Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul
The Simple 7 - Bucket #7: My Spirit: Inspired to Aspire
The Simple 7 Buckets That Build My Buffer: Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity, Spirit
Spirit! My soul, my psyche. My purpose, meaning and relevance ... my reasons to get up in the morning … my attitudes, perceptions and mindset that take charge of my day and my life’s journey. In this context, a wise and ‘seasoned spirit’, a gritty spirit, one that is tenacious, persistent and committed to prepping and pre-habbing for the long haul; one that drives the mindset of invest early to earn our healthspan, to nudge it up tight to our lifespan.
The New Map of LifeTM, created by the Stanford Center on Longevity supports this ‘spirit’ through six principles:
1. New roles and opportunities must be created so that people experience purpose, belonging, and worth; relevance.
2. Education must be a lifelong pursuit; not necessarily FORMAL.
3. Working longer should occur in multigenerational contexts; if by choice.
4. Money. Opportunities to earn and save must be available throughout life to ensure financial security; plan for a 100-year lifespan.
5. Advances in the science of aging must be distributed broadly in the population; we need to stay knowledgeable and own our decisions.
6. Physical health and the prevention of disease is critical to achieving the promise longevity presents; fortify our buffer. . .
The New MapTM encompasses the physical, social, intellectual, emotional, environmental, spiritual, and vocational/occupational dimensions of well-being. They are inter-related, rarely in perfect balance, and evolve with life lessons and experiences. Like the Simple 7 Buckets, each one plays a significant role in surviving and thriving. All require cultivation through daily practices, habits and patterns AND stimulating growth opportunities.
This column focuses on the physical dimension. The FIVE pillars of:
4) Stress-to-Survive+Thrive, and
5) Purpose-relevance-meaning all bolster the 7 dimensions of overall health and wellbeing.
Our Movement pillar is grounded in the Simple 7 buckets of Suppleness-Stability, Speed (Gait), Skills, Strength, Stamina, Specificity and Spirit, all of which boost my BUFFER, that space, that barrier between succumbing to the effects of aging per se, and pro-actively resisting and retaliating. It’s also the cushion between the GO in my chosen activities, and the BLOW, injury.
6 principles, 7 dimensions, 5 pillars and 7 buckets … we’ve got it! As we restore and refill Buckets #1-6, let’s shift our focus to Bucket #7, the most potent of all.
Bucket #7 is SPIRIT
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. Don’t be the first to grow old!” I’m not sure who said this, but it resonated with me over 30 years ago.
FUN is not frivolous, nor is it just for kids. Activities that bring joy and learning fertilize the brain, neutering boredom and stagnation.
Of the 7 Training Buckets, the Spirit bucket rules the roost. Our mindset towards aging matters. One of positivity and purpose has been unequivocally shown to extend the health span, sometimes more so than the physical factors. Coaches, military leaders and emergency services personnel repeatedly observe that ‘psychology trumps physiology’ even when physically mis-matched. Upbeat and positive, beats doom and gloom hands-down. Resilient folks bounce back, and some do it over and over again. They resonate hope, are flexible, optimistic, show gratitude and good will, accept what cannot be changed, then respond accordingly and do the work. [Chip Conley, The Modern Elder]
Aristotle stated that the body is perfect at 35, the soul at 50. Hippocrates said that we peak at 56 years. He had no clue that we had another 30-50 years to go, exactly why our longevity mindset needs an overhaul.
From Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame football coach, “we’re either growing or dying.” Growth lies in pushing out of our comfort zone, beyond the physical. Our vehicle will eventually call it quits, but we can optimize our life’s ride with DAILY use and regular maintenance, allowing us to deny the slide and ramp up our ride. AND BEST OF ALL, we set the stage for our kids and grandkids, a wellspring into a long and resilient adventure. This is the new spirit of an uncharted journey, ripe with opportunities to care, share, contribute and thrive along the way.
Re-WIREment is replacing retirement today, filling Act III with opportunities to learn, grow and discover. Time-affluence, control over schedules and priorities is a bonus, allowing the 60+er to re-imagine and reboot.
My Spirit Check-Up YES [1 point]: I just do it; that’s me NO: not in my thought process I …
1. More often than not choose the uncomfortable, like walking, climbing, getting off the couch or training, even when I don’t feel like it.
2. Value the benefits of physical labor and choose it; I rarely hire out for chores like shoveling, digging, landscaping, etc.
3. Seek out physical projects and work with my hands; it challenges my brain.
4. Look towards the future with enthusiasm and optimism, and plan to ……; I thrive on ‘what’s next’ and prep and prehab accordingly.
