Never too late for the athlete within

Aging is a gradual, rhythmic and highly choreographed process. It should hold few surprises; its course and consequences are well known to all of us. No one goes to bed at the height of vitality and wakes up old. Think of water on stone; this gradual progression is the source of aging’s power.

Observation has led me to regard life as the unfolding interplay between the state of “being” and the state of “doing.” It all plays out in five ages: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, senescence and elderhood.

Human infants are the purest example of being: they do almost nothing (eat, sleep and fill a diaper about sums it up). Adolescence is a time of transition to adulthood, from the joyfulness of play to a clear preference for doing over being. When two adults meet, it is rare for more than a minute to pass before one of them pops the question, “What do you do?”

Senescence, where many of us are now, is also a time of transition. Just as adolescence (“growing into adulthood”) is a complex and turbulent time, senescence (“growing into old age”) is not an easy passage. Sheltered for decades by energy and vitality, most adults are utterly convinced of the rightness and goodness of their family and their chosen work. The first sign that you are preparing to grow out of adulthood is the dawning awareness of the heavy toll taken by things that you have to do.

Senescence is a time of letting go of something comfortable and familiar and reaching out for something new and different. It’s to prepare a person for the final stage of human development, elderhood.

Elderhood brings us full circle, to a life that favors being over doing. But not all elders are willing to give up “doing” without a struggle.

Let’s take a look at Benny Lohman. Even though she will be celebrating her 90th birthday next month, she is still focused on doing.

Benny recently returned from the Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics at Greeley, Colorado with a gold medal for the 100 meter dash. Benny had expected finishing the 100 dash in under 30 seconds and was truly disappointed to not meet her goal. She did it in 33 seconds. Maybe the reason Benny’s time was slower than her goal was because she had spent the pre-race day cleaning up a plumbing malfunction. In her RV. That she and her husband, Sandy, drove to the race. So much for elderhood and its accompanying state of being over doing.

Benny’s preparation for the Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics was systematic and calculated under the watchful training of Justin Stone, personal trainer and Pilates instructor (and co-owner of The Body Shop; Complete Fitness and Weight Loss).

A graduate of Penn State University in 1941, Benny has kept active her whole life while teaching physical education, serving in the Navy and raising three sons.

“The Recreation Center here in Pagosa has made it possible to continue an active lifestyle with water aerobics and the various equipment that is available as well as instructors like Justin Stone,” said Benny.

We applaud Benny who is teaching us that it is never too late to discover the athlete and competitor within. Exercise is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. After a certain age, fighting frailty is practically a full-time job. Some of us have a lot of catching up to do, but before we start working hard to get up to speed, let’s not forget Justin Stone’s advice: “Age is not a limitation to physical conditioning.” With the right exercise, aging adults can enjoy all the benefits of an active lifestyle. The struggle for doing goes on.