Health is the new currency:
The year 2008 is a year that many of us would like to forget – especially when it comes to financial well being. Especially people in my age group where people are either retired or about to retire. Or someone like me who is in a permanent state of retired life without actually retiring. No matter what state people in my demographics are, most of us have lost a lot of our net worth. I am no exception. By all account 2008 should have been a very painful year for many of us. Since we just started a new year, it is quite common to be asked how was 2008 for you. Until I was asked I did not actually think about or giving 2008 label of any sort – good or bad. But having been asked the question a few times, made me look back and take stock of 2008. For me 2008 was one of my best years in spite of the significant loss of net worth. There were many positive as well some negative things that happened in 2008, I suppose like any year, but what stood out in my mind as the most significant memory of 2008 is (knock on wood) the remarkably good health I was in. So when I am asked how was 2008? My answer is it was a great year. And the source of my answer is my health. I cannot remember ever in my life being in better health. I turned 61 last December.
In the past three and a half years I had two knee replacement surgeries; the left knee in 2005 and the right knee in 2007. After 2005 surgery I hired a personal trainer (Jon Ham) to help me with my rehab. My idea was to retain Jon for a few months until I could get back to doing all the physical activities I so enjoy – mostly golf and walking up the hills of Calabasas every morning. Ever since I moved to Calabasas I have walked every morning (just about) for about an hour sometimes up to four hours. I enjoy the experience of walking. I don’t have to psyche myself up to walk up the mountain of Calabasas, to the water tower. It is effortless for me. However, strength training is a separate matter altogether. I have tried joining a gym a number of times, and after a few weeks of going to the gym a few days a week, I have inevitably stopped. I just don’t enjoy the experience. After I started to workout with Jon, I did not discontinue after three months of rehab as I had planned. As of now, my son Robin and I have been working out with Jon for the past 3 years continuously. I have never ever done that in my life. Even after my second knee surgery in November of 2007, the full benefit of strength training for three years continuously became apparent in summer of 2008. By this time I could (to lose weight) walk up the hills up to four hours. I could play golf 27 holes routinely, without having the need to take a nap when I came home. And sometime I did both – walk the hills and play 27 holes of golf. One day last October I played 27 holes of golf from 8 am till 3:00 PM. Came home, rested for a couple of hours, went for a walk up the hill that lasted two hours. And it was not even a big effort. I never ever in my life had the stamina do something like that with so little effort. Not when I was 25. And now I am 61 and I can do it. How cool is that? When I told about it to some of my friends, they asked Why? I felt like Sir Edmund Hillary – “Because I could”.
In 2006 Jon introduced me to book titled “Younger next Year”. The book is written jointly by a doctor (Henry Lodge), and one of his patients (Chris Crowley). At the time of writing the book the patient - Chris Crowley is in his early seventies. Between the two of them they make a powerful and inspiring case that past the age of 50 or 60 we don’t necessarily have to lay down and accept the inevitable march of age, bad health and diminished physical capacity. The central point of the book is we can live healthy and vigorous life well into our eighties and even nineties. One particular section of the book I found most inspiring when I read it two years back. Chris Crowley described one beautiful day skiing in Aspen. He described that the night before had snowed and had perfect powder skiing condition. He joined a group of 20 something powder hounds and he skied with them continuously from 8:00 AM in the morning till 3:00 PM in the afternoon. He said he could not do that when he was 45 years of age, and he was able to do it at the age of 70 something. What’s the trick? There is no trick; you have to devote a considerable amount of time about a couple of hours a day at least six days a week doing a combination of cardio and strength training. There is no easy way of doing it. If you are in your sixties, and you want to have a physically vigorous life into your eighties and beyond, this is the price you have to pay.
I did not start out with Jon thinking about the book Younger Next Year. I hired him to help me with my knee surgery rehab. Because the improvement in my health felt good so I kept up the routine through as of now. I worked out with Jon twice a week and I walked the hills at least one hour a day five times a week. Three years of that and I have my own Eureka moment. I can play golf 27 holes for seven hours and then climb hills for two hours and I don’t feel fatigue.
I see all around me examples of people in their sixties and seventies no longer able to live a full physically vigorous life. People passing away prematurely because of all kinds of incurable disease like cancer. More than ever before I cherish every day I live in good health being able to do the physical activities I so enjoy. It is a gift of life I have to earn every day I don’t take this for granted. I hope this tale of my life explains why 2008 was a great year for me.