Spring has come to Eugene, and we are emerging. But in what kind of shape?
“He’s still around?”
I nodded. My gym friend shook his head. “Unbelievable,” he said, then went back to his bicep curls. I could see him grinning behind his mask. I was too.
Planet Fitness was jammed this morning. Well, jammed in comparison to what it’s been since we were on lockdown. The energy level was amazing. It’s spring, the pollen count around here is horrendous, but we’re in the gym at 6 am pounding it out as the weather report promises us sun every single day this week.
Oh. My. God. Spring. Warmth. Sun. Oregon in April.
Why Mick Jagger? What does that have to do with anything? Well, I had just seen a tweet from the man himself that morning before I left for the gym. More on that in a sec. First, some background.
I was barely a teenager in 1966 when my father bought me a tiny transistor radio. That piece of magic sat on the top of a fence post while I scythed through weeks three times my height, weeds which grew every single year on our Central Florida property. By that time, Satisfaction, 19th Nervous Breakdown and other classics had cemented The Rolling Stone’s legacy.
Who knew that fifty-five years later, The Stones would not only be rock royalty, be-knighted in fact, but would have outlived many of their contemporaries.
Why on earth did this come up at my Eugene Planet Fitness this morning?
Partly because I’ve been reading an awful lot of material about how swiftly people aged under quarantine. And partly because of what happened yesterday morning just southeast of town, with a woman Jagger’s age, in fact, which is part of the whole point of mentioning him.
Yesterday I went for a hike on the West side of Mt. Pisgah with a brand new friend. Crhis is about a decade older than I am, swift and spry and funny and smart. She climbed out of her car (replete, like mine, with a kayak rack on top) decked out in the kind of loud Lycra that I fancy, armed with hiking poles, a hyperactive Lab and a great sense of humor. This would be our first hike. Won’t be our last, either, with any luck.
Chris is the kind of serious outdoors woman, someone who climbed Kilimanjaro like I did, whose enthusiastic engagement with life and the Oregon outdoors is precisely the kind of company I’ve been looking to keep after I moved here last year. I have been hungry to form a community here in Eugene, but Covid, quarantine and the demands of handling deferred maintenance projects on my house have kept me largely close to and inside home.
Chris has lived in the Eugene area most of her life. She’s active with the Obsidians, a non-profit local hiking and biking group formed back in 1936. One look at their website and it’s clear that members and non-members alike are engaged with and focus on outdoor activity as well as cleanups and other beautification projects. With folks like that I can get first hand recommendations, as well as adventure partners, for hiking, biking, kayaking and camping all over my new state. What’s not to like?
The Obsidians have been, like most of my Oregonian neighbors, very careful about protecting its older members from Covid. As eager as I was to join up, there wasn't much to do until people felt it safe enough to head out again. That would be right about now.
After our hike, Chris asked me if I’d be willing to do a talk for one of the Obsidian potlucks about one of the trips I’ve taken. Now that spring is upon us, and it’s time not only for us to ease slowly and safely out of quarantine, the idea of doing some public speaking as well as meeting folks who love the outdoors as much as I do, and who are likely close to my age bracket, is supremely attractive. People who are youthful, no matter what their age.
It’s not just becoming more engaged as part of the community. It’s getting involved with really active people who don’t have time to talk about how their joints hurt or how this or that ailment is such a problem. At this point for so many of us, life really is too short to bark about what’s barking in our knees. You put a brace on (I wear one on both) and you head up the hills anyway. After all, what would you choose? Sequester yourself inside for the rest of your life because of some barking knees? Nope. Bring the ibuprofen, water, and let's go enjoy the view.
Hiking with Chris, who is fond of doing her yoga as the sun rises to touch the top of Spencer Butte nearby, reminded me of how many times I’ve seen comments from writers or friends about how old they felt. While being under quarantine and being deeply stressed out about our loved ones and of course our own health is taxing, what has been far more taxing for many has been sitting around, eating poorly and allowing our bodies to spread out. People have been complaining at themselves and each other about getting old fast at 50.
So why Mick? Because Jagger posted a tweet yesterday about coming out of quarantine, his optimism and let us know about it. It really caught my attention.
Jagger turns 78 this July. It would be safe to say that the man can afford all kinds of gym equipment, workout gear and personal trainers. It’s clear he didn’t spend that time watching Game of Thrones and adding an additional forty pounds.
Having gotten himself involved with a ballet dancer, Jagger added ballet routines to what was already a brutally demanding workout and dance regimen which has allowed this “old man” to strut the equivalent of some ten miles at a time during a single performance. As has been widely reported, Jagger’s diet, exercise and supplement program are all part of why he can do what he does this late in life, and do it with the energy of one of his kids. Perhaps more than that kid. Certainly more than most folks I know half his age.
