Awesome To You

My 33rd lap around the sun is nearly complete. It's a pretty unremarkable birthday, hopefully. I'll be having cake and ice cream with Amy and my 4 little friends and likely some neighbor kids.

It's time to reflect on leaving the court, weight room, field, etc., gracefully, and getting my 30 minutes of semi-vigorous activity like a good middle aged man.


Golf slays me. Since when are marathons and triathlons the measure of an adult athlete? I imagine that in a few days, at 34, I still won't want to do those things unless I have to.

Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate why bajillions of people love golf. I absolutely applaud anyone interested in pushing their bodies through the sweat and discipline and discomfort of new heights, whatever they may be.

Well, some exceptions are noted.

[editors note: don't do a Google search of the words "shake weight"]

But on the whole, I'm pretty sure that long drawn out cardio is overrated. Not that anyone should stop jogging or recumbent biking or Tony Little Gazelling IF they love to run or recumbent bike or Gazelle. I'm definitely still of the age where I'd like my fitness and leisure activities to pass the Awesome Test.

Most of the things you see people do for exercise don't pass the test. If The Bachelor and every other show involving long drawn out rose ceremonies can utterly butcher the word "amazing", then I'm allowed to stretch "awesome" into an 800 word blog.

I recently saw a dude at Planet Fitness plodding away on the treadmill. Sure, there is a lot worse he could be doing with his time, but I didn't think that was very awesome.

The next day I stood by an athlete repeatedly pulling 135 pounds right off the floor with perfect form. That was definitely awesome.

I saw a lady biking down past the Yellow Breeches. She looked like she was benefitting from the ride, getting from A to B in the fresh air, but I wouldn't say it was awesome.

I caught a neighbor kid jumping his bike off the side of a ramp in our yard. He fell in the grass and that was awesome.

118 mph controlled tennis serves? Lifting 95 pounds from floor to over head fifty times in less than 10 minutes? Rapid fire flips and backward somersaults on a narrow balance beam? Fade away jump shots in the eye of lanky behemoths? Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Nine iron from 30 yards for an eagle? Swimming for more than, like, 15 minutes? Driving around other guys driving? That...thing people do on an elliptical machine? These are either difficult or physically challenging, but not both. And not awesome.

I don't even try to be awesome at everything that's awesome. I think advanced yoga and extreme cheer leading are pretty awesome. You don't have to be formally trained to know awesome when you see it. In fact, ask anyone less than 18 if a certain activity is awesome, and they're probably right.

Of course, what passes the awesome test for an adult is far from hard science. The problem is that the common denominators for my preferences are not words you think of with aging. Speed, skill, strength, intensity and risk. Not exactly "take the stairs instead of the elevator" type of activities.

What can you do, when nobody is getting any younger here, and slowing down is inevitable? Slowing down to a stop, in fact.

No matter how hard we fight aging, we will experience a gradual closing of that precious window of time between warmed-up and tired. We will get stiff and achy and not feel like hitting the ground.

You can do something! While I won't deny that there's nothing awesome about torn tendons and fractured bones, I will say that these types of injuries shouldn't be viewed in isolation. It was usually (but not always) a set up.

There's plenty of evidence that fitness, strength, and power can continue to increase, especially if you're previously untrained. The thing I'm trying to do is to not except the plight of the middle aged. Chronically too many responsibilities (by choice, not necessity), slow twitch, no butt Khaki pants wearing, looking like a dad.

I won't even drag the couch potatoe Homer Simpsons into this. Take a look at these guys. I'm pretty sure they're more awesome people than I'll ever be. But they look like dads:

It's a dad's life.

If you don't want to look like a typical dad you're going to have to make your physical and mental health a priority and revolt against the forces of (only) long drawn out cardio.

You can do high intensity activities if you're wise about it. Wisdom means arranging your life, if at all possible, to allow some time to play. It means gradual progression and consistency; not expecting to lay around all winter then sprint out a triple on a cold day in March. It means knowing good pains and bad pains and working hard toward a few identifiable fitness goals that are a fit for your mind and body.

But please don't do random long drawn out cardio on an elliptical or just sit around for the majority of the year and then blame flag football for your achy knees or torn ligaments.

Also remember that while you can walk in the mall every day, by their very nature, high intensity, high impact activities were never meant to be engaged on a daily basis. No one, at any age, should lift heavy things or take big hits day in and day out. The whole cycle of exercise, rest, and recovery is an essential, beautiful, and satisfying thing. So let it be, let it be.

I won't deny that no matter how many daily battles we win with our most intelligent and disciplined efforts toward fitness and vitality, old man time wins the war. He always wins. But for now, I say go hard, as hard as you can. Go hard while it's in you, because someday you absolutely won't be able to. Going hard is a gift, so don't waste it on yet another round of boring long drawn out cardio.

Unless that's what's awesome to you. And especially if that's really all you can do, then more awesome to you.

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