Episode #471 If you aren’t watching (or didn’t watch) the Toyko Olympics you still hardly escaped the highlights. We’ve witnessed history in so many ways. As a 37-year fitness pro involved significantly in contributing to trainers and health coaches’ education since 1998, my thoughts in this post are twofold:
- what it means to each of us as we age
- what it means to fitness owners as they try to comeback and reshape a new future post pandemic
The Toyko Olympics has delivered some shock waves to some. The withdrawal of Simone Biles, the empty stands. The athletes testing positive. Some never expecting to compete, medaling. Athletes using a moment of representing their countries as a personal platform.
Our opinions may differ on some of those, but some of the truths I share here are undeniable. How do the Toyko Olympics suggest lessons on aging and strength? But the bigger question I have for you is, did you see it this way too? Or did you look from a different angle?
Toyko Olympics Lessons: Aging and Strength
During Covid (when competition and travel was shut down) athletes who are shining in the Tokyo Olympics hit the gym.
The examples live across sports.
The USA track athletes like 33-year-old Allyson Felix who gained speed and ran better than ever in their 30s.
April Ross, 39-year-old Team USA volleyball player whose one of the oldest (and best) out there.
Face it, for a long time we haven’t seen the rail-thin Nadia Comaneci or Olga Korbut waifs in gymnastics. The winners are strong, muscular forces to recon with. Grace, poise, and the ability to tumble on a 2 x 4 in a leotard comes from owning your body and being comfortable in your own skin.
Lydia Jacoby from Alaska (with a single 50-meter pool in the entire state) showed us “it’s not about the pool.”
Dressel, and Ledecky don’t just swim. 2020 was an opportunity for the athletes that got stronger in that year, that studied film about the sand, and their competition, and precision.
And so too now can be for you.
For those that are inactive now, underactive, or inappropriately active or have been, it is time to comeback.
We all, every one of us have a chance to be overcomers.
As we look ahead at what might be coming… surges in numbers, mask mandates, more closures, none of us know exactly what will happen.
We do know this. The basics of aging and need for exercise remain the same. If you define successful aging as a healthspan that matches your lifespan, where you’re independent as long as possible, then there are some truths.
Successful aging requires:
- Muscle for strength
- Muscle for metabolism
- Muscle for agility and reaction skills
- Balance to avoid falls
- Strong bones to avoid fracture if a fall occurs
- Muscle to spare if bedrest is ever required
- Brain benefits including memory, problem solving, cognition, and mood
See the common denominator?
The number one way to get those (all of those) is to begin with strength training.
Should you walk? Yes. There are stress-reducing benefits. There can be mild cardiovascular benefits (greater for those getting off the coach to become active).
But walking alone is not enough.
Your ancestors lifted, carried, did hard things and lifted heavy stuff. So should you. Yes, we outlive them. But not, necessarily does the quality of life live up to the quantity of life we’ve achieved. Changing that is up to you and I.
The Athletes to Watch
I encourage you, all of us, to watch the Paralympics later this month. Because those are the athletes we can take true inspiration from. If you have limiting beliefs about being over 50 (or insert the magical age when you think you’ve lost the ability to improve your life status), or in menopause, or divorced, or single, or married with children…
Try watching someone who’s legs were blown off or amputated, or who is legally blind compete. Watch someone whose every move from getting dressed, to toileting, to juggling books at school has been an obstacle, succeed at something you might never be willing to try.
Then you can decide if it’s too late, you’re too old, or don’t have enough motivation.
Motivation is not lying on the ground waiting for you to find it. Motivation is not what you need. Not if you have a purpose, a life you love or one you want to create.
You want commitment.
That isn’t something you find. You decide that.
Simone Biles was committed. To herself and her health above all. Congratulations to her for doing perhaps one of the hardest rotations she’s ever done in her athletic career.
That can’t have been easy. That was wisdom.
What are you committed to? Who are you committed to?
Along with a 66-year-old equestrian Toyko Olympic athlete, there are others defying the age-limits.
In women’s gymnastics, a sport dominated by teenagers, Uzbekistan’s 46-year-old Oksana Chusovitina made history this week when she became the oldest woman to ever compete Olympic gymnastics—a longtime favorite of fans and fellow gymnasts with plans to retire after this summer’s Games, Chusovitina received a standing ovation after failing to qualify for the vault finals over the weekend.
It’s your turn. What have you enjoyed or hated or found interesting about the Tokyo Olympics? Gymnastics, diving, and swimming and track are among my favorites. Oddly though this year, I’m drawn to most of the broadcast. I think it’s still a part of the desire for connection and distraction we all share right now while we wait and watch for things to return, or move on, to a normalcy we can accept.
We’ve done hard things this last 18 months. Pick up some weights. That, fortunately, lasts about a minute each time. You put it down and feel better, stronger, and more resilient.