Fit Fifty-Year-Old

Why I’m Super Fit at 50 and You’re Not

Super Fit 50-year-old man

Recent Selfie

First, let’s get past the question of whether or not I am super fit. Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days, but for the most part, I exercise regularly, I maintain a healthy diet, and I feel great. So, for the sake of this article, let’s all agree that I am super fit.

Now that we’ve established that I possess an amazing level of fitness, let’s take a moment and ask the question; Why am I super fit? Why is anyone super fit?

I’m serious. Why do some people consistently make healthy diet and exercise choices when so many others don’t? Why do some people live a healthy lifestyle year after year, but others can’t?

The simple answer, and likely most popular, is that some of us have above average will power, determination, and tenacity. In fact, I bet most of you would say it takes a special type of person to be super fit. You either have it, or you don’t. I disagree.

The Truth Behind a Healthy Lifestyle

If you think about it, words like will power, determination and tenacity, don’t explain anything. So let’s try to find a better answer, a more satisfying one, something that can be of real help to those of you looking for motivation.

To get there, let’s ask the question of what makes someone super fit from the perspective of free will being an illusion. Hear me out.

The truth is, you are a conscious observer of a complex arrangement of matter, but you are only an observer. You, or that feeling of you, have no control. You are not calling the shots. You may think you are, but you’re not. Your brain is.

There is value in approaching the why am I super fit question from this angle. Because, in the context of no free will, nobody has a particular trait or potential to live a better and healthier lifestyle than anyone else.

I firmly believe this, which is why I insist, if I can find the motivation to live a healthy lifestyle, anyone can.

For a moment, put aside any arguments, and again, for the sake of finding a tangible answer to our question, let’s all agree there is no such thing as a free will.

With no free will, we can no longer use words like will power, determination, and tenacity. These are the words we’d use to describe a consciousness that is in control.

The First Step to Changing Your Life

With the viewpoint of the brain doing all the decision making, I’m going to take an honest look at what motivates me to be physically fit.

Looking back almost a decade, I have no idea why I took that first step towards changing my life. Knowing myself back then, I assume it was for all the wrong reasons. Something along the lines of thinking, if I looked better, I would be happier.

In reality, there are a million reasons why I might have taken that first step, but what made my brain take the second step, the third, and so on? There must have been some reward(s).

Back then, I was way out of shape. I was an overweight, couch dwelling, low self-esteem, pile of; you get the picture. After that first workout, my body was undoubtedly screaming, “what’s up with all the unnecessary pain and suffering!”

Here’s what I’m getting at. There was no immediate physical reward that motivated me to take the next steps, so it must have been something else. Perhaps a comment from a stranger, inspiration from a book, an existential crisis, or a combination of things. Who knows?

Here’s what I do know. The cause and effect of the universe played out in a way that my brain maintained a mediocre level of fitness for years. Then, I discovered ultrarunning, and my motivation was turbocharged.

I’m not going to turn this into a lecture on the merits of ultrarunning. However, I will focus on the specific characteristics of ultrarunning that in retrospect, we’re extremely rewarding, and the key to my motivation in the early years of my fitness transformation.

I’m not saying that these are essential elements to consider when choosing a sport or activity. What I am saying, this is what I firmly believe made the difference for me.

The Ultrarunning Community

There is a unique communal aspect to ultrarunning that I haven’t witnessed in other sports. The focus isn’t so much on winning, but more about setting personal goals. Everyone is cheering for everyone else. No matter your fitness level, or what your goals are, you will find overwhelming support from the other runners.

The ultrarunning community understands that it’s the battle in your head that counts and points on the board are a just small part of the story.

Belonging to a group, being accepted by my peers, helping and supporting others, these are all incredibly rewarding to the brain. We are all social creatures. It’s in our genes.

Here’s the point, the reason I stuck with running as a sport early on has absolutely nothing to do with determination or discipline. Instead, it has everything to do with the positive emotional and social aspects of the ultrarunning community that my brain found immensely pleasing. Something I stumbled into by luck, the kind of luck you could be experiencing right now by reading this.

