Truth is, people aren’t weak or sore just because they’re getting older

Story by Kyle Kercher

Iwas sitting on the couch with a friend of mine the other day watching a movie. When the movie ended, he tried to get up and could barely move because he was so stiff and his back hurt. He’s 60, so he said, “Oh you know, old age.” I thought about telling him what the actual problem was, but it wasn’t the time or place, and as a younger person I wouldn’t have much merit telling him he’s wrong about old age. But I’m not too concerned about that: There are always going to be people from different generations that have something to teach one another yet have corresponding difficulty listening.

What’s more important is the outlook and attitude regarding health and fitness. I’ve come across countless people 70 years and older who are stronger, more energetic and have better attitudes than 30-year-olds. At the same time, there are plenty of 30-year-olds who are in a better place mentally and physically than seniors. I’m convinced it’s not the age that matters; it’s the outlook and attitude.

As infants, we begin to grow, learn, play, and get stronger. Naturally, at some point, the strength curve begins trending downward and we begin to get weaker. However, we have control over that, and the slow decline doesn’t have to be inevitable. It pains me to hear people in their 40s, 50s and 60s say they’re too old to do this or that and their body (especially their back) is deteriorating simply because they are a certain age. Of course there are special situations where people have had serious back injuries, but they are in the significant minority.

The truth is, people aren’t weak or sore just because they’re getting older. We get weaker when we stop training our musculature. Somewhere in adulthood we decide that we no longer need to get stronger and stay active.

This is where the solution comes in: strength training. We need to begin, or return, to taking care of our muscles, regardless of our age — forever. Not for a week or a month or a year, but forever. If not, yes, you will be in pain, weaker, less confident in your body, and likely have a lower quality of life. Similarly, if you want your car to perform well, you’re not going to take care of it for a week or a couple months and then neglect it for 10 years and expect it to be in fine form. Parts will be broken and rusty. You might even need to buy a new one. Our body isn’t that much different except, of course, we can’t buy a new one.

You can improve the strength, functioning and pain level of your body by simply pushing, pulling, squatting, and hip hinging on a regular basis. These are the movements we do on a regular basis: lifting things up, carrying groceries, climbing stairs, running errands. We should train in the same way, but heavier, so when we return to our activities of daily living they suddenly become easier.

Kyle is a husband, entrepreneur, author, coach and leader in Kalispell. He leads the Competitive Edge program at the Summit Medical Fitness Center. His new book, “The Mental Game — Grit, Growth and Mental Toughness in Athletes,” is available at kylekercher.com/shop. Subscribe to his free blog on performance, mindset and mental toughness at kylekercher.com/subscribe. Contact him at coachkercher@gmail.com.