For most of my 56 years, I’ve considered myself to be a pretty fit guy — athletic even. I played seven years of Little League baseball; ran cross-country in junior high, where I also made the baseball, basketball, football, and tennis teams; played park and rec hockey in high school and intramural basketball in the Air Force and later in college. For 20-some years, I led my team to victory in my family’s annual Turkey Bowl touch football game. I’ve also been an avid, nearly year-round, bicycle commuter since the mid-1970s.
Now, that’s not to say I’m doing one-handed pushups on the living room floor after dinner or running 10 miles before breakfast each morning. Since I blew out my knee playing in the old guy’s basketball league 10 years ago, I haven’t really been all that active. And, until about a year ago, I’d never set foot in a fitness club.
Still, I feel pretty good, all things considered, and when I signed up recently for a session with a personal trainer at the Life Time Fitness club here in St. Paul, I expected that my “body-age assessment” would sustain my ego at a satisfactorily high level.
Josh, the PT guy, had spied me a week or so earlier getting tangled up in some pulley-type resistance machine and asked me if I was interested in setting a baseline for my workouts. I’d been frequenting the gym pretty regularly for more than 10 months at that point, so I figured it made some sense to see where I stood.
On the treadmill, Josh had me walking at a brisk pace to check my VO2 capacity, the amount of oxygen I could process per minute, before testing my bicep strength, flexibility and body mass. I thought I did pretty well on all these tests — except the flexibility stuff, which demonstrated why I’d been avoiding yoga all these years. But, when he totaled it all up and presented me with the results, I was pretty shocked:
Body Mass Index: About average
Cardiovascular – Max VO2: Fair
Bicep Strength: Average
Sit and Reach: Poor
Body Composition: Moderate
Overall Fitness: Average
Body Age: 58
Josh was very professional and knowledgeable and all that, but 58!?!? I refrained from asking him whether his computer needed to be recalibrated. I didn’t ask for a recount. But, I felt a little like Al Gore in 2000. I wanted to see if there were any hanging chads that might nudge that number a little bit toward more favorable territory.
That was clearly not going to happen, though Josh did send me home with a prescription for dialing that number back by 12 years in only 12 weeks.
Would I be willing to commit to a serious exercise and nutrition regiment? Could I marshal my old athletic passions for another push toward some sustainable, long-term fitness goals? Was it time to finally wash those ripe gym shorts in my bag?
These questions and more I’ll endeavor to answer in the weeks and months ahead as I chronicle my adventures in the frightening world of middle-age exercise. I’ll welcome your comments as I move through this slightly intimidating chapter of my life. Maybe you’ve been through this yourself, or are considering it. Together, maybe we’ll all survive with our egos — and hamstrings — intact.