Don’t believe me? He was shown on Twitter barely a month after major heart surgery busting major moves. Puts us all to shame, complaining about being old at thirty. While I recognize most of us don't have his options, what you and I do have, that he demonstrates, is the option of self-care at a very high level.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Like all my neighbors, and many of the rest of us, how we spent our time under quarantine speaks loudly to the values that you and I already had around self-care. You and I don’t need Jagger-style money, or his studio, or his cooks or anything else to feel younger.
We do, however, need to MOVE.
For my aging athlete dollar, there is no better place than Eugene, which is part of why I moved here. Chris is just one of many of the people I am meeting and getting to know, people who have chosen to live here for the sports and opportunities to play well into our nineties. But it takes work.
Jagger can move the way he does because he started out with a work ethic and a commitment to give his fans the shows they deserve, and he never let up. You and I enjoy fans of our own, ranging from our family to our friends, to those who follow us on social media, people who read our blogs or articles or simply hang out with us. In that regard, how we treat our aging bodies, and we are aging, has everything to do with how we either explode out of quarantine onto the Amazon Creek trail or grease up the bike for long rides through the local hills. As I have written elsewhere, many of us might not have cared for ourselves very well under the stress of quarantine, and as the warmer days entice us back out, you and I might be coming to grips with our body's new gripes.
My friend at Planet Fitness and I met back before the lockdown. This morning, the place was crowded enough so that we had to make room for folks carrying barbells around, something that we haven’t seen for a very long time. It was heartening to be around a small crowd for once, even if we were still masked up. The energy level isn’t exactly like being at a Stones concert (which can cost you close to $675), but it still feels incredible.
For my money, as much as I respect Jagger, admire his work ethic, perhaps what I like best is that nobody, but nobody, thinks of him as an “old man.” His face shows his age, as all of us do. But that man’s moves are as electric as ever if not more so. He never stopped exercising.
When he required heart surgery, he actually apologized to his fans for the delay. There’s a good reason he’s a beloved entertainer. The focus he put on being in shape to deliver amazing performances is just one reason why he was back in his studio testing out brand new moves after heart surgery. Nobody is so perfectly fit they won’t get ill or have issues. Everyone does. The question is how well-prepared we are to navigate those challenges.
That’s why I thought about Mick when I was at the gym. You might want his money, but I want his energy. In our own ways, what he personifies, his amazing moves, his zest and verve, and his dedication to his craft aren’t just enviable. They are in every single way doable for each of us. Why can I say that? Because this:
Exercising on a regular basis over a lifetime may help keep the body decades younger, says new research from Ball State…
From the article:
“‘Exercise wins’ is the take-home message,” said Scott Trappe. Trappe said the benefits of the study should be obvious for the average person: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day may be the key to a healthy life. , director of Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory and leader of the 11-person research team. “We saw that people who exercise regularly year after year have better overall health. These 75-year-olds — men and women — have similar cardiovascular health to a 40- to 45-year-old.”
Trappe said the benefits of the study should be obvious for the average person: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day may be the key to a healthy life.
Trappe found that when he compared tiny bits of muscle taken from the 75-year-olds to that of 25-year olds, they were virtually indistinguishable. So while you and I are most certainly going to get saggy and baggy skin, if we're dedicated, our muscles and VO2 are remarkable in terms of keeping us vibrant into advanced age. For my aging dollar that is an excellent deal.
You and I don’t have to work out like Jagger. However, to get the swagger that carries us into old age, we do have to work out. And eat intelligently, among other things. So as we slowly but surely emerge after quarantine, now is the perfect time to reflect on what’s possible with the bodies we have. A great deal, actually, which is why my Planet Fitness was active, why the hiking trails are seeing more foot traffic, and the bike trails are busy. And as I hike each night around my neighborhood, more and more of us are out in the warming air.
And with that, kindly, two important provisos.
And, with all fair warnings, so are the bike thieves, which means you really do need to have a lock, a good one, for bike theft in Eugene is on the rise and is higher than usual this year. Please see this. Eugene's theft issue is primarily bike and car breakins, so please don't offer easy temptation.
And while I wish I didn't have to post this warning, if you park at any trail head, do not under any circumstances leave a purse or electronics on the seat, or anything else in plain sight. This article covers the basic advice, but this year, as spring sees more activity on the trails, I have seen plenty of broken glass when I pull into the parking lot at Spencer Butte. The best thing to do is clear out your car, or put everything into the trunk before you get there, make sure you're locked up. Get out, get hiking, but get your computer out of the car or at least out of sight.
But, back to the fun stuff, which is a brilliant spring day, a lively invitation to get out and sneeze in the pollen-y air, make new friends after being inside way too long, and get a spring back into our steps.
None of us wants to be seen as, or feel like, an “old man” or “old lady.”
At any age. Which is why this afternoon, I’m heading out to the Amazon Creek Trail to see who else is hiking in the bright spring sunshine. My own version of being like Mick.
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