While playing rugby in University, the sideline smattered with dads, uncles, and old fellows always caught my eye. Invariably, they’d be downing a can of beer and jawing their mouths throughout the game. These old timers were a good group of guys, always willing to jump in before a match to line the field or help with a scrum drill.
I remember staring at them and thinking to myself, “Whelp, I’ll never end up like that sorry old lot.”
Funny thing about time… because one day, I did.
I’d just celebrated my 46th birthday when my wife broke out the photo album. The young fellow wearing #3 was me, but my reflection nowadays sure looked a heck of a lot more like the old blokes on the sideline. As much as I hate to admit it, looks like those codgers got the last laugh.
Getting older is simply a fact of life. It’s the payoff for a life well lived. If you’re lucky, you’ve met some good friends, got an education, found a job, and maybe even married your special someone. Tack on a couple of kids and a mortgage, and you’ve joined the ranks of the last four-letter word I know: “Adult.”
While my smitten wife says I look and act the same, I know differently. The idea of playing back-to-back matches sounds like a nightmare. Staying out with the boys means a quick one and home before 8 p.m. And I can’t seem to eat the same foods like I used to without getting an ache in my tum tum. I know I’ve gotten older because the hair is thinning and the midsection is growing, but it’s not the end of the world.
In fact, things keep getting better—laugh lines and all—the older I get.
Facing the Facts
When the odometer of life spins another year off, it’s important to understand a couple of facts. The person you’ve become is still the silly blockhead you were at 18—you’re just a little bit slower. Aches and pains take longer to heal, and you’re a little more focused on a full night’s rest than you used to be. But just because you’re slowing down doesn’t mean you can’t still take it to the young pups anymore. You just have to be a smidge more careful and a tad bit more thoughtful about your health.
I like to think it all breaks down to these four things: good diet, sound rest, fine company, and proper activity. If you’re taking good care of your body, there’s very little you can’t do with it, at any age. When you’re younger, sheer will-power can get you to do anything—including ridiculously stupid things—with little consequences. Now that you’re getting older, you have to be more conscious of your decisions. Especially if loved ones who depend on us are waiting at home.
Eat Like a Proper King
Mugs of ale and fried chicken dinners were grand when you were crashing out with friends in your 20s, but we both know that gut of yours can’t handle all the crap you used to love. Booze, tobacco, crisps, and anything bought after midnight aren’t par to a healthy diet. Not only are they high in saturated fats and bad for the heart, you don’t have the metabolism to burn off a plate of sausages the way you used to.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body needs to keep functioning at rest. For ex-props in their mid-40s, I need around 2,400 calories to keep my fine figure. Eat and drink less than 2,400, I’ll lose weight. Consume more, I’ll pack on the pounds. My tip for staying active as you age is to start counting calories. I treat them like bank notes, paying some now or saving them for later. But you best bet I know how many calories are in a turkey sandwich versus a fully-loaded burger.
Time to eat your greens. Salads and grilled vegetables will be your new best friends. Fish or chicken should always be your first choice for protein. Save the red meat for special occasions—and only eat less than a deck of cards. Drink lots of water, cut out all the sugary garbage, and try not to eat anything purchased from your car. Use your common sense. If you were smart enough to get to this ripe old age, you have the wisdom to eat foods that aren’t going to kill you.
Count Your Sheep
Back when you were a young buck, a couple hours of rest was more than enough to get through the next day. I’m sure you’ve said something to the effect of, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Well, brother, I’m here to tell you, life gets crazy hard when you’re not getting your sleep.
Sleep is when your body repairs itself. It helps you become more productive and able to concentrate on the matter at hand. Even the best intentions for a full, productive day can go haywire if you’re not rested. Your training sessions may be stunted, and you might be an agitated jerk at home and the office. Lack of sleep makes it easier to let your diet slip, weaken your immune system, and basically become a disheveled heap.
Try to get seven hours of shuteye every night. Find a routine and stick to it. Keep your bedtime pretty much the same. Keep the nightcaps to a minimum, brush your teeth, and keep screens out of the bedroom. Beds are good for three things—reading, sleeping, and well, you’re old enough to know the third.
Make the Most of Your Mates
When I was younger, folks would ask me how I was doing. But, they weren’t really asking. While I’ve always been a chipper and positive guy, I still can get down in the dumps. Getting moody and unpleasant to be around happens, but it shouldn’t be the norm. I’m lucky because I have a wife who’s a therapist. When I get the blues or start acting out, she’s quick to talk about it and help get my mind back into the right place.
Friendship, comradery, and a loving family are the foundation of a well-lived life. It takes work—you have to put some effort into cultivating these relationships. But it’s worth it. Just like a healthy diet fuels your body, a healthy relationship fuels your soul. Your spouse should be your number one supporter, and you have to be theirs. When life’s humming along at a perfect pitch, you’ll feel a sense of gratitude and be more likely to go out there and tackle the world.
I used to think it was a sign of weakness to show your feelings. Rubbish. Over-sharing can be annoying, but tell the ones you love what’s going on inside. It takes real strength to open up. Don’t mistake vulnerability with being soft. I’ve found keeping my noggin on straight gives me motivation to really attack the workplace, the gym, and the bike lane.
Be a good person and good things will happen to you.
Work Up a Good Sweat
You’ve got to keep moving. Life is like a hammerhead shark: kinda scary looking, quick, and dangerous, but you have to keep swimming. The best way to keep up is to get out there and work up a fine lather. I might have been able to play a long weekend 7’s tournament when I was a youngster, but my knees are telling me to find new adventures. I’ve discovered swimming, pickup basketball, and mountain biking.
If you’re like me, you’re working for the weekend. I put in my time at the office Monday–Friday, but when the quitting whistle blows, that’s when my week really starts. Because I love a big adventure over the weekend, I make sure my body can handle the demand during the week. I’ll do smaller jogs or bike rides to get my body ready for the mammoth hikes or backcountry rides. Sometimes it’s just a walk around the block with my pups, but staying active every day is the cornerstone to a well-lived life.
Find what you’re passionate about and make time to go do it. Staying active is a muscle and the only way to build it up is to go out there and flex it. The world is so big and beautiful that there’s got to be something that gets you going. I don’t care if it’s gardening, running, volleyball, volunteering at the shelter, picking up trash along the road, or whatever. As long as you’re not just plopping down in front of the TV the moment you get home from work, good things are going to happen.
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
Feeding your body, catching some Zzzs, hanging with friends, and daily exercise is my new recipe for middle age. I relish being the old timer on the sidelines of matches telling lies with my older mates. We love the game, even though most of us are lucky only to get in a game of touch in every now and then.
I’ll tell you this: a pal of mine turned me on to USANA Procosamine a while back. It’s a joint health supplement. Since I’ve been taking it, I can feel the difference when I go for ride. I’m not back to my old dumb self, but it seems like I’m peddling a bit longer than I used to before I discovered Procosa. He told me he’s taking their CellSentials and I’m looking forward to giving them a try. Everything I read on the USANA website looks one the up-and-up. Made by scientists and tested in a laboratory, they might be the extra wham I need to lace up the boots again.*
Remember: be good to your stomach, get your rest, be nice to friends and family, and get moving. That, my friends, is the perfect combo for a well-lived life.
*This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, worsen, or change unexpectedly talk to your health professional.
About the Writer
Ben Raskin is an ex-rugger living in Utah. He’s a writer and videographer. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. His two dogs will thank you.