Ultrarunning and the Fountain of Youth

Is Ultrarunning a Fountain of Youth? It might be. When I first started meeting people in the ultrarunning community, I was always shocked when I learned how old they were. Soon, my perception of aging was flipped upside down.

Not only did everyone look much younger than they were. Most acted younger and ran because it was fun. The only time I ran for fun is when I was a kid. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on.

Recent studies have proven that vigorous exercise can increase telomere length. Telomeres are the biological aging markers found at the tips of our chromosomes. It is now a known fact that high amounts of running can turn back time in our bodies at the cellular level, as much as nine years.

I find this information very motivating since I recently found out I am at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease due to genetics.

Again, looking back, some self-preservation mechanism in my brain must have been triggered. It wasn’t my ego’s desire to look younger that kept me going, but my brain’s ability to detect the positive changes in my body, a way for it to tip the scales towards survival. I probably thought it was my choice, but my brain was in control.

A Runner’s High is a Moving Experience

Fast forward to today, when I ask myself what motivates me to get out there and exercise. My answer is the ability to move with purpose. I’ll explain.

Runner’s high is very real, and once my brain got a taste of that endorphin rush, it never looked back.

I don’t know what runner’s high feels like to others, but I can describe what it feels like to me and why I equate it to movement.

Over the years, I achieved a level of fitness that allows my body, most of the time, to move without any objection. If the brain wants to go faster, the body runs faster. If the brain wants to jump, the body jumps without giving it a second thought.

During those moments, when my brain and body are working in unison, and my conscious mind can sit back and enjoy the ride, I experience such an overwhelming sense of well-being and purpose. Everything is doing what it is meant to be doing, and it feels transcendent. That’s my runner’s high.

I am super fit at 50 because I’m physically addicted to exercising. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen to you.

Cerebrum E Cerebrum

For my final thoughts, my brain would like to speak directly to yours. All illusions of self, please leave the room.

Now that’s it’s just us brains, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to process my story.

As I’m sure you gathered, the key to being fit and staying fit is to find and maintain the right motivation. Trying to fit into an old dress, wanting abs, increasing your bench press are all fleeting objectives of the ego. Goals like this won’t get you to the finish line.

To reach your goals, you must focus on enjoying the process and not the results.

For me, enjoying the process initially meant finding an activity that provided a sense of community, one that provided support and social interaction. From there, it progressed to feeling younger and feeling comfortable in my body. Eventually, exercise turned into play, and moving is the name of the game.

When I walk out that door to go for a run, it’s because I want to. Not because I have too, or feel  like I should.

It took a long time to get here, but it is so incredibly worth it. Getting fit is the simplest and surest way to dramatically increase the quality of your life. And I’ll repeat. There is absolutely nothing special about me. If I can do it, anyone can.

If I had to choose a single point to leave you with my fellow brains, it would be this. Take that first step, and never look back.

13 replies
  1. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Inspiring! Thank you for putting a part of your journey into words like this! My mom, at 69 years old, is finally getting a little taste of this type of thing with community of others with FitBit competition with old friends throughout the country. She has not only lost a significant amount of weight but seems much happier, healthier, and an inspiration to others as well! Blessings!

    Reply
  2. Robert Appenzeller
    Robert Appenzeller says:

