Beyond anything else, being a Masters athlete is, for me, more of a state of denial than anything else. I am most likely to keep my promises to myself about training when I am not constantly reminded of how hard I am working, how sore I am, and how few people my age are making similar sacrifices. The less I think about these things, the more likely I am to train.
Especially now. As I approach the end of September, and creep closer to the Masters World Championships for No Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I’m cranking up my practice schedule, with a goal to work out at least 5-6 times a week. Every week, I hunt through my schedule to find enough windows to fit in these workouts. But, putting these appointments into the calendar is easy; keeping these promises to myself is getting harder.
Last week I had BJJ practice at 6:30 pm, including full speed sparring for 30 minutes with my younger teammates. Exhausted, I had a long shower, went home, and went to bed around 11. At 5:30 am, I woke for my weekly strength and conditioning class at 7 am. I can promise you that realizing that I had promised myself that I would go was not enough to get my ass out of that bed. I HURT; hamstrings, hands, back…everything really, really hurt. I stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, wondering how I was going to get up, feed the cats, grab my stuff and walk to the train in time for my next ass whipping session.
The late journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens was asked, just a couple of months before he succumbed to throat cancer, how he was feeling. His response: “Well, I’m dying. But, so are you.” This grim but hilarious response not only perfectly encapsulated Mr. Hitchens, but my own attitude towards being a middle-aged athlete. Basically, I’m doing all I can to prevent my body from realizing that it isn’t immortal, while at the same time using that fact as a motivator. And so, as I lay in bed, I ignored the message coming from my body (“I’m dying!”) and yelled at myself (“You’re dying!”) to get moving. I made the session, and proceeded to crush a cross-fit circuit for a solid hour.
Yes. It is weird.
You’d think you could never forget how little time we have, right? Seems like a day doesn’t go by where we don’t stumble across reminders of how quickly the window of our existence is closing. “Life is short”; “Carpe Diem”; “Time Flies”; and, my personal least favorite, YOLO. (Try searching for those themes on Facebook or Instagram. They are endless.) But, when dealing with the constant soreness and pain that comes from serious athletic training in your 40s and 50s, it is pretty easy to ignore that message and skip going to the gym. If you find yourself in that situation, you may want to do what I do—remember you’re dying. (And then laugh.)
Next column, I’m going to talk about some of the ways we Masters athletes can lessen the physical strains from training so that we have a fighting chance against the mental strains. I’ve been using CannaBody for a few days now, so I will include my initial reactions in the blog. (If you have any particular questions or suggestions about how to keep these magnificent machines running, please comment below!)