By Sharkie Zartmam
If you ever played a sport you probably came up against many challenges, trained hard, and accepted accountability for your actions. Sports are not easy, especially at the highest levels but they teach us a lot about life, ourselves, and are also rewarding and fun. If you talk to world class competitors, they will probably tell you that the best part of their experience as an athlete was when they had to battle to win.
Aging successfully requires the same skills and mindset as an athlete playing his or her sport because as we get older, in order to enjoy our lives and still be productive, we no longer get to cruise on autopilot. Getting older is a challenge! We must step up, or get beaten down. The analogy of taking on aging as a sport motivates us to get off the bench, put on our helmets, get into the game, and maybe for the first time really take charge of our lives. Aging is not something we should fear. It is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. After all, look at all the people we know who didn't make it this far.
So how can we take on aging as a sport? Here is a 5-point game plan for empowered aging:
- Positivity: Top athletes never goes into a game expecting to lose. Even if the odds are against them, they are ready to compete and go for the win. Having a positive attitude when it comes to aging is also imperative. Looking for the good instead of what is wrong is a quality we can all possess. A "Can Do" attitude is deep inside each and every one of us and needs to be activated as we enter the territory of aging. Stop whining about your age! Be proud to have made it this far along the road of life, and know that there is still more to come! Have a curious, open attitude and enjoy the rest of the ride!
- Eat to Live: Athletes know how to eat for performance and as we age, we must take more responsibility for our diets if we want to thrive. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of chemicals and sugar and sadly lacking in fiber. Now is the time to start crowding out the unhealthy processed foods with whole fruits and vegetables, quality proteins and healthy fats. Making small changes in your diet will make a huge difference in the quality of life. Also, avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar does nothing good for your body and can put you at risk for just about every chronic disease known to man. It is the "devil in disguise." Don't be tempted!
- Move Every Day as If Your Life Depends on It. I love the Celebrex slogan, "A body in motion stays in motion." But hopefully, you don't need a drug to stay in motion. You know what happens when you don't move much during the day. You get stiff and sore. Athletes don't just exercise on game days. They probably train each and every day so they are ready to go up against their competition. It's no different in the aging game. Exercise is not only advised as we age, it's no longer optional if you want to have the best chance at a vibrant life and reduce your risk of disease. And it's not just about the positive effects on the muscles and heart. New research has shown that exercise is also imperative for brain health. So if you are not already doing so, make moving for at least 30 minutes a day a priority. It can be any form of exercise even walking. Just DO it. And moving more than 30 minutes a day is even better!
- Put Together Your Own Team. Being a part of a team is much more powerful than doing anything alone. As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: "People acting together as a group can accomplish things which no individual acting alone could ever hope to bring about." Athletes are most often chosen for a team based on their skills and previous success in their sport. But, in the aging game, we get to choose our own teams! As we go through various transitions in life, we tend to lose some people we used to have as friends and end up with others who share our new interests. Perhaps we don't change that much, but our interests sure do. So take a look at who is on your team now. How do they feel about aging? Are they complainers and no fun to be around anymore? Maybe it's time to get some new teammates. Reach out and realize that you need to work at putting together a team that supports you. There are several community centers, senior clubs, recreation departments and also online healthy aging communities. Your medical doctors and practitioners are also a part of your team and you should be able to choose them if possible. If you are looking for a new career or hobby, this can be an exciting time to find new teammates. Also, the people in your life who have always supported you, like special friends and family, need to be appreciated and not taken for granted. Nurture these relationships because they are golden! Remember that having a great support team as we get older not only reduces our risk of depression but also increases vitality and fun.
- Never, Ever, Give Up on YOU. The words "I'm too old to _______" should never come out of your mouth. The bottom line is that your never too old to anything that you really want to do. Where there's a will and desire, there's a way. Never make age an excuse NOT to live your life to the fullest. Focus on what you can do, not what you can't. And remember that in the second half of life, we might finally have an opportunity to follow our passion and purpose instead of pleasing other people or meeting the demands of a stressful job. Living our purpose and following our passion is more important now than ever. We finally have a chance to get it right and enjoy and use our talents before we make our final exit.
So taking on aging as a sport, is a fun, challenging way to enjoy our lives all the way to the end. Appreciate life, step up to the challenges and live each and every day as if it could be your last.
And when that day does come, hopefully you can look back, smile and say, "Wow, What a Great, Wild Ride! No Regrets!"
Sharkie Zartman, MA is a college professor, a former All-American volleyball athlete and award winning volleyball coach. She hosts "Sharkie's PEP Talk" on Healthy Life radio, is a certified health coach and is the author of five books, including "Take on Aging as a Sport." She helps people take an empowered approach to life and aging so they can have optimal health and success at any age. www.sharkiezartman.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.