    Cool, Buffer, that you are sharing your story. You have accomplished a lot since I last saw you in Bocas del Toro. I have gone on a similar path. I have always been a relatively fit person, but when I decided to be a writer, and devote a great deal of time to sitting and writing, I let myself go a bit, and by the end of the second book, I found myself over weight at 178 pounds. I had several outbreaks of diverticulitis and was constantly on antibiotics. I thought my surfing days were over and went to the states for a complete check on all my systems. The results were encouraging. There was nothing really wrong with me. I talked to a friend who was a personal trainer and asked him what exercises he would do to get his body into good shape. He indicated that push ups and ab work was the thing that would have the best results. When I got back to Bocas I established where I was in both push-ups, sit ups, crunches, hanging leg lifts, laying leg lifts and hip raisers. I was weak. I could do three sets of ten push-ups and an equal amount ab work. My core belief has always been “the more ya do the more ya can do” and “the more energy you use the more energy you create”. So with this in mind I set out every day to do more and more and more. I began my journey in May of 2017. I am lucky to be retired and living in paradise with time and enough money to be comfortable. So I did a week of 10 of everything and the next week I increased it to 15. “The more ya do the more ya can do”. It is now July 2019. My daily work out consists of five sets of 115 push-ups and an equal amount of ab work. That’s 600 push-ups a day. I get all of that done in less than an hour with loud music pushing me along. From there I get on the bike and ride to Paunch where I have my boards stored and go for a two hour surf. On the way back I can stop at Paki’s and Scully’s and drink all the beer or whatever. I have gone from a 35 inch waist to a 31. I now weight between 152 to 158 pounds. I am also surfing better than ever at 73 years old. So, yes, Buffer it feels good to be fit and there should be nothing stopping anyone from doing the same but motivation and a good since of self-esteem. I wrote my masters thesis on self esteem and defined it as “how much you value yourself”. If you value yourself highly you will do good things for yourself if not you won’t. I am willing to do the work because I feel strong and that helps make me feel happy. So keep up this blog Buffer. This is my contribution.

    Reply
    • Buffer
      Buffer says:

      You are one of the fittest dudes I’ve ever met, and your attitude towards life is inspiring. You are the perfect example of what living life to the fullest, and staying active can do for a person. I would love to interview you for the blog. It would seriously blow people’s minds how fit you are at 73. If you’re down, message me on Facebook and congrats on the 2nd the book.

      Reply
  3. Joe potoczny
    Joe potoczny says:

    I can say being new to doing something more than drinking beer watching TV, eating pizza I look forward to having the feeling of enjoying it. This is a new journey for me. My journey began with hating to exercise, because if the pain after, to now welcoming the pain. I am no where near saying I love working out every session. I do however have an awesome time doing my workout once in a while. On that note I have never finished a run, walk, gym routine saying, “I wish I didn’t do this today”

    Thanks for the inspiration definitely made a positive impression on me.

    Reply
  4. Jenifer Postma
    Jenifer Postma says:

    So well written.I agree 100%..about 3 years ago I saw a picture of myself and thought OMG I look fat.I was 145 which was heavy for me and I decided to do something about it and I hated exercise,But I bought a treadmill and changed my diet and have been able to maintain about 110 ever since.I don’t diet I just eat healthy and workout everyday.I feel so much better about myself

    Reply
    • Buffer
      Buffer says:

      Thanks and good for you. I’m the same way. No special diet I just try to eat healthy based on my activity level. I call it intuitive eating.

      Reply
  5. Denise McDonough
    Denise McDonough says:

    I have been waiting to comment for this day, my 60th birthday. I wanted to send you a video of me doing my 60 pushups but it didn’t happen. I did do 60, but 30/30 and I did bench press a new high for me, 80 kilos. (177lbs).

    For me it’s about sensible and consistant diet and exercise. I’ve been lifting, walking, running, biking and not eating fast food for 35 years. The hardest thing for me to realize at the start was that this is something you never finish. It is what you must do for the rest of your life. I never take my health for granted. I could not live my traveling lifestyle without having it. Life to me is all about balance. Good health, good food, good beer, great wine, great friends and a Great Husband to share it all with.
    That said….you are SUPER FIT. Make sure you smell the Rose’s along the way and don’t hurt yourself. I love you.

    Reply
    • Buffer
      Buffer says:

      Happy birthday! Great advice. Nobody figures it all out, but you’re on the short list of people I know that are damn close. Love and miss you.

      Reply

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