Thursday, March 25, 2010

It’s Never Too Late


I’m not sure where society’s view on aging comes from. I constantly get letters from customers asking if they’re too old to do one of our programs even when they’re younger than the program’s trainer. I’m told that I’m crazy to attempt the things I do at my age. Yet Lebron James’ entire life could fit between me and a woman profiled today in the Orange Co Register, 73-year old Ironman triathlete, Mickie Shapiro.

Shapiro’s early life wasn’t much of an indicator of where she was headed,

Like many women of her generation, Shapiro grew up inside a fence of expectations. She was expected to play safe games like "Red Rover," go to college, meet a man, devote her life to raising children and, later in life, play with her grandchildren.

She followed this path until her 40’s. With her kids in college she headed back herself, earning two masters degrees. She began running with one of her kids and it became a passion. When she saw Julie Moss famously crawl over the finish line at the 1982 Ironman she was inspired.

"I'm going to do a triathlon," she promised herself.

Since that day, Shapiro has won eight Ironman races in her age group, come in second three times in her age group in the world championships and won the half-Ironman world championships twice.


We need reminders like this to clear our heads of just what society expects of us, which is pretty much that we do nothing. Work at a job you aren't passionate about, raise some kids, watch some TV, exercise vicariously by watching other people play sports, eat a lot of bad food, take some drugs, and anonymously fade away has superseded hard working Horacio Alger as the American ideal. And why? Where did this attitude come from?

Think about aging. Children soak up knowledge like a sponge: learning languages in months a trigonometry in less time them most of us spend watching our favorite TV show each season. And, okay, their bodies are developing and are naturally more attentive. But our brains still work. Our bodies still function. At 40, we’re barely half way to our life expectancy. How can 50 be the year we qualify for retirement benefits? Certainly the human body wasn’t set up to improve for 20 years and spend the next 50 in a state of decline. Somewhere along the line someone has fed us fed us a crock of shit. And for some unknown reason, we’ve slopped it down like chili cheese fries at a Colts game.

There are 24 years separating me and Mickie Shapiro. Enough time for Lebron to grow up and dominate an entire profession. Enough time for her to earn two masters degrees, finished a bunch of Ironmans, and win some world championships. The questions we should be asking ourselves isn’t when can I retire or am I too old for this? It’s what can I get done in the time I have left?

photos, except moss in '82: LEONARD ORTIZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

9 comments:

Micah said...

Yet another example of an "old" person breaking all the rules from my travels... Say hello to my friend Ingrid.

http://educatedvegetable.blogspot.com/2008/10/humbled.html

Steve Edwards said...

She is rad! Thanks!

screwdestiny said...

Great post. I think in part the reason society has accepted it is because then they're not responsible when they don't live up to their potential. What that women has done is awesome, but I think it's pretty daunting to a lot of people. If that was considered "the norm", you know, to actually push yourself to what you're capable of, then I think a lot of people would end up looking bad because they're lazy and don't want to bother. But if it's accepted that you can't do those things, well then, no one's at fault.

Prima Ballerina said...

That's really inspiring, Steve!


I also have no idea where the notion that once you hit a certain age you have to drop everything and just become feeble. In the dance world, I'm already "over the hill" and I'm only 26. I think the older you get, the better you get!

steve49 said...

Great post! She's an inspiration! Having recently turned 60 and currently working on Round 6 of
P90X, I feel like I can do anything! Age is just a number...it's all a state of mind.

Hattori said...

Wow, a 60 year old woman doing Round 6 P90X? I gotta be shamed on myself. Still in Round 1 P90X Phase 2, already crying for a little stiff knees :(
*need some smacking on my head to keep pushing play*

Captain Granitic said...

So Steve, is Mickie 24 yrs above or below you? Oh I guess it doesn't really matter...

Kenji

Anonymous said...

Thanks...I'm 48 and kept myself in fair shape after having two kids and several major surgeries...my very obese husband tells me to slow down and just be happy cleaning the house and wait for grandkids. I've almost bought into it...as he can't do anything active with me because he chooses to stuff his face with food for enjoyment and is too big to enjoy many active things....so I thought that's what the rest of my life wld be like....after reading your blog I realize I do have a choice. Thank you.

Tony Horton said...

Nice one, Steve!