Younger Next Year

So my dad went through a phase where he lived and died by the book Younger Next Year.  While he may be out of the acute phase of absorbing this book, I think he made some chronic adaptations for the better.  For his age, he’s a fitness fanatic.  He wasn’t a collegiate athlete.  He hasn’t competed formally in decades, but he’s pushing himself daily and feels anxious on days that he misses.  Although it would be a sad statement for me considering a later growth sport, my dad’s favorite tagline is that he got back to his high school weight in his 60s.

Anyways, I hope I’m still a far cry from needing this book.  I also have a hunch that I’ve learned its lessons empirically through the amount of time I have spent and continue to spend in formal athletics.  Either way, I still want to be “younger next year.”  Not so much in a physical sense, but in the attitude of athletic openness, I hope to maintain.  In class, we had a handful of slides that illustrated the steady decline of many biological systems with age: VO2 Max goes down, bone density goes down, etc.  However, we also saw a slide that illustrated just how long people manage to hold on for as well.

Even so, that’s not really my goal by saying, “I’d like to be younger next year.”  This final class was an extremely moving one in my opinion.  Karen spoke very candidly about the trajectory of her athletic self.  She was open and in tune with herself.  She explored new things.  Any time one door closed another opened.  She seemed forever eager to continue finding her athletic self.  Meanwhile, Michael was equally inspiring in that he walked away from his athletic life due to the onset of an illness and then returned to it.  Through sheer willpower, he reopened a door that he thought was slammed shut.  Lastly, I think Maria’s story of metaphorically falling off her athletic horse in a very serious way and getting back on it combines both perspectives with a union of both positive thinking and determination.  I was once told something to the effect of, “what makes an athlete exceptional is not some extraordinary singular event or characteristic, rather it is the extraordinary ability to relentlessly commit to a goal day-in and day-out regardless of who is watching.”  That is something that can be accessible to everyone.

Over the past 11 years, I was pretty narrow-minded about my athletic pursuits in light of my rowing goals.  However, if I look back, even within that time, I approached new hurdles that I’d either never done or hadn’t done for years.  Sometimes, I came to them organically because I felt like something new, and other times, my hand was forced by injury.  Either way, I bought a speedo and goggles and started swimming again.  It was the first time I swam for a workout since I quit competitive swimming when I was 14 (15 years).  I cycled more.  I learned new lifts.  I went from someone who couldn’t touch my toes in college to someone who can hold “Crow pose” with some confidence (and touch my toes).  I went from being too uncoordinated to jumprope to being able to do crossovers and double-unders with proficiency in my early 30s.

I’m going to stay realistic and smart about what I choose, but I hope to stay forever open and eager to my athletic development no matter the form it takes.  Next stop: head stands.


Thanks to Prof. Millard, Dr. Millard, and Prof. Klinkerch.  It was a very well-rounded and thoughtful class.  I only wish we had more time.  Thanks also to my fellow classmates for entertaining an old guy amongst them.


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3 Responses to Younger Next Year

  1. Flying Monkey says:

    Whenever I think I have it hard what helps me is remembering that my mother does so much more than I do and it’s honestly just incredibly impressive. This is a woman that never worked out a day in her life until a few years ago. She now works out every morning at 4:00 AM before driving an hour to work and doing a 12 hour shift at the hospital. I think she’s in the best shape she’s ever been in and that is incredible to me. I’ve done the stuff she does a few times and it’s not easy and I’m a college athlete 30 years younger than her. It’s truly amazing to me what you can do and what you can achieve if you just put your mind to it and work towards it.

  2. McRunnah says:

    I truly believe that you have described one of the healthiest mentalities a person can hold. Being constantly open and accepting to self-improvement, in any form. You’ve made the point that, athletically, this betterment does not need to be in regards to our health. But it can be the pursuit of exploring new activities, new moments, new ways to explore the capabilities of our bodies. In a way, this is what makes us feel “younger,” that sense of spontaneity, and the ability to say yes to a challenge. Like a double under with a jump rope!

    Your quote, “what makes an athlete exceptional is not some extraordinary singular event …” resonates deeply. In essence we are the combination of all facets of our being. Our likes, dislikes, passions, skills, goals, our choices and actions. Our athletic pursuits are the culmination of everything we have poured in to them. And we in turn are partly the culmination of our athletic pursuits. It’s these ideas that fuel the drive! So as my favorite quote goes, “Bid me run, and I shall strive with things impossible.”

  3. Two Left Feet says:

    My dad has also recently gotten into fitness and it seems to be great for him as well. He’s also no collegiate athlete, and he’s thinner than he’s been in years. It’s great to see him still able to do so much at his age as it gives me hope for how much time that we have left in athletics. Just because we aren’t able to compete formally doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge ourselves to get better.

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