Hitting Your Physical Limits
About two weeks ago, I was in my martial arts class paired up with a teenager roughly 1/4 my age. We were practicing various self defense techniques against a variety of wrist grabs. Being a 3rd degree Black Belt, I had no problems performing the techniques. I’ve been doing them so long that they’re almost second nature. But then it was his turn.
“Go slow,” I said as he struggled to get his hands in the right position. However, when the Instructor yelled, “Begin,” he didn’t go slow at all. He increased the torque on my wrist from 0 to 110% faster than I could tap out and before I knew it, I was on the ground hollering and holding my newly-sprained wrist as the searing pain subsided.
“What happened?” my partner quickly asked. ”Are you alright? You’re scaring me.” By then I had quit hollering as the feeling in my numb hand slowly returned. My Instructor thought my hollering was just some new form of “Kia” yell and proceeded with the class. I however, was done.
Although there was no serious damage, I did get home with a swollen wrist that needed lots of ice, some ibuprofen, and a couple of week’s rest. It also brought home to me the fact that although I love the martial arts and physical fitness and love sparring with the younger kids, there will be a time when I just won’t physically be able to do it – and I’ve got to question whether that time is now.
Although I am a 3rd degree Black Belt (did I mention that already?), the younger kids are simply stronger than I am – and constantly getting more so. Their arms are thick, sinewy and flexible while mine grow thin and brittle. The chance that one of them will accidentally snap something on me increases every time I get out on the floor.
That sucks. There’s no other way to say it. Getting old and losing your physical strength and stamina just plain sucks.
The first part of your life is one of growth and accumulation. The more time that passes by, the more you have – you become taller, faster, stronger. Somewhere around your 50′s, that changes. The second part of your life seems to be one of decline. The more time that passes, the less you have – the less endurance, the less stamina, the less strength. That sucks.
So does that mean that you just quit? Just go sit on the couch and watch TV all day and night until it’s time for bed? Give up all physical activity for fear of getting hurt?
Hell no. Study after study has shown that consistent activity and exercise is the one thing that’s proven to keep you in the best physical health you can be. In other words, physical activity keeps you “young,” if I can define “young” as being in the best shape you’re physically capable of at any given age.
However, you do need to acknowledge your physical limits. As much as it pains me to admit this, I probably need to spend less time on the floor wrestling with someone much younger and stronger than I and maybe spend more time mentoring and teaching. I probably need to spend less time on the “striking skills” like sparring, grappling and self defense and spend more time on the endurance and strength skills like cardio and weight training.
But I’m not quitting. I’m an active person by nature and I intend to stay that way. It may take me a lot longer to jog a mile than it did when I was 25 (not to mention a longer recovery time!) but the point is that I finished the same mile.
So go ahead and hit your physical limits. Take some time to recover and then hit them again, and again, and again. Keep pushing them back for as long as you’re physically able. For each time you push against them, you regain a little of that youth you used to have so much of. You get to play chase with your grand-kids without pooping out early. And that makes it all worthwhile.
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