5. Take reasonable, not stupid risks; guaranteed safety is unachievable and stifling.
6. Strive to beef up all my dimensions and pillars 85% of the time, but certainly enjoy treats and breaks.
7. Rely on medications ONLY when absolutely necessary, and only when I have exhausted a full-blown restoration effort of my pillars and buckets.
8. Get up every morning with a purpose and enthusiasm, and am truly grateful for that.
BONUS: I TRAIN so I CAN do ALL the things that I NEED and LIKE to do year-round with confidence and competence.
See scoring at the end of this column.
Bucket #7: Spirit
Why should I care?
• My mindset towards my future shapes my behaviors.
• Stuff happens. Murphy WILL strike. Accidents, illnesses and tragedies WILL happen. So, we either boost our buffer system to bounce back faster and stronger, or succumb to the long-term effects of complacency in spirit, mind and body.
• There is a difference between ‘feeling comfortable’ and ‘being complacent’; complacency breeds boredom, and boredom shuts down learning and growth.
• Complacency can lead to apathy, or indifference, and is associated with neuron death and brain shrinkage, sadness and depression.
• I can redirect my aging journey NOW, and CAN have stamina, energy, vitality, vim and vigor for decades to come; I CAN dodge and delay frailty, lethargy, fatigue and lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and fire up my ‘seasoned spirit’.
• People, 80%ish, quit doing what they love to do, because of joint-muscle-soft tissue reasons and loss of movement confidence, not disease.
• Then there’s this: “You are too old to ….……. you’ll get hurt. You’re NOT 25 anymore, ya know! What are you trying to prove?” If you are competent and confident, don’t let anyone break your wise and seasoned spirit. “We don’t live to be safe; we live safely to LIVE life to the fullest.”
• What fires together, wires, together. What syncs, links. Keep doing what makes you tick. Fertilize the brain with the NEW, to knock out boredom from the same old.
• Movement and exercise are the closest thing to a magic bullet in the anti-aging arsenal. Our gero-scientists look to the basic mechanisms of how exercise functions to facilitate good health, steering anti-aging pharmaceuticals onto a similar course
Common Sense Solutions:
My game of life, my prep and pre-hab! I CAN bend the trajectory of my aging curve. I buy-in, or opt-out. “I will see and feel change, if I make change.”
If I want to feel younger, I can choose to MOVE and DO. Movement is as vital to surviving and thriving as food and water. Movement sabbaticals are out, unless I am ‘dog-tired’ from physical labor, or struck by illness or injury.
Check in with the doctor and dentist. Do everything possible to preserve vision, hearing and that inner ear gyroscope, those senses necessary to move freely with confidence.
Continue doing those things that make you ‘tick’. Add some new ones, too! TRAIN so you CAN!” Repair and refill all 6 training buckets.
DAILY, WALK a lot and often. Accumulate 6-10K steps per day. Include 30:00 of continuous BRISK walking. Walk tall with a springy step.
At HOME, do chores and tasks willingly. Include multiple positions, speeds and loads. Do the inconvenient and uncomfortable sometimes. Go barefoot to keep the feet smart.
Screen-bound, break away every 30 minutes; reach up, bend and rotate; counter text-neck.
Physical labor with a positive attitude gives us a huge bang. The trades, service vocations, shoveling snow, chopping and stacking wood, or raking stone and gravel all get the heart pumping, the whole body moving, and the brain firing and re-wiring.
At PLAY, its’ all seasons, GO! Choose something that provides joy, that keeps you moving. Mountain bike, hike, skate-XC ski, snowshoe, golf, DANCE!
TRAIN to fill gaps and holes. ‘0’ physical labor and no physical hobbies, interests, sports or activities combined with the ill-effects of screens, sitting, tech-postures and a soft, cushy lifestyle is a recipe for disability and dependence.
The purpose of training is to move, feel and perform better now, and for the long haul. It must transfer first to my overall health and well-being, and secondly to the robustness of my buckets for MY game of life, care-giving and emergencies. So TRAIN and change!
In closing, ponder this: “It’s never too late to start, but it’s better to never stop.”
Scoring for Bucket 7:
GREEN: 8+ optimistic and doing the work; in perpetual prep and pre-hab.
YELLOW: 4-7 some slips and slides; reverse course now.
RED: 0-3 it’s never too late for a mindset makeover, one tiny step at a time; start with the easiest one first. Add 5:00 to walking your dog today.