They say age creeps up on you. It does! You wake up one day and there it is - staring back at you in the mirror. When you’re young you have it all. You can eat and drink what you like and sleep is optional - not a necessity. We take the energy, and the ability to recover from injury, for granted. But the years pass and things change. What once was easy becomes hard. Injuries don’t heal and pain returns from the injuries of your youth.
You question where it all went and why did you waste so much time? What happened, and when did this feeling creep up on you?
For me it was ignoring a shoulder injury - pushing on through, feeling I was invincible. Then 6 months of not being able to feel 3 of the fingers in my left hand soon made me sit up and take notice. Sleep was difficult as pain was constant with me - but it was once I lay down to sleep that it showed its face the most.
Healing came quickly in the end from a gifted chiropractor and then the slow road to recovery.
It changes your view when you live with pain for so long. It educates you like nothing else. You need to understand you’re not 20yrs old any more.
For some, that’s a bitter pill to swallow. For me it was a new chapter: a way for me to reinvent, to study and to learn.
Below is some of what I learnt. I’m not saying these tips are the answer for you. They worked for me and I am a teacher by profession and by nature, so I pass these things on in the hope it will help someone.
I’m here to say that life is for living. With some simple guidelines and consistent behavior, we can age well and we certainly don’t need to go quietly into the night.
I’m living a better life than I ever have and you can too.
Get a Check up. I get a blood test once a year. All is good and that’s great- but if it’s not, I want to know. I put my health in no-one’s hands but my own and you should too. Most illnesses are relatively easy to manage if caught early. No need to live at the doctors - but it’s crazy to hold onto pain for fear it’s something major - if not sorted - it soon could be.
Organize Your Sleep. The usual things apply like removing media in the form of TV, smart phones and computers - first and foremost, adjusting room temperature and reading can solve many problems. (At this point I have to say I don’t do any of the above! But never the less it’s good advice.) It’s good to have a ritual surrounding proper sleep and mine is a mix of breath-work meditation and tension release exercises for my muscles- all takes only 5 minutes. There is nothing more restorative than a good night’s sleep.
Improve Diet Quality. As Steve Maxwell once told me, ‘If you’re overweight, have digestive issues or struggle with toileting then you just don’t know how to feed yourself!’ Sounds harsh but it’s true! Overweight people know they overeat. Everyone knows what junk food and fast food is. The best diet for you is the one that works for you. I eat vegetables, lean proteins and not too much processed food. I use the Tilden diet but it’s whatever works for you. Ps I do drink a little bit at the weekend and I do eat chocolate - just not that much. You have to have some pleasures in life but moderation is key.
If it can be fixed - fix it There is a saying that, “injury ages and aging injures”. Most people can point to a serious injury that changed their life. “I have a bad hip /neck/ shoulder!” Whatever it is for you, it’s not bad- it’s just crying out to you for help. There are some injuries that just go beyond fixing but there are many that can be rehabilitated. Don’t live in pain that can be avoided.
Resistance training is the most powerful tool available to resist and reverse aging. I gave up lifting heavy weights 4 years ago. I use body weight exercises that in fact have made me stronger. I train less and feel better. It’s a win/win for me but it’s not for everyone. Resistance training has both scientific evidence and a track record of keeping us healthy. We lose muscle and bone as we age -that’s just a fact. Resistance training and proper diet can help us avoid that, so why would you not? It takes me less than an hour a week. For men it’s an important part of creating testosterone in the body.
You need to train aerobically too. Strength training is incredibly powerful but we also need endurance - the ability to keep going. I run but not like most people. I do what’s called Zen running - a form of active meditation. I also use my strength training like a HIIT session. But aerobic training can be walking, biking, swimming, rowing, elliptical machine or indoor treadmill - again, whatever works for you!
Do move! I don’t mean exercise just for the sake of it - I mean ‘be an active person’. That means getting up and down from the floor, squatting, crawling and creeping. If you really want to see functional movement- play with a toddler, they move so well and have phenomenal mobility.
Mobility is key - above all move! It’s the old adage of use it or lose it. Hips, back and shoulders are first to lose mobility. Little and often is great, perhaps a little morning stretch or a yoga class. Move slowly and breathe out as you relax into a stretch. Movement should flow.
Practice New Skills. This can be new hobbies, sports, languages, different music or books that you would not normally read. Stretch the brain like you stretch your muscles. Challenge it.
Look after your mental health. We are not our thoughts - we are not our feelings. We are so much more. The biggest battle you will ever face is with yourself. Taking control of your thoughts is the most difficult thing to do but the most important for your wellbeing.
Develop Relationships. Studies of the longest living populations or, “Blue Zones”, indicate that strong family and community relationships are key. Do you want to live well, be happy? Relationships are part of the story - a VERY big part.
Breathe well - live well. I left this until the end as this is what tied it all together for me. It changed my sleep, eating, strength, mobility, mental health and relationships - all through altering my breathing. It’s one thing that can be done at anytime and any where. Breathe light and into the stomach. Breathe in for 5 seconds breathe out for 5 seconds and repeat. This is it - at its most basic - but I would strongly recommend you research it more.