It took a 66 year old to make me really believe

It took a 66 year old when I was in my early forties to convince me that you don’t need to fear getting older and it’s possible to achieve amazing levels of fitness through smart training.

As we get older there are always physical challenges we need to overcome to allow us to achieve the fitness levels we want and deserve.  But there is also the belief, the right mental attitude that is key to success as we get older, and the older we get, the stronger this belief needs to be.

Whether it’s dealing with an injury or a health problem that is getting in the way of your progress, things that I have experienced many times in the past; believing in the ability of your body to overcome it and come back stronger is paramount. 

One of my core health and fitness principles is “Value your body – don’t underestimate what it’s capable of”.  I didn’t always believe this; I grew up with a father who had health problems for as long as I can remember.  It meant that Dad had to give up playing his beloved cricket and football in his late thirties. This made me fearful of ageing and 20 years ago, those fears appeared to be coming true as I was plagued with injuries and health problems.  

But my belief in my body’s abilities changed when I met one of my mentors who transformed my mindset.  From that point on I knew that my body could always deal with whatever problem or obstacle came along.

It was back in 2004 in Western Canada when I was on a course to build on my Personal Training qualifications.  I had travelled halfway across the world to learn from Doctor Michael Colgan.  I had come across Dr Colgan’s work when I was studying nutrition.  I loved his no-nonsense style.  The results he was getting with people who used his techniques and protocols were astonishing.  So much so, that Olympians and Hollywood A Listers such as Sylvester Stallone sought his advice.

He had been at the forefront of research into human performance for 20 odd years and successfully trained everyone from weekend athletes to world champions in numerous sports.  His books were full of testimonials from world champions who all said that he had played a large part in their success and that they could not have done it without him.

I decided that I had to go and learn his system of strength training that he had devised for athletes but that could be used by anyone. I remember, as if it were yesterday, trying to do a core strength exercise performed when hanging from a bar.  Years before, I had a bad injury at the base of my rectus abdominus (six pack) and I did not really believe that I could do this exercise without aggravating my old injury.

All I could think was “what if I tear the old injury? I won’t be able to complete the course.”

I was hanging there, struggling to do the exercise and not really fully committing to it because of this fear.  Dr Colgan, seeing that I was having trouble, walked up and calmly demonstrated the exercise to me, making it look SO easy.  He was 66 at the time, 20 years older than me and witnessing this broke down a barrier in my mind. 

Photo of Dr. Colgan by kind permission of The Colgan Institute

I suddenly believed that if he could do this, so could I; and within a couple of days, I managed to perform the exercise and can still easily do it now at 57. 

It’s amazing how these mental barriers can hold us back.  However, my experience taught me that just because I grew up with a disempowering belief or have been told that you can’t or won’t be able to achieve something, it’s just a thought, and a thought can be changed.

I find that it’s worth checking in with my mindset every now and then to see if there are any disempowering thoughts or beliefs that have crept in that could be getting in my way.  It’s so easy it is to be indoctrinated by outdated expectations of fitness as we age. 

An example of this is an ex-colleague of mine in the Fire Service who suddenly stopped running to work.  I asked him if he had an injury and he said “No.  I always planned to stop when I turned 50”.  His perspective on the number of candles on his birthday cake would determine his fitness!  He soon put on weight and, saw this as natural now that he was in his fifties.  It never ceases to amaze me how our mindset can have a huge impact on the level of fitness we expect to achieve. 

Have you had any limiting beliefs with respect to your health and fitness? If so, I’d love to hear how or who helped you overcome them?