Thursday, October 05, 2006

Surfing when I'm 80

I've always said that I'll take up surfing when I'm 80. Why 80? It just seems like as good a time as any to take up something new. Plus, if I plan to take up surfing at that age, I better keep myself in a condition where it will be possible.

I mention this because the NY Times has a really good article today about being old but not frail.

Old but Not Frail: A Matter of Heart and Head

In the article, doctors mention that frailty (an actual medical condition now) is likely due to

1) Undetected cardiovascular disease (not the kind that will only give you a heart attack but the more subtle kind that will block blood vessels to various parts of the body)

and more interestingly

2) Falling victim to negative stereotypes about aging and being old.

Here's a really interesting excerpt:

"A second finding is just as surprising to skeptical scientists because it seemed to many like a wrongheaded cliché — you’re only as old as you think you are. Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of aging have the opposite effects. The constant message that old people are expected to be slow and weak and forgetful is not a reason for the full-blown frailty syndrome. But it may help push people along that path."

If you've ever been to one of my yoga classes, you've probably heard me say at one point "Don't let your preconceived notions of what you think your body and you are capable of prevent you from discovering what your body and you are really capable of."

Or as the girls in En Vogue once sang..."Free your mind and the rest will follow." (I realize I'm dating myself here)

I can attest to the fact that getting older for me has meant, from a physical standpoint, getting stronger, leaner, more nimble, agile, faster, more flexible, and generally more physical. Eighteen was not my glory be completely honest, I don't think I have yet to discover that year yet. Every year seems to bring more discovery in my body, more ability, more understanding of how to expand the boundaries of this shell of mine. I would have laughed at anyone who had told me, at the age of 18, that someday I will have run a marathon or finished a triathlon or finished a Century. But here I am, nearly 13 years later, having completed all three. And I've officially sent in my bid for a spot in the 2007 London Marathon (whether or not I get a place is an entirely different issue.) And I'm only 3 races shy of securing my place in next years NYC Marathon.

If the next 13 years are anything like the last, I expect that by the time I'm 44 I'll be levitating or possibly flying short distances (say from Wall St. to Dumbo).

Of course all of this has not come without injury (torn hamstrings, squished vertibral joints, an ankle that will need to be reconstructed at some point) but all in all a small price to pay for the joy I experience in my body.

So, yes, I plan on taking up surfing when I'm 80 or maybe sooner. Surf Diva's summer surf camps for adults look mighty enticing...

On a slight diversion...

If negative messages about getting old can speed the journey to frailty what can negative messages about being a young black man, or a nerdy asian teenager, or a girl who wants a career in science/math do to those individuals.

Things that make you go hmmmm... (Oh god, I'm dating myself with all these 80s/90s song quotes)

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