Different people define middle age differently, but having just turned 51 I think I’m in it by all definitions.
My first sense of my body physically declining came in my early thirties, when my potential to compete in ultimate began to decline. Before then, I always felt motivation to practice since I knew the next year my potential would be higher. After then, no matter how much I practiced, my potential would decrease the next year, which decreased my motivation to practice.
Over the years, the physical decline continued. The biggest included the time to heal from injury and recover from hard workouts. In my second-to-last summer playing summer league I didn’t play to be the best on my team, then in my early forties, but to have fun. I hurt my leg. Nothing worse than I’d experienced before and knew to play a little easy for a week or two. Two months later, my leg was still recovering. This summer I hurt my knee. It’s taking months to recover.
Ten years ago I exercised in a four-day cycle: lift, rest, cardio, rest. I needed four days to recover from lifting. Then I moved to a five-day cycle. Now I need six.
Lately I’ve found something new. For years, I’ve slowly but surely been able to lift a bit more each year. My burpees and other daily calisthenics were challenging, but for a long time I increased them every year. For a few years, I plateaued. I did the same each day and stayed the same physically. Lately, even doing that amount I’ve done without change for years, I feel more tired. I can’t do them as fast. My body lost its dexterity and I look older doing them. I bought that 70-pound kettlebell and was able to do more repetitions for a while. Now I can’t. I’m not sure if a temporary reason is making me weaker. That I would peak at that weight just after buying it seems too coincidental.
I recommend daily rituals—sidchas, in particular. They give self-awareness of increasingly subtle parts of yourself. For better or worse, they allow me to track my body’s physical decline more precisely.
My hair receding is an exercise in acceptance and celebration, though more deliberate since my podcast episode Bald Versus Plastic, when I decided to stop buying minoxidil. My skin is less supple.
Mental and Emotional
My emotional awareness, I think, continues to increase. I believe I’m more wise, patient, thoughtful, empathetic, a team player, and things like that. I know more renowned and influential people and have become friends with many of them.
Learning attraction and dating woke me up to the potential to improve there and I have since, I believe, augmented by coaching attraction, dating, and then executive leadership.
The exercises in my book Leadership Step by Step increased my social and emotional skills. I should promote the book more since those exercises change lives. There’s a reason the United States Secretary of Defense praised the book so highly (I recommend buying it and doing its exercises). Meditating on and off since 2007 and regularly the past few years has given me more awareness of consciousness and how the mind works. I’ve been listening to discussions in a podcast app on meditation and feel like I get most of what they’re trying to convey.
I can’t tell yet if my mental faculties are declining, but I know it’s coming. I still have some quality years left. I figure I can keep doing my level of burpees and calisthenics daily for years, though I expect to have to keep slowing down.
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