Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Father time

Insomnia ridden evening already, but I wanted to share something.

I got a message from an old friend. I say old because, well, we go back a few years and well, he's getting older.

He tells me that he's still playing rec soccer and lifting. But that he's really feeling his age now. He's getting out run by kids he was smoking just a few years ago. He says his joints hurt, and he feels he's just not recovering as fast. Is there a "supplement" he can take to fix this.

I told him, that getting slower and losing ground to the "young pups" is an evolutionary part of life. It happens to all of us. No matter how much we never want to be an "I used to...", all of us that hand in there long enough will be.

I've written about so many "I used to" guys. "I used to bench 500, but then I was cattle prodded for 27 straight hours in a barn one evening and after that my left arm never worked quit right again."

Everyone and anyone who lifts long enough, runs into guys who tell "war stories" about what they used to do, or what they used to be.


Maybe. I guess it depends on if you're trying to hold on to your youth or not. It's not easy coming to terms with your own mortality. Swallowing the bitter truth that life has an up slope, and then a down slope. And that we struggle so long to climb to the crest of it, then are never fully aware of when you were at the top.

"I remember when I could bench 500, and squat 700. I remember when I won that bodybuilding show a few months later. I guess I didn't appreciate those moments as well as I could have."

Then we struggle so badly on the other side of the slope, to slow the descent as much as we can. We dig our heels in and throw a fit the whole way down.

"No, no, no! I'm not ready to be past my prime! I don't want to accept this!"

But it will happen. It happens to everyone. All of us. Senses dull, reactions slow, recovering takes so much longer.

There are things that can be done to slow that descent, yes. However a slow descent is still a descent. You are regressing.

I've read some articles lately about how to keep getting better, or how to improve after you've put in so many long and difficult years under the bar. And it's nice. It's nice to read. However no one likes to acknowledge that eventually the cold wind of father time will chill your bones and numb your courage. I've know it. I've seen it. Men become weary of the affirmation that their body, and even their mind, just isn't what it used to be.

Eventually, that cold wind whisks all of us away. And I wonder, if when that happens, that I will look back and be content with all of the things I've done. All of the ways I've loved people. Will I live with regret over not knowing when I was at the pinnacle, and not appreciating it enough, or will I smile knowing I simply survived the journey? I don't know. Maybe it will be all of those things.

Enjoy life today. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come. If you're not as fast as you once were, it doesn't mean you have to hang up the cleats, it just means you may have to accept your role as a lesser player than you once were. If you're ok with that, and you still love it....then play.

The acceptance of the inevitable is a beautiful thing. Now I don't need worry about those goals I chased so long enough. I can chase something new, something different. I can pour my life into something challenge and rewarding in a different way, rather than trying so desperately to hold onto something that has slipped away from me. Mainly, myself. "I" slipped away. The person I knew in the weight room, on the athletic field.......he's gone.

And when it's gone, say it has. Then decide why you are going to do the new things that give you happiness and pursue that with the same vigor you slang the iron for all of those decades. You don't have to quit lifting, but you do have to understand the body is not going to cooperate with what the heart and mind often want so badly still.

Sometimes acceptance sucks. So when you do, try to do it through a straw. Handling a little suck at a time is a lot easier than trying to fit it in your mouth all at once.


  1. I'm still very young but my father constantly tells me that I should look after myself with this bodybuilding thing, so that I don't regret one day how I rather messed up my body than doing it good. I see it in my father and mother how bodies regress and that's normal, like you say.
    Think you gave your old friend a good answer here, Paul.

  2. Hey Paul,

    Sweet post

    What's your email address??
    I got some questions on burnout/stress

  3. Beautiful piece. And true, as hard as it is to accept. Persistence is very important, but being able to deal with loss and to accept dissapointments is a life skill that's invaluable.

  4. Thanks for all of the great articles and plain good advice. Being honest with yourself about where you are in your training life, I think is very important. I know you wrap your elbows when you bench. I have a tennis elbow and I've worn the band, but the pain has come and gone. It's not been bad recently but I ordered that voodoo floss from rogue fitness (mobilitywod guy Kelly Starret). I know it sounds crazy but I think it works. You wrap your elbow with this essentially bike tire tube (compression) and stretch for 2 minutes. It seems to promote blood flow to the area. The effect seems similar to the 100 rep curls. Do you know anyone who does this voodoo floss? Is it broscience?

