, and the lessons I’m being taught every day by members of this community…have great potential. The sooner anyone adopts the practices of intelligent training and sound lifestyle, the greater likelihood they’ll have robustness and resilience in their 60’s and 70’s. 

I said “maybe” regarding the 80’s because statistically, lifespan reaches its terminus for many people during that time. We know that our interventions potentially have a greater impact on quality of life than length of life…so we’ll see. There are athletic 80 and 90 year-olds out there, but I think there can be more and it’s our peers and leaders in this Lifetime Athlete community who will probably exemplify what’s possible. They’re teaching me and I’m a humble student. 

This vitality element in the 60’s and 70’s is extremely evident in sports and fitness. You start to see people dropping off or out in their 50’s. When you are out in the backcountry, or in many sporting venues, you see very few people (relatively speaking) past 60 kicking ass. The few you do see are awesome and we must salute and learn from them. But so many people are done past 55. They work hard and eventually retire, finally having the time and resources to do a lot of those bucket list items. But much to their chagrin, many find that their bodies are now unable to do what they had hoped for. Their health and athleticism is in the shitter and they often totally give up and quit the quest. 

There’s hope. Vitality is there for the taking. At any age and research proves this. Getting started on a proper training program and embracing the athletic lifestyle…works even at advanced ages. You just gotta believe. And you have to do it. In order to achieve The Promise of Vitality, we all have to be – and deserve to be – Lifetime Athletes.

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