Despite this exhaustion and focus, we've done our best to instill as much normalcy as we can in our day-to-day, if nothing else to push this ever present challenge to the side. To create some space. Part of this for me has been to continue my workouts. There's a catharsis I get from a workout that I seem unable to replicate by other means. There's a rhythm to movement that enables me to process things in my life that simply contemplating them doesn't provide me.
On my run yesterday, I was thinking about Lori and what she's been going through. It made me think about mortality. I then thought about the 5 decades of training and competing I've done and continue to do. I thought, "Why do I continue to do this? I don't need to compete or set goals anymore. I know enough where I can exercise for well being and be none the worse for the wear." I then asked myself, "Am I running away from my own mortality?", and the irony of the fact that I was actually running was not lost on me.
But, then I thought, "No. I'm not running from my mortality. I am embracing my mortality." Mortality is something that comes calling for each of us. We get one shot at this thing called Life, so what are we willing to do in order to maximize the quality of the time we have and extend that quality for as long as possible?
I believe two things. First, once you stop moving, you start dying. Doesn't matter how young you might be. The body abhors a vacuum, so you're either advancing or you're regressing. There is no stasis. Once you stop challenging yourself physically, the erosion begins. By staying fit -- and, by "fit" I mean creating some physical discomfort on a regular basis, not getting in your 10,000 steps every day -- you will live a little bit longer. This isn't about life expectancy, per se. It's about longevity which, to me, includes the quality of your years on this earth, not just the number of years you exist. Regularly challenging yourself physically will bring with it myriad benefits, including but not limited to: lower risk of disease; lower risk of injury; better bodily function; muscle mass retention which then combats becoming brittle or developing sarcopenia; and, maybe most importantly, continued stimulation of the brain. The body drives the brain. Lack of physical activity denies the brain some much needed variety of inputs and challenges that reading or doing word puzzles simply cannot provide.
So, I kept thinking down this thread as I ran. It is those who deny themselves physical activity who deny mortality. The hubris it takes to not care for your own well-being -- both immediate and long-term -- shocks me. It doesn't compute. I don't get it. Lack of physical activity typically brings with it other poor choices -- excess drinking; smoking; a bad diet; disrupted sleep; the need for prescription meds to combat what are typically easily fixed issues (T2 diabetes, for example). Obesity rates among both adults and children have tripled or worse (depending the study you read) since I grew up in the 1970s. This is staggering. And, guess what? It's only going to continue to get worse. Because why would it get better? Nothing -- not one thing -- in society is set up to combat this. Everything is about one-click convenience and enticing people to stay inside on the couch. And, let's not get started on the utter irresponsibility of the Media and other idiots promoting being morbidly obese as beautiful and physically fit. The harsh reality is that obesity has nothing to do with physical well-being. From this perspective, obesity has no place.
So, tell me why would this sad trend would suddenly change?
Life is a life-and-death battle. Every single day. This is still hard-wired into us despite our sedentary, lazy and full-of-comfort lifestyles. Day-to-day life promotes sitting and screen time over getting outside, being on your feet and breaking a sweat. Even the daily workout, which is great, isn't enough to keep us in touch with our inherent survivalist nature. As uncomfortable and scary as it is, it is incumbent on each of us to occasionally push past our limits. We need to have the courage to discover them, to embrace them. To find where 'bend' meets 'break'. To put ourselves in compromising (not necessarily life-threatening) positions. We owe it to ourselves to do this.
There are days when the workout on tap feels freeing. There's a strength, an ease of movement, a fluidity that is sublime. There are also days when working out is an apathetic grind. I still head out. I owe it to myself. I owe it to those whom I love and those who depend on me. To provide as much of me to them for as long as I possibly can. To minimize the burden on them I will surely become when Father Time finally comes calling. Until then, age is but a number.
Embrace your mortality.