  5. Don't go softly into that goodnight.

    Enjoy everyday you have, life is short. Acceptance is really hard to swallow sometimes in life. But you can't stop time and you can't go back in time. Can't erase old memories, you can only make new ones.

    Thank you, good read this morning, what I needed to remind myself to enjoy the present. Wishing a good day to all.

    Scott Ehlert.

  6. It's funny, once I hit thirty (I'm 31 now) I almost immediately noticed that things were a little different - injuries recover more slowly and I seem to pick them up more frequently, work gives me more nagging aches and pains than I ever had before. I'm dreading forty.

  7. I'm 47. Born with a retarded heel cord, suffered over 35 broken bones, veteran of 14 operations, and more soft tissue damage than I can remember.

    My mantra is simple; "I'm still here!"

    I'm still here giving a damn, I'm still here helping others, I'm still here in the gym, I'm still here sweating through every sweat, I'm still here despite the pain....you get the idea.

    What I do in life or in the gym may change with time, aches and pains...but today I'm still here.


  8. Been lurking around on this site for a few months now (does that sound creepy or what?) and this article finally struck a chord in me to make a comment. First Paul, thank you for all the free information on lifting you've put out for dumb buggers like myself to read. Actually, reading all this free information has made me feel so damn guilty that I've had to go out and purchase a couple of your books (And I'm gonna get me one those cool tank tops as well).

    While I've only been lifting consistently for the past 2 and a half years and my numbers are so pathetic that I'm ashamed to mention them, I've been studying karate for nearly 40 years, (I'm 49) have competed nationally and internationally and have had my ass handed to me on a plate nationally and internationally as well. In my twenties I was an invincible fuckwad who thought that he was gods gift to karate.

    Now no offense to your friend, Paul, but to the boys in their 30s, ( and don't even get me started on the ones in their 20's dreading that 30th birthday), lifting and talking about being 'old', GROW A BLOODY PAIR! For crying out loud boys, you're still fucking young. Strength wise you boyz are probably heading into your prime and you should be nailing that bloody iron to the ceiling. Christ almighty in my 30s I still not only believed I was that invincible fuckwad, but I had become an experienced invincible fuckwad. "Oh I get aches and pains that I never used to get". Boo fucking hoo hoo hoo. That is your body's way of telling you you're alive! Enjoy the pain, saviour it, caress it, because that pain is a beautiful thing and it ain't there when you're lying in your grave counting daisies from below. Even today banging down the door of 50, no ACL in my left knee, (why the hell do I want to take 6 months to a year off training to have the damn thing fixed?) no cartilage in my right knee, and I still believe I can give much younger buggers an ass whipping. Now that I'm lifting weights the competitive urge has resurfaced. I intend to enter a power lifting meet here in Japan as a celebration for turning 50 (I hope you don't mind Paul, I'll be sending you an email asking for training advise on that). I love the competition with myself. I don't see why I can't be stronger today than what I was yesterday. Do I have aches and pains? Bloody oath I do, but they feel GOOD! Because they are the aches and pains from a damn good session the night before...

    Father time?! Fuck father time and the horse he rode in on. He wants me he better bring a goddamn stallion to drag my ass off because he's gonna need it.

    Sorry for the rant Paul. Thanks for keeping things real and keep pumping out the great information

    Joe Te Iti

  9. dear Paul,

    Thank you for this post. It brought a tear to my eye.

    This site is excellent. It describes all that a lifter will ever go through (with powerlifting) - all the mistakes that we all make are described here. When I first stumbled onto here a couple years ago, I was a beginning lifter...I thought I was immune to a lot of what you said. Now I know better.

    thank you for making this one of my frequent stops on the internet.

    I bought 365 earlier this year, but couldn't implement it as very soon after I tore my quad doing front squats. After 3 months of no squatting, I slowly worked myself back up. I tore it on a cold winter day on the second rep of a front squat triple at 336#. I'm glad to say I'm healed and destroyed that same weight at 336#...I did an easy front squat session of 3, 3, and 4 reps at that load 6 weeks ago.

    take care Paul,