Don’t lose the excitement of adventure
Adventures in Aging
During a visit with my brother, Hank, about 20 years ago, the two of us broke into a round of silliness and non-stop laughter that I was sure embarrassed my then college student niece (his daughter). But instead of sighing and rolling her eyes, she said, “I love that you are so youthful . . . you and my dad both.”
I’m sure she would have responded differently if we had been in public, but I liked what she said and am happy to report that neither my brother nor I have grown up much since then. So I asked Hank to write a guest column about how his recent adventures are keeping him younger than his years.
I’ve had this sign on my office desk for at least 20 years: “I Have No Plans To Grow Up.” It may be what prompted my sister to give me a similar sign for home: “Growing Old Is Mandatory – Growing Up Is Optional.” Well, maybe my behavior was the prompt.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m a 60-something adult with a good job and a retirement plan, good kids and grandkids. So I’m not advocating irresponsibiity. But the sense of adventure I felt when trying new things 40 years ago is helping me love life and age successfully, if not gracefully. Recently, it also helped me turn my physical health around.
Three years ago, when I weighed over 200 pounds, looking at myself in the mirror finally convinced me to take action. With help, I improved my diet, focusing on healthier sources of protein and eliminating unhealthy carbs, including most sugars. Now, I’m 12 pounds lighter, but the big changes are in my blood chemistry and energy level.
While changing my diet, I discovered that the company where I work, 3M in Austin, Texas, had a Dragon Boat race team. Intrigued, I read about this 2,300-year-old sport and joined the team.
What a challenge: Twenty paddlers navigate a 43-foot-long, narrow dragon boat with help from a rear-facing drummer in front and a steersman in back. It is fun but places two serious demands on team members: You must row in synchronization with 19 other paddlers, and you must have good form, using your core muscles, not just your arm muscles. The standard race course is 500 meters, and trying to use just your arms will turn them into wet noodles.
In 2014, we beat 17 boats to win first place in the Austin Dragon Boat Festival competition. It was 3M’s first win in 11 years of racing and began a new era. We placed third in 2015 and again this year, with 60 percent of our team members new to the sport.
In spite of my age, I’m one of the strongest paddlers on our competitive team. A year ago I joined the gym at work and asked my trainer for a plan to strengthen my core muscles to get me in better shape for paddling. I might have eventually joined the gym without dragon boating, but that new adventure was my real motivation.
One Adventure Leads To Another
I’ve always been fascinated by the flying trapeze, and awestruck by the “flying” in circus movies. Watching circus-performer-turned actor Burt Lancaster in “Trapeze” inspired an online search that led me to Trapeze Austin. When I learned that the company teaches trapeze lessons, I knew I had to try it.
I had to take a lesson — and I did. After oral instructions, I climbed the rope ladder and stepped onto the 30-foot-high platform. After the instructor clipped the line onto my safety belt, I grabbed the bar… and then looked down . . . down . . . down at the net below.
I yelled out something like “Holy s—, what am I doing up here?” I leaped off the platform and swung long and hard back and forth a few times and then let go. Instead of dropping flat, I decided to do a roll and landed in a ball. The instructor fussed at me, but what a thrill.
When I showed my trapeze video to my conductor (I’ve played clarinet in the Austin Symphonic Band since it started 38 years ago), he looked me in the eye and asked, “What in the world possessed you to do that?”
Hey, it was an adventure.
Now that my youthful spirit has a new life, I’m going scuba diving — something I haven’t done in 11 years — in Cozumel this summer. No place is more beautiful than underwater in the Caribbean — the fish really are as colorful as in the photos.
So find your own adventure and go for it. Start small, work on your diet, work on your strength. And tackle an adventure that motivates you and inspire your family and friends to do the same. You’ll be healthier in body, mind and spirit and make your life an adventure at any age.
Approaching change as an adventure can make all the difference in our physical and mental health as we age. So while we’re being responsible and doing what we have to do to manage our health, let’s jump into new experiences and get back to some of the wild and crazy things we did in our youth.
Whether you paddle, fly or dive, have fun and do it with attitude.
Angelyn Frankenberg is a wellness coach and writer living in Carbondale. She has a master’s in physical education and an undergraduate degree in music.
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