I turned 65 years old today. That is an accomplishment for the males in my family. My father died at 64 and his father died before he was sixty. I, however, feel stronger and fitter than I have ever felt. As a matter of fact, I rummaged through my storage a few days ago and pulled out my old dress blue uniform trousers. When I say “old” I mean they are really old. I bought them 40 years ago when I was a 25 year old officer of Marines. I was utterly astonished to find that they fit perfectly.
I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I have kept myself in great physical condition for the past 40 years. The last time I tried those trousers on was maybe three years ago and I would not have been able to button them even with the help of a block and tackle. Since I left the Marine Corps 36 years ago I gained, on the average, a pound a year and my waist size ballooned out from 33 inches to 38. I, however, never thought of myself as fat or out of shape. In my mind I was a “big” man.
I had a major paradigm shift about a year and a half ago. I had just gotten married and I was looking at the wedding photos that my wife and I had just picked up at the photographers. After marveling at how gorgeous my wife looked, I had a major jolt when I took a good look at myself. “Sh..!” I thought. “You’re not just ‘big’. You’re fat.” That paradigm shift in how I had perceived myself was soon followed by another shift in thinking.
My regular weekend jaunts into the mountains on foot, mountain bike, and cross country skiis may have kept me from getting totally out of shape, but going on a hike, ride, or ski a couple of times a week had not done much to control my weight. Fortunately, my wife and I discovered that we were both interested in becoming more fit. She started working with Jagoe Reid as her trainer at The Elemental Training Center and after a few months I followed her example. I have worked with Jagoe for the past eleven months and I feel like I have made some major progress.
In the first place, over the past eleven months I have lost about 30 pounds and my body fat percentage has dropped to 11.22%. Among other things, the weight loss has meant that I have had to get a new wardrobe. A year ago a 38 inch waist band was snug on me and now I wear pants with a 32 inch waist. I have also had to get rid of all my extra large shirts because now I wear a medium. More importantly, for the last several years I had been taking blood pressure and cholesterol medication, but at my last physical examination the results of my test were so outstanding that my physician decided to take me off the cholesterol medication altogether and put me a minimal dose of blood pressure medicine just to stay on the safe side. My balance has improved a great deal. My strength may be greater now than it was when I was in the Marines and my stamina is nearly as good as it was then (remember I turned 65 years old today).
Now it is time for a dose of reality. Making these changes in my life has not been easy. It has taken a huge amount of commitment and discipline. In truth, I think learning and practicing and succeeding with the degree of self discipline that has been required of me over the past eleven months has been a greater benefit to me than all the other successes put together. In other words, I really needed some major practice with self discipline. Like many Americans I avoided discomfort like it was the plague, but now I understand that in many ways comfort is the enemy. When we get too comfortable we stagnate. The best thing about having a personal trainer is that she or he can give us comfort lovers the little nudge that we need to help us to willingly step Into The Arena Of Pain. Excuse me for being a little over dramatic, but fitness does demand some pain. More than once I have wondered if my trainer, Jagoe, had worked for the Spanish Inquisition in a past life. Jagoe has proven that she is the lady with the plan and I am proof that the plan works. You need to understand, however, that the plan can hurt, sometimes for days. I work out twice a week with Jagoe for strength training. I do my foundation strength training once a week on my own. I do three other days of interval training, rowing, or steady running. I get up every work day, except Friday, at 4:30 in order to get to the gym before work. In the beginning it took a lot of self discipline to keep up the schedule, but now it has become simply a way of life.
Speaking of commitment and self discipline, I nearly forgot to mention diet. I have, maybe for the first time in my life, become totally aware of the quality and quantity of the things I eat and drink. I try to count every calorie, but I haven’t felt deprived in any way. I am careful, however. I try to eat foods that will give me the best nutrition per calorie. Being careful and consistent with a diet also demands self discipline. I probably consume 1/3 fewer calories now than I did a couple of years ago and I don’t miss any of it.
The fact that my wife and I are in total agreement on our fitness program has been a key element in our success. I’m not sure if I would have been able to keep my training problem going over time if my wife and I did not have the same training schedule and the same dietary goals. I know that there are lots of people who do manage to keep up their training on their own. I admired them for it. I’m very glad, however, that my wife and I have formed a fitness team.
I regret that I didn’t realize years ago that fitness training has to be frequent, consistent, and intense to really be of value. Because I do feel better today than I have felt in the past 35 years. Fortunately, it seems that it is never too late to get fit. Did I mention that I turned 65 years old today?