A young man recently asked why I share so many stories of older men and women who continue to exercise or compete. He then stated his preference for learning and observing from athletes in their prime. He finished by asking how it is beneficial for a young adult to observe an elderly person in competition.
My initial thought was that it is unfortunate a young man must ask what he can learn from his elders. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt however as I made my share of mistakes as a youngster. I suppose I had to grow older to fully appreciate how much we can learn from previous generations. I certainly cherish the time I spend speaking to my grandmother who is in her 90s and my aunt who is 101 years old. There is always something to learn from those with so much experience in the game of the life.
Unfortunately, experience in life is not always appreciated until after the fact. It is more common to praise experience as it relates to athletics or professionals in the work force. For example, the seasoned athlete is typically considered the more knowledgeable source when compared to the inexperienced rookie. Most seem to accept this notion yet tend to overlook the significance of experience in life.
Personally, I believe we can all learn from the examples set forth by those who continue to compete in the latter stages of life. A prime example can be seen below. Take a look at 92 year old Svend Stensgaard in a recent powerlifting meet. He deadlifts 286 pounds at approximately the 5:30 mark within the clip.
Svend is a prime example that we are never too old to pursue our passions. At 92 years old, he is more capable than many adults a fraction of his age. Meanwhile, I regularly hear from men and women in their 30s and 40s who are already complaining about old age. Svend on the other hand is willing to collapse to fulfill his goals. He actually falls to the ground upon completing the lift. To no surprise however, he gets right back up.
I also enjoy observing older athletes as they aren’t competing for anyone but themselves. Svend isn’t trying to convince the rest of the world to become powerlifters. And while that may not seem significant, it stands out to me based on how much nonsense I see spewed throughout the fitness industry. Too many experts preach a single approach at the expense of all others.
Svend offers yet another example that there is no single right or best approach. Almost anything works if the individual is willing to work. Throughout this blog’s history, we’ve seen older athletes involved in gymnastics, ultramarathon running, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and more. One example is not better or worse than another. Even opposing examples actually work together to reiterate that countless options do exist. For example, while one young expert dismisses powerlifting for the elderly, Svend provides a real world counter. While another expert dismisses aerobic training, we see two grandmothers running ultramarathons.
In each case, we see individuals who defy the odds and pursue their passions. They prove that it is never too late and that no one should ever pick your passion for you. If you want something, it is your right to pursue it. Don’t waste time trying to explain your passion to someone who doesn’t share it. Also stop assuming that you are too old to live out your dreams. Too many people act as if there are stop and rewind buttons in life. In case you haven’t heard, there aren’t. This is the only life you’ll ever live and the clock is always ticking. If you want something, start working to get it. As Svend and others clearly demonstrate, age is not the excuse that so many pretend it to be.
“I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” – Emiliano Zapata