My son Doug is in Australia studying to be a doctor and he thought I might find the following story interesting. It’s about George Corones who at the age of 99 broke the world swimming record at the Commonwealth Games trials on the Gold Coast and boy does he ever look happy!George only took up swimming seriously after retiring at the age of eighty. He used to swim when he was younger but like they say life got in the way, in the form of World War II among other things. He stayed out of the pool for the better part of sixty years. Now he works out 5 days a week, swimming three days and two days at the gym doing strength training.
I love stories like this, I wonder what drives a person, what is their “why”? In George’s case it’s pretty simple, boredom after retiring, he didn’t want to become irrelevant. He now gets to show people what is possible at his age if they are willing to do the work. George’s question to us boomers is “What’s your excuse?” I happen to believe strongly that there is no excuse.
Important lessons that we can learn from George’s lifestyle:
Lesson # 1
Everyone needs to have a sense of purpose – a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. George lost his purpose when he retired from his job at age eighty and he knew he needed to find a new focus for his mind and his body or he was going to be bored and miserable for the rest of his days.
Lesson # 2
George decided not to follow the ‘normal’ decline pattern as documented in Younger Next Year by written by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D., shown in the chart below:
Many people put their health to the side as they dedicate time to their careers. Late nights, early meetings, travel, drinks after work, client meetings and carb rich dinners. All habits that add up and compound over time. Lifestyles are changing but many of us spent our careers sitting for most of the day and when we finally got home we ended the day in front of the television trying to decompress. Sitting has been described as the “new smoking”. In fact prolonged sitting has been linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression. Some turn to medication to deal with health issues while others reward themselves for a hard week of work with a big steak and drinks on the weekend. Both practices will lead to health challenges now and in your Victory Lap. It is natural to see some decline in our health as we get older, but poor lifestyle choices and prolonged exposure to stress, will only exacerbate the decline. People that follow this pattern will be at a higher risk some types of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and early death. Why die younger when 80% of the factors are within your control?
It doesn’t have to be this way if we are willing to take appropriate action. Instead of following the historic pattern of getting a little slower, with a little less muscle mass and a little weaker each year, people like George have made the conscious choice of getting fitter, healthier and stronger in their senior years. At some point there will be a decline slowly but they will be in better shape and have a better quality of life in their eighties and beyond.
The chart for people that think like George looks like this:
This approach to living is well documented in the book “Younger Next Year” (YNY) and is a must read for anyone not willing to follow the chart above.
In the book Dr. Lodge states “that over 50% of all illnesses in the last third of your life can be eliminated through lifestyle change and that 70% of the normal decay associated with aging, the sore joints, muscles, pain etc. can be pushed off until near the very end. Who doesn’t want that?
YNY is an easy read, simple to follow and goes into great detail explaining why exercise is so important. The YNY message is clear-exercise will keep you from dying prematurely and even better it will help keep you young. What they are saying makes a lot of sense to me and I’ve incorporated their suggestions into my own lifestyle plan. I strongly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of the book and make changes to your lifestyle.
It’s unhealthy to retire and shut things down before your time and that time is different for everybody. You still have a lot of runway left and it would be a big mistake to waste it doing nothing because when you do nothing, nothing happens. You need to keep growing and improving rather than just existing, growth and feeling the satisfaction after achieving something new generates happiness. Victory Lap is the time to start creating fun, soaking up new experiences and stretching out of your comfort zone. Learn about you and the world around you? Just because you are older doesn’t mean that you need to play it safe, avoid risks or act your age, whatever that is supposed to mean!
Choose to be different, just like George did!