Friday, April 30, 2010

A Season of Contemplation - Adult Athletes

Everyday I work out 1 1/2 to 2 or more hours. On the weekend it could be 4 or 5 hours. I am holding the line on weight gain but I still have the oddly gangly body of a 50 something. My abs are rock hard, but I don't have the sleek concave flatness of a 20 something. I go in running races from time to time, but I am not fast.

What does it mean to be an older athlete; especially a non-elite level performer? I was thinking about this as I jogged on the tread mill this morning. I know people think life should be a balanced affair with exercise being of hobby status. People might say that being an athlete is not really having a meaningful life; but raising kids or having a career or helping others is. Being an athlete is my life, my ethos, my essence.

I think that everything is a spiritual path. The meaning in my life comes from what is in my mind, not what I am actually doing. It is in the mental and spiritual realm that my life comes forth. It is in the spiritual and mental context that being an older athlete steps up to the spiritual plate and hits home runs out of the ball park of ordinary life.

Life comes from the determination with which it is lived. If nothing else, the middle aged adult who devotes extensive amounts of time to cardio exercise and weight lifting and diet is unimaginably determined. The quality of determination is the life force itself, a theophany, a manifestation of soul and spirit. The life force is the blood and guts of a marathon completed in the hot sun three and a half hours after the winner. The life force is the eight pound dumbbell lifted by a sinuous bone with dried skin hanging in an empty fold. The life force is the abstinence from donuts in favor of the green smoothie.

"Ugh," says the sedentary middle aged peer, "How can you drink that green stuff?" I look at them. Their cause is hopeless. The smoothie is nectar of the Gods and they will never know that because it is green. "Did you run this weekend," they ask? What they mean is did I race. I run all the time. Even if I did race, I might not mention it. The meaning of endurance and determination in the character of an older runner is unfathomable to them. They just think all this running is stupid. They never exercised beyond school sports and then only for the sake of winning.

Winning and making a name for your ego is the smallest and most shallow part of the older athlete's ethos. Yet the age group award or some type of qualification is all that is understood by the sedentary middle aged peer. My life is lived at the level of the life force, soul, spirit. It is not lived at the level of donuts or career advancement or the kid's soccer game. I am in the game myself. Cigarettes and beer in a bar seem the most ludicrous way to spend time. Laying on a couch watching TV is nonsense. Lets go for another 3 hour run. Lets go do situps. Lets be alive!

I seem unable to give up my satisfaction of the life force's call to be alive. I was at it again at 4 this morning.

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