Middle age is going better than I expected.
Because choices that made sense when I was younger have been replaced by a lifestyle that’s a better fit for where I want to take myself.
Let’s run though the major adjustments.
You might not want what you think you want: athletics is the best way I have found to keep myself engaged and apply energy. Look around and you can see plenty of examples of middle aged men getting themselves into trouble by not managing their energy.
So I will sign up for a race to keep myself out of trouble? Not so fast…
- Engaging in athletic competition is different from being athletic.
- Fit for competition is not fit for an engaged life with meaning.
- To be the sort of father/husband I want to be, I need to avoid athletic competition.
The requirements of racing well, and my competitive peers, exert an inevitable pull on my life. A pull I enjoy but one that takes me away from where I want to be in 5-10 years time.
There are different ways to define excellence and the traits that ring most true to me don’t have a clock attached to them.
The most specific component of race fitness is the least valuable to my wife and kids.
In your mid-40s you will notice a change in how you respond to training. Specifically, sustained tempo is a lot more fatiguing. This intensive-endurance pace is a core part of training for performance.
As a middle-aged athlete sustained tempo will gobble up your energy and leave you spent for other aspects of your life. If you are in the clutch of negative addictions then this can be a very good choice to make! However, you will have nothing left towards building a life that your future self will value.
This reality was tough for me to face. I know how valuable tempo training is to athletic performance. It was made easier by stopping racing, and reminding myself that I didn’t want the family lives, and marriages, of my competition.
Letting go of deep fatigue enabled me to re-establish consistency, which was being shot to pieces by minor injuries, slow recovery, illnesses and low motivation => all of which stemmed from giving myself more load than I could absorb.
About those injuries… stop hurting yourself.
Somewhere in my recent past, I realized I was constantly managing low-grade calf injuries. At the time, I wasn’t training for a race, or even doing much mileage. There was no reason to endure the constant setbacks.
You’re likely to have similar moments and the performance gurus will encourage you to grind through. I’d encourage you to pause and ask yourself three questions:
- Where is this likely to take me? Elective orthopedic surgery?
- What is my goal here? Alienate my spouse and estrange myself from my kids?
- Is there a better way to achieve my goal? Or perhaps a better goal to achieve!
In my case, I replaced the running with hiking and functional strength training. I can do these before my family wakes up or alongside my family. My best athletic memories of my 50s are shared experiences, in nature, with my family.
With a young wife, and three kids, I’m slowly filling the state of Colorado with happy thoughts. When I’m 70, they can carry the backpack!
Reality is enough for me. If you’re tempted to use drugs then something needs to change.
Shooting your knee up like an NFL lineman, boosting your hormonal profile to beat an athlete who’s spouse just walked out the door, taking health risks to train alongside college kids…
- Where is this likely to take me?
- What is my goal here?
- Is there a better way to achieve my goal?
A focus on athleticism puts me in a continual state of rehabilitation from the process of aging naturally => functional strength, quickness, range of motion and extensive endurance.
Being freed from external requirements lets me do the right thing for my health, year round.
- Place a demand on yourself, then recover while working on a project that benefits your larger life.
- While expanding your life beyond athletics, remove whatever screws up your sleep patterns. My 4:30am wake-up makes poor choices obvious, immediately.
This approach will enhance your biochemistry naturally and not mask errors.
To learn by iteration, it is essential to physically experience my mistakes.
Victory and Vanity
How are you going to feed that part of your personality that craves recognition, thrives in adversity and wishes to dominate others?
Can you see your desires? Have you considered what is driving your desires?
You might simply be over-scheduled and seeking socially acceptable personal space.
It’s worth looking deeper.
When I looked deeply everything was there, positive and negative. There are many ways to spin our motivators.
Recognition can come from my children, who are hardwired to be impressed by me. I look pretty jacked to a seven-year old.
Personal growth through facing adversity can come from the final few reps of a set (or simply getting out of bed some mornings). My endurance mantra… many people would like the ability to do this right now.
Domination is a tricky one, especially when surrounded by women and children. At my best, I turn it inwards and seek to overcome my negative traits, specifically my urge to resort to force, rather than skillful engagement.
We often let each other off by saying things like.. “everyone is different”, or “you need to find your own way.” I disagree. We are very, very similar within our cultures and wired to follow social proof.
If you want to change your motivation then change your location.
I’m parked in the fittest zipcode in America, training in nature, with a young family, thinking daily about a handful of men who are presenting their best selves to the world.
Finally, remove the friction between your current habits and the life you want to lead.
I have a home gym, I wake up at 4:30am and there aren’t any email/social apps on my phone.
I created a situation where there was nothing for me to do between 5 and 6am in the morning.
So I write, or train => activities that leave me satisfied in hindsight and help my future self.