“The sleeper can be awoken. It is not easy, especially in the beginning, but life can again flow through weary veins.”
When a Big Mac makes more sense than a carrot stick, when the ball game with buddies feels better than a lonely trail, when a late night movie beats going to bed, when it feels like you are depriving yourself of all life’s fun, remember how great it feels to have overflowing health and vitality.
A while back I conducted a survey among school teachers. I asked the following question: “Comparing the two factors of aging and lifestyle, which plays a greater role in how you feel when hitting your fifties and sixties?” Everyone I asked said lifestyle had a greater impact than aging. Our educators are an honest bunch of people.
You watch children play and romanticize a better time when youthful energy was taken for granted. Well, guess what? The reason you no longer have childlike vitality is not due to aging.
Is Old and Tired You’re New Normal?
A change in lifestyle has more to do with a change in priorities than physiology. As we get older, playing and having fun are displaced by making money and status, which directly affects how active we are. Inactivity reduces physical energy, which in turn affects activeness. On and on the cycle goes and before you know it, old and tired is the new normal. Physical activity becomes a burden instead of a joy.
Old and tired is gradual. An adult day is increasingly taken up by sitting in a chair, whether in front of a wheel, computer or TV. Childlike energy erodes and sluggishness and fatigue takes over. Everything is harder; even the motivation of getting out of bed is propped up by a stiff coffee. What once was easy and enjoyable becomes work, an intrusion. And everything is blamed on aging, when in reality, getting older had very little to do with it.
It might sound hopeless, but actually, all of this is great news. We can do nothing about aging but everything about lifestyle. One year from today you could be laughing and playing with your children, even grandchildren, and enjoying every minute of it.
I followed up with another survey among grade eight students. My question was: “When you hit your forties and fifties, would you like to be in great shape even if it meant you really had to work at it?” There was a 100% resounding yes. Every student wanted to stay physically fit even if it meant staying active. Why? It’s simple—children have not forgotten what it feels like to run and jump. Their lives are full of the pleasure of motion under open sky, often not wanting to stop for supper or a bathroom break. Unlike adults, bedtime is not welcomed but fought, because who wants to sleep when you can play. The idea of becoming like dad and mom, who always complain about being tired, is frightening. Who wants to settle for that? As a child I remember thinking: all they do is sit around all night talking about boring stuff!
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead”
From personal experience, I am here to tell you that the sleeper can be awoken. It is not easy, especially in the beginning, but life can again flow through weary veins. Within my adult life I have had the enthralling sensation of experiencing old and tired followed by overflowing energy, back to back. I am now 50 years old and have greater energy than I did when I was 30. It’s a weird experience, like aging in reverse. When I was 30, I would have not believed that at 50 I could feel this young and energetic. There is no going back. Once the sleeper is awakened and you have tasted life the way God has designed it, the alternative looks far too much like death.
The image of carefree children playing provides an important motivation for me. The other motivating image is how I am going to look a year from today. At first blush this may seem like vanity, but it does not have to be so. No matter what anyone says, self-respect does have something to do with how we look to ourselves. A soft, fat out-of-shape body speaks something about who I am inside. I have looked in the mirror and seen two sides of myself reflected back. One side is the guy who has no self-respect: overweight, extended belly, chicken arms, wearing mismatched, stained track pants, with disheveled hair; that was me at 30 years old. Seeing that image every day, post shower, only confirmed what I already believed about myself. The message was, “I am an undisciplined person who thinks very little of myself.” After the age of 30, when I changed my diet to almost all raw foods, but did not yet incorporate any form of exercise into my daily routine, my post-shower image in the mirror communicated fanaticism and imbalance. How we look says a lot about who we are.
Adding running and resistance training to my lifestyle was hard at first. I had to reach down deep, overcoming insecurity and self-doubt. But it only took a few months before my post-shower image began to speak of a new Ron. That is not entirely true because what I discovered was that Ron was always there, created by God, waiting to bust out. Waiting for me to make tough choices. So today, every time I see myself, it only confirms that I can do it—I always could have done it. But I try to avoid could have thoughts; they feel too much like regret. And there’s no room for regret in a forward-looking life.
So envisioning a lean, muscled body is not vanity for me. It is an inspiring image of a man who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, has overcome the insecurity and self-doubt that plagued my whole life. That image is deeply motivating; it declares the sleeper has awakened.
When motivation wanes and I’m tempted to skip a workout or run, I think of these two look and feel images: energetic playing children and a strong muscled body, and it all makes sense again.
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