Challenging yourself constantly is path to growth as you age

  • By Bruce Overstreet
  • Wednesday, February 26, 2014 2:52pm
  • Life

“This is the CrossFit season. This is fun.” With those words, Ryan Swobody and Noah Pester, CrossFit elites, convinced me, CrossFit newby, that the CrossFit Open would be worth trying. The CrossFit open is a 5-week, worldwide coordinated competition among a couple hundred thousand people.

It’s a good thing I’ve never sat in on a time-share presentations, because I’m a sucker for buying into something.

At least this time it’s something healthy. I can start to see how fit I am relative to other 50-54 year olds who participate in the yearly competition. So what if I still can’t do more than seven pull-ups without having to take a break? That shouldn’t keep me from challenging myself to see just how I measure up.

This will be fun. I’m taking Pester and Swobody at face value. And I’m taking this new attitude to workout to the next level. Of course, it’s all in the name of research.

How much can I squeeze out of my relatively pathetic body in five different competitions over the course of five weeks? How much can I improve between now and 2015? I have to remind myself I’m in this for the long haul. I just want to be better tomorrow than I am today. So, I will push myself as hard as I can and then I will gracefully step aside and let the big young studs put up the really impressive times.

Maybe I will finish dead-last in my age category. That will be just fine with me, thank you very much. Some of the guys I will be going up against have been at this for years; I’m just starting. Some of these guys used to play middle linebacker or running back on their high school football team; I ran on the cross country team. Some of these guys in my age category can probably do as many pull-ups as their age; I’m stuck in the single digits.

But, what they may have in strength, I can make up with endurance. So my goal is to beat five guys in this world-wide competition. I’m hoping that somewhere in the far reaches of the globe, there are five guys who don’t have something that I have.

I’ll keep you updated once this competition starts, regardless of how badly I may be doing.

NOTE: Some people are wondering why I am doing this competition. Some people scratch their heads and ask what is the motivation that propels me to subject myself to the humiliation of stuff like this.

I finally found a good explanation in the book “Younger Next Year.” The author talks about the concept of pushing yourself outside of that comfort zone to become better at things, to keep your life vibrant, to force yourself to expand your possibilities. He calls it “kedling” which is a reference to a method old sailing ship captains used to resort to when the tide was running against the boat and there was no wind. And danger loomed. In order to pull the boat out of the danger, they would have to resort to the skiff taking the anchor out in the direction needing to go, dropping it, and then having the crew pull on the line.

Anything to avoid ending up in the rocks.

That’s what this is all about. Putting myself in uncomfortable positions and challenges that allow for my growth — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Every time I do an event that forces me out of my comfort zone, I feel empowered. And this is what people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s need. We need those stimuli. It’s what will keep us young.

If I finish dead-last in a competition but learn something, then I have enriched my life tremendously. If I embarrass myself by extending beyond my capabilities, that’s OK. It’s part of the process of finding out what you can and can’t do.

“Kedling” is a powerful metaphor for what we should continue to do until we no longer can do anything. When we “kedle,” the whole notion of what people are capable of doing takes a shift. We are all better off by that shift.

I know I will be better off having done this CrossFit Open, regardless of the outcome. Five weeks to find out what I’m made of. Time to keep the ego in check and keep things in perspective.

This will be my new “benchmark.” Heck, I may end up measuring my score thirty years from now when I’m in my 80s. And, who knows, I may be better then.

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