I celebrated my birthday recently on a warm summer day in southern Sweden. My wife gathered some local friends and we enjoyed delicious coffee and cake on the terrace overlooking the sea. Afterwards, everyone walked about 30 steps to the beach and the young children had a blast splashing and playing in the water.
About a week earlier I took my fitness routine to a new level by running every other day. It’s easy to do around the summer home as beautiful nature and a sandy beach make for ideal running conditions. Some evening runs were magical with the soothing sounds of nature, pure air and dazzling early evening sunlight. In the past 35 days I have run 16 times for a total of 90 kilometers (a distance of more than two marathons). I took two days off, once for a massage and another time for a weary yet fantastic round of golf.
When I turned 40, I made a promise to myself to take my exercise to a new level every 5 years. Back then I began the process of preparing for my first marathon which I successfully completed in 2006. It wasn’t easy but not difficult either as I “put in the time” training for it six months in advance. If you have the desire to run a marathon for the first time, I encourage you to do it although I implore you to train properly and run the race wisely or it could be the worst experience of your life. My article on the subject can be found at the following link:
45 is the new 35 as 2009 finds Gswede in better health and shape than in 1999. Many elements have improved since the age of 35 as I eat more nutritiously, feel and look better, work out more consistently and have improved health statistics. The enhancement has a lot to do with my move to Sweden in 2004 as the adaptation to the quality food and way of life has been an easy adjustment for me. Swedes have one of the top life expectancies in the world - in large part due to the social welfare system, modest eating habits and active lifestyle. I plan to hang on to that Swedish longevity.
In addition, I have always made it a top priority to minimize stress as best as I could. During my decade in New York City (NYC), reducing stress wasn’t an easy task yet I made sure to spend quality time alone, get massages, travel outside of NYC, exercise and relax. Lowering stress should be a high priority as it can cause a number of life complications and if one doesn’t take a slice of “Me Time” (preferably daily) on a consistent basis, it can easily creep up and put a python strangle on your mind and body. I am no stranger to stress but I am a firm believer in doing the things necessary to keep the stress low and the spirit high.
A good friend told me today how stress affected a friend’s 39 year old brother; he had an aneurysm in the front yard and has been in a coma for two months. Stress nearly killed my father at age 53 when he had a massive heart attack – lucky for him that they were able to get him to the hospital quickly and he survived. Cardiac arrest is a major killer and it will pay a visit to many of those who neglect proper eating habits, don’t exercise or have elevated stress levels.
I would love to say that I am better now than 20 years ago but that would be foolish because unless one totally disregards basic eating and exercise habits, it’s difficult to not feel and look good in the mid twenties. I remember playing basketball at a torrid pace when I was 25 and never feeling any aches afterwards. That would never happen at 45. A spring was frequently in my step as a twenty something and the bounce is still there yet doesn’t come as easily today.
A message to all 40 something’s or older – stay within your abilities or comfort zone when competing athletically and don’t try to act as if you are twenty again. I have seen numerous people injured (often with pain for years) simply because they trained or competed as if they were still in college. A woman in my hometown was playing softball and ran the bases as if she was a track star; she never made it to home base and died. If she had run easily and comfortably, she might be on this earth today. Quality of life should be important and as we get older there needs to be a focus of sound judgment in any chosen athletic endeavor or you could have an aching knee or bad back for the rest of your life.
Whether you are 65, 55 or 45, it is never too late to change some lifestyle habits in order to enjoy a life equal to or better than ten years earlier. I am blessed in my 45th year – I wake up almost every day feeling good, without any aches or pains except the occasional back strain due to many years of basketball (including four intense ones in college) and a current dose of small children to lift up. In addition, I have not had a serious injury since my sophomore year in high school when I broke my collarbone.
And here’s the ultimate benefit of taking care of one’s physical, mental and spiritual being – I have only been sick 3 days in my life. That’s right, 3 days. There has never been a headache or the flu and none of those aforementioned three days found me bound to the bed. I have been truly fortunate in that regard.
Consider making a pledge with yourself to be more responsible, improve your health and help those in your circle to become more aware. If you care about your friends or family, don’t be afraid to get in their face and encourage them to make a change. Only they can make the necessary changes although a true friend will make the neglect and laziness very apparent.
Nothing is more important than your health. Without good health, the road in life will be full of cracks, extremely bad weather or a major car accident.
I will leave you with a thought provoking quote from one of my favorite authors; a man that has improved his life dramatically.
Try to realize that what stands between you and a different life are matters of a responsible choice.
Happy Gswede Sunday!
Barefoot on the Beach - Gswede's birthday bash ended on the sandy beaches of southern Sweden.