My first book, 50 Athletes Over 50, was based in many interviews with people who are living extremely healthy lives far beyond the age of 50. In this article I share some of the important lessons I learned from these amazing people.
After developing a list of interview questions, I began my search for 50 athletes over 50.
I first posted to a forum on Geezerjock.com, asking for volunteers who were willing to be interviewed. Ken Stone of Masterstrack.com noticed the post, and when he wrote it up in his blog, I received many inquiries. At the same time, I found a few athlete profiles on Geezerjock.com that looked hopeful, so I sent messages to Sandy Scott, Carl Bamforth, Terry Peterson, and Linda Quirk. Before I knew it, I had a dance card full of interviews and my job was to keep up with my new schedule.
One of the things that I learned was that when we pass our twenties, those of us who were involved in sports face a major challenge. It becomes harder to access organized teams, work out facilities, and coaches, which is what we depend on for optimal training. And the importance of optimal training is, of course, what allows us to be highly competitive. We are then at a loss, since when we were young, being competitive was our orientation.
After doing only 15 interviews, I realized that these older athletes share a common set of characteristics that carry them through their later years. The critical piece that came to light over and over again was that to continue to reap the benefits of an active life as we age, we must transition from a performance focus to a lifestyle focus. What does this mean? Unlike younger athletes, older athletes are not usually as interested in performance and competition, but have a much broader perspective.
Their most important goal typically changes from performance, to wanting to be active for a long time. There are other common characteristics as well. Most say that they want to have good health, enjoy their sport, and have fun with their athletic friends! They also work at being injury free, since as we get older, recovery from injuries is slower.
To support these new priorities, they envision exercise or a sport, to which they are committed. Some may have the ability to envision goals that seem out of the ordinary. If so, they firmly, carefully and consistently integrate that activity into their lifestyle. With a high level of passion that comes from practicing their exercise, they see their physical activity as play, rather than work.
Additionally, many of the athletes that I spoke with are examples of the growing awareness that with the right focus, our bodies are capable of more than we think. Based on my interviews, it appears that athletes like Dara Torres, who competes at world class levels beyond the age of 40, are not just a curiosity. They are examples that aging can be influenced by the active lifestyle we choose.
Will your life be healthy and will you have high energy after age 50?