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Aging and Group Power

Aug 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

My daughter got me to wake up at 4:50 a.m. this morning and participate in what’s called a Group Power class at the health club. She’s 18, at the peak of her physical conditioning, she swam competitively for years, she learned how to play ice hockey last year and now she’s training to teach the fitness classes at the club. I’ve played six matches of badminton in the last two months. I’ve been wanting to get back into a fitness routine so I asked for her recommendation, which is how I ended up awake at 5:00 a.m., so it’s really my own fault. I wasn’t completely humbled by the experience. I feel that I am in better shape at age 49 than about half of the participants in the class. I don’t know what I expected, but I was thinking I was going to look conspicuously out-of-shape. Of course, when my daughter mildly critiqued my squatting posture after the class and casually mentioned that she’s been sick and running a fever for a few days, I was partially humbled.

I’m noticing that my body is really starting to resist activities I used to take for granted, such as sleeping on my side. I’ve always slept better on my side, but I’ve battled back and neck pain for almost 10 years so I try to sleep on my back, but I usually end up rolling onto one side or the other. Then I wake up at 2:13 in enough pain that it’s difficult just to roll back over. My shoulders have started to collapse under my own weight like a poorly-constructed third-world factory in an earthquake. I’ve turned over to get out of bed a few times recently and felt a pop and shifting of bones in my upper ribcage/collarbone area that was audibly disturbing.

I’m a little sore from the workout, but I went and did some weights a few days before to make myself pre-sore, which helps in some odd way. I will be sore for a few days, but if I can make it to this class twice a week, and then squeeze in weights once or twice more a week, that will subside. I definitely feel better when I work out. It’s challenging to fit it into my schedule. Part of the problem is that I don’t get enough sleep, which is exacerbated in the summer when my kids are on the 11:00 a.m. wake-up/midnight bedtime schedule and I end up not going to bed until 11:30 or later most nights but still get up early for work.

I used to run or lift weights or work out to look younger than I am, or to be in good shape, but now I just want to feel better. I’ve given up on looking better. It’s the same reason that I’m now avoiding toast at breakfast, because I feel better if I avoid wheat products. I’m not sure if there are fewer things now that make me feel better, or if I’ve gotten better at figuring out what makes me feel better, but I’m noticing more distinct differences. Coffee with creamer and sugar = bad. Coffee black = good.

Next year I’m hoping to coach my 10-year-old’s baseball team again, but I’ve started wondering if I’ll be able to throw batting practice for an hour, or demonstrate how to quickly back up a throw, or crouch down to catch a pitcher warming up, or stand back up after crouching down. In three months I’ll be climbing some of the steepest and crumbliest terrain in the world, in some of the least pleasant weather, trying to kill an elk, and I’ve started to think about how to avoid an injury. I feel like I should be Crash Davis in “Bull Durham,” when he tells Nuke, “Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.” I have to tell myself, “Don’t think, just do.”

We’re having some construction work done to our production facility here, and there are contractors out there every day working on the building. One guy looks like Tim Conway when he played the really old guy in the Carol Burnett skits, with a large beer-belly. Even his hair is in bad shape. He’s here in the morning when I get here and he’s here at night when I leave, and he moves very slowly. I would guess that he’s about 20 years older than me, but maybe he’s younger than that and the years have just been very full. One of the reasons I got out of a tow truck and moved into a desk was that I didn’t want to be engaging in physical labor every day, so I have to admire what this old guy is doing. He’ll probably keep doing it till they move him into the home, which could be any day, by the looks of it.

You hear about these guys who never go see a doctor or go to a hospital until it’s too late, because they “don’t need to,” right? Here’s why guys don’t go to doctors or hospitals: there are knives and needles there. I’m one of those guys, but I’m not making any announcements about what I’m not going to do, because I’m superstitious and don’t want to jinx myself. Next summer I turn 50. I’m younger than Michael Jordan. I plan on living a long time, mostly to spite a few people close to me. If I have to go to Group Power to make it happen, I guess I can handle that.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper