"I Don't Run Unless Chased"

When the original P90X videos were filmed, instructor Tony Horton was forty-five years old. In a number of the videos, he mentions this fact in support of his argument that a dedication to healthy living – eating right and exercising regularly – will help combat the ravages of age. Or, to put it in his actual language, “That’s why a 45-year-old guy like me, going on 46, still looks like this.”

It’s easy to dismiss his claims as unempirical. After all, he probably has “good genes.” But exercise is perhaps the single best way to combat aging, extend longevity, and prevent chronic, age-related illness. (If you really need to see a citation for these claims, then, okay. Start here.) The simple fact is that exercise will keep you looking and feeling younger for longer.

When I was young – in my teens and twenties – people I knew used to make all sorts of comments about how running is “crazy.” They didn’t say it with admiration, they said it derisively or defensively. They made “jokes” like saying, “I don’t run unless chased.” Har har har. They exalted in their propensity to eat too much crap, drink too much crap, watch too much TV, and do too much nothing. Even in my thirties, people have made these comments to me. They continue to laugh and joke and be some combination of derisive and defensive about how much I like to work out.

But, as I write this blog post, I am thirty-seven years old: decidedly middle-aged, past my prime, and so on. That means that all the people who ever said these things to me are also middle aged, past their prime. We’re all showing the signs of age. But some of us are aging faster than others. I often get ID’d when purchasing alcohol. In one recent case, a cashier checked my ID, shook her head, and said only, “I wouldn’t have guessed it.” A coworker of mine once had a little freak-out session when she found out that I was married, with children. She demanded to know how old I was, and when I told her, she couldn’t believe it. Overweight and with mostly grey hair, she is only a few years older than I am. As a matter of athletic performance, I can still out-run most twenty-somethings and can probably do more pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups than most people.

I don’t mention all this to brag, because it’s not anything to brag about, in my opinion. I worked out hard all my life, and I continue to do so. If you want to know what that feels like – to be able to do certain things physically, and to be able to pass for ten or more years younger than your age, and to maintain high energy levels into middle age, and to not really feel your body slowing down as much as everyone else’s seems to – then you have to work out. It’s not too late for you, either. But work out you must.

All that is to say, I’ve finally reached the age when none of my peers are quite so interested in talking about how “crazy” it is that I run every day (56 consecutive days and counting!) or that I do P90X on top of that in the morning. It doesn’t seem crazy, because now they understand that it isn’t crazy. It’s wise. It makes you better off. And they now wish that they, too, had run when not being chased.