Sharing an elevator with strangers can be an intimate experience. Over time you start to notice things about the people you see often. Here are three mid-life ‘elevator men’ I’ve come to know. Perhaps you know them, too?
- The muscle-bound man with the gym bag who always takes the elevator for three floors. The stairwell is right next door.
- The lean runner, still in his Nike trainers, who tows a normal-sized laptop in a little wheeled suitcase.
- Or, the talkative man who enjoys the many weight-loss compliments he gets. He’s probably 45, but he shuffles like he’s much older.
These guys are committed to health goals. They aim for — and attain — a hard-sought number (reps, distance, body weight). We admire their fortitude and perseverance — they seem almost obsessed about it. Sad thing is, though they hit their target, they are missing a pretty big point.
That point is about the total package. My elevator men fixated solely on a number and forgot the ultimate goals of fitness and health. What good is sliding into smaller pants if you can’t walk very far? Where’s the point of attaining long distance legs if you have the upper body strength of a woman? So what if you can lift six 45-lb plates on a barbell? You get winded climbing a few stairs!
It’s almost as if my elevator men became invalids, strong-weak men who lost basic functionality. They struggle at ALL the things their bodies were designed to do. I would say they are crippled.
Men are a collection of muscle, tendon and bone. We’re springs, motors and a nice chemical battery. Nature designed us to pursue, climb, forage, carry heavy things, crouch, hide, dance and protect … until we die. We’re not meant to taper off after 25. We serve an active purpose. Our modern bodies should be pure potential energy, ready to do anything.
The point of a good fitness plan is maintain ability long after youth. A fit man in his fifties can do the same things he did in his twenties if he aimed for doing instead of a number. A fit man avoids serious injury when he falls. He’ll advance into old age with strength and poise, and he’s less likely to get serious illness later. He can do most anything at the time he must do it. He’s ready and able; he doesn’t need a new program.
Tracking to a single number distracts him from a long view. A fat man in his forties may have normal ‘numbers’ and think he’s fine. No need to exercise. This same fat man, now in his fifties, has a good chance of getting diabetes. It’s too late in his sixties when he faces amputations and internal ‘ectomies.’
As I’ve pointed out in a previous blog post, a lifetime commitment to strenuous exercise is what men must make. Don’t be a ‘numbers man.’
From 1940s body builder to pulling rowboats behind him at 70, LaLanne never succumbed to the false assumption that getting old means getting weak.
Be like your great-grandfather. Be Thag The Cave Man. Be Odysseus. Be Jack LaLanne. Don’t be Richard Simmons.
Here’s a list of things any fit man can do, even those in their fifties. How many can you do?
- Climb over a six-foot fence without a ladder.
- Swim one length underwater at the high-school swimming pool. Do it without coming up for air. EXTRA CREDIT: swim back again, all in the same breath.
- Climb a large tree more than halfway up. You must pull yourself into the tree – no ladder.
- Dress yourself standing up (including socks, underwear and shoes) in the middle of the floor. You may not lean against the wall or touch any surface.
- Hoist a sixty-pound bag (salt, fertilizer, sand…) from the ground up to your shoulders. Walk the length of your street and back without setting the bag down.
- Mow a suburban lawn on a hot summer day using an old-fashioned, reel-type lawnmower.
- Ride a bicycle for four hours straight with one short break halfway.
- Do a cartwheel.
- Stand on your toes for ten minutes.
- Chase an active ten-year-old boy around the yard. Tag him.
- Jump rope for ten minutes.
- Do a headstand.
- Climb up and down ten flights of office building stairs, ten times, in 30 minutes.
- Carry another man your height for fifty paces.
- Swim across a small lake.
Me, trekking in Nepal
I’m glad you got your cholesterol down. It’s awesome that you burned 1000 calories on the treadmill. We’re impressed you threw out your fat pants.
Now, go climb a tree!