Father Time is undefeated, so the saying goes. While true, it doesn’t mean we can’t put up one hell of a fight before we go down. The problem is, many lose the fight prematurely, based on their own perceived limitations of what getting older entails. Now sure, human potential gets worse as we age. You will not play in the NFL or NBA at fifty-plus years old, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be damn impressive for a fifty-year-old, or that you should throw in the towel. The idea for this article began to gestate when I saw someone on Twitter who I won’t name here saying the following (paraphrased):
“At 48 years old I won’t ever look like Captain America, and I’ve stopped giving a fuck what people think about my dad bod.”
Now look, if someone is truly fine with the way they look and have no desire to change, I will not shame or make fun of them. It’s their life. However, I will attack the premise here, and that is that there’s some reason you can’t be in awesome shape at over 40 years old. As a matter of fact, Captain America himself, Chris Evans, is 38, not exactly a spring chicken. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, arguably the best physique in movies of the past 10+ years, is now 50.
If you take nothing else away from this article, understand this:
There is no physiological reason you can’t be in exceptional shape at 40, 50, 60, or even 70 plus years old. For years, we were all told that you will lose tons of muscle mass past 40, and that fat burning processes grind to a halt, thus giving people the excuse they needed to slack off. Turns out, new studies have shown that’s a crock. Even without the studies, if you’ve been bodybuilding for any length of time then you know every gym has multiple people, both men and women, that are over 50 and jacked. Case in point:
My gym has multiple people in their 50s and higher who are in better shape than I am. Let’s focus on one guy, who I’ll call Jim. Jim is over 50 and squats 475 lbs, and dead lifts near 600. Every day, I walk by, and someone is telling Jim he shouldn’t be lifting that kind of weight, and each day Jim is setting PRs. What’s happening here is that others are imposing their own mental constructs and limitations onto Jim. They believe he should be weaker at his age and watching him squat 450 for 15 reps is inducing cognitive dissonance and reflecting their own mental prison they’ve imposed on themselves. Yet, Jim doesn’t care, he just grinds forward and crushes these lifts. George Hood, a retired marine who is over 60 years old, once broke the world record for the plank exercise, holding it for an astonishing 10 hours.
These mental limitations we impose on ourselves don’t just relate to age, but also injury. This is one I can relate to, because I’ve had both of my elbows reattached. For many years, I told myself, “well, no more lifting for you.” Now here I sit at age 42 with two repaired elbows, in better shape than I was at 25, lifting multiple times a week, because I got past my own mental limitations. Yesterday, I watched wrestler Eric Bugenhagen dead lift 760 lbs on a surgically repaired knee, a feat not only superhuman physically, but mentally as well to even believe such a thing is possible after devastating injury. My own journey through breaking mental prisons was a large reason why I wrote my book, Forging the Iron Mind. I used getting older as an excuse for even the slightest of physical ailments. Whenever my back or neck issues started, I told myself that I was just getting old, and that I had to accept these things. Turns out, my back and neck problems were alleviated almost instantly by better stretching and flexibility, and had nothing at all to do with age.
The point of this article is to help people understand that your limitations to a large extent are what you believe they are. If you believe a goal to be unattainable, you will find ways to make it true. Sure, Father Time will beat you at some point, but don’t just lay down for him, make him go the full 12 rounds. This applies to not only aging, but all of life. Self-fulfilling prophecy can either be your greatest enemy or your best friend, as you manifest into reality what you believe to be true. Recalibrate your mind by seeking inspiration from others, such as 82 year old Ernestine Shepherd, one of the oldest bodybuilders in the world. She isn't superhuman or magical, she just believes in herself to such a degree that it literally makes what was once thought to be impossible, possible.
If she can do it, why not you?
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