Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 01 2017

How to Move through Life with an Edge

By Mark Sisson
76 Comments

Inline_Life_with_an_EdgeEvery former competitive athlete’s worst nightmare is that moment when you lose to a younger person doing the sport you love. When the cocoon of invincibility and superiority you’ve erected around yourself comes crashing down and a piece of your self-identity shatters. It can truly feel like the end.

I know the feeling. Several years ago on a family ski trip, my son challenged me to a downhill snowboard race. We’d been doing these races—and I’d been winning them—ever since he was old enough to board. It was tradition that we race, and that I win. It’s just how it played out.

This time was different. I was a newly minted member of the 6-decades club. He was a young man, fully grown, years of sports under his belt. He smoked me. It wasn’t even close. And suddenly I realized that despite being in the best shape of my life relative to my age, that upper limit was trending down.

Luckily, the existential crisis was short-lived if it ever really happened. A few moments were all I needed to realize this wasn’t a tragedy. It was the opposite: the graduation of my son into manhood, the passing of the torch.

Our snowboard race also highlighted a simple fact of human biology and aging that we all have to face. Performance inevitably declines. Michael Jordan in his 40s can’t beat Kevin Durant one-on-one. Usain Bolt won’t beat his WR 100M run from 2009. Arnold will never regain his Mr. Olympia title. It transcends physical output as well—the Rolling Stones won’t ever match “Sticky Fingers” or “Exile on Main Street,” the concluding books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” (if they ever come) will probably be worse than the first two.

And that’s okay. I’m fine with it. You should, too. Denying reality never goes well. It’ll ruin you. You can’t win.

But we still fight it.

A reader passed along a link to a paper entitled “Early and extraordinary peaks in physical performance come with a longevity cost.” The researchers tracked top Olympians from the early 20th century, recorded during which phase of life they attained “peak performance,” and recorded when they died. Those who peaked early tended to die younger than those who peaked later. The relationship was stronger the bigger and earlier the achievement.

They propose a few potential mechanisms, including excessive early mTOR activation or lopsided growth hormone/IGF signaling on the part of the early achievers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that were part of the story. But I have another idea. This was the early 1900s. There weren’t million dollar endorsement deals with Nike or Gatorade waiting for them. They weren’t famous after weeks of ceaseless media coverage. Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest Olympians of the early 20th century, died penniless. Olympians were true amateurs who, after the glory faded and the medals rusted over, had to figure out what to do with their lives. They often failed.

I’ve talked about peak performance before, about wringing out every last drop of performance and realizing your full potential. Well, peaks come and go. Once you hit it, you either have to keep pushing onward and working harder and harder, which isn’t sustainable for long, or you trend downward. You can’t stay there forever.

Some of the best athletes I’ve known haven’t figured it out. Either they try in vain to hold on to their past glories, maintain their output, and fail miserably or burn out, or they flounder aimlessly. Maybe that’s what happened to those Olympians in the study. 

There are people who figure that out.

My good friend (and dad to my great friend and Primal Blueprint colleague Brad Kearns) Dr. Walter Kearns is probably the world’s top 90+ golfer, who at 94 is on his third round (pun intended) of golfing buddies. He’s always complaining about not being able to see the ball and track its flight. Well, it’s because he hits the ball so damn far. He knows he’s not going to beat top guys fifty years his junior. He’s okay with that, but he’s also not hanging up his clubs anytime soon. That’s edge living, and it carries over into all areas.

When he was in the hospital recovering from emergency bowel obstruction surgery, Walter refused pain meds to avoid being drugged up and immobile. This allowed him to walk right out several days ahead of schedule. A nurse later pulled Brad aside and said most people his father’s age never recover from a surgery like that. Many never even leave the bed. She was convinced refusing the meds made the difference.

My chief marketing officer, Aaron Fox, a man who’s been with the company from the very beginning, has a great-grandmother who turns 100 this year. She’s avoided doctors and meds all her life and still lives in the same house she shared with his great-grandfather. After a check-up this year, her blood panel came back pristine, but she had high blood pressure. The doc recommended blood pressure meds—”With your excellent health, it could extend life another five years”—and she’s considering taking them. Even if she goes for it, it’ll be on her terms and only because she decided to. It’s really an attitude or spirit that seems to have kept her in good stead: It’s her life, her home, her body, and she’ll be damned to hand over control of any of it. 

I’ve often said that retirement kills only because people waste their free time. A buddy of mine has a father-in-law who retired several years ago. Rather than sit around watching bad daytime T.V. and getting angry on Facebook, he started a fledgling eBay business. A former mechanic and all-around automotive expert who had to give up his shop when he had a series of bad heart attacks and couldn’t maintain the rigorous pace of running a business, he now goes to L.A.-area swap meets and hunts for old car brochures, rare automotive tools, engine parts, and other collector’s items, then sells them for big profits to people across the world. He’s arguably more engaged and in better health than he was before retiring, and he’s doing it by repurposing his talents.

What’s this have to do with health and wellness?

Everything.

Living life on your own terms isn’t just a quaint turn of phrase. It has huge effects on your health.

A large body of research shows that the less control you think you have over your life, the higher your mortality risk. That persists even when you control for other health variables and biomarkers. It’s even true for animals. Self-agency—or even the illusion of it—appears to be a requirement for healthy, happy aging.

And unlike some of the characteristics shared by centenarians, like good genes, control is malleable. You can’t change the structure of your DNA. You can, however, wrest control over your own life.

How?

Pay attention to that voice inside urging you onward. If something speaks to your soul, answer the call. Check it out. See where it leads. It’s usually guiding you to a good place.

When something feels right, stay with the moment, even if you can’t articulate what’s happening. Suss it out. What are you doing? Who are you with? What were you thinking about? That feeling of “this is right, this is good” is a physiological hint that you should pay attention to what you’re doing—and maybe keep doing it.

Ignoring the call, however, is an abdication of control

How do you move on and keep going through life while maintaining and indulging that edge? How do you ride the edge?

In reading this blog, eating this way, questioning conventional wisdom, heeding the science, and listening to your body, you’re already doing it. You’ve made—or are in the process of making—some major changes to your lifestyle, changes that will pay dividends.

Moving through life along the edge isn’t necessarily about fitness training. It’s about having a good reason to get up in the morning. A business, a hobby, a project, a job, a family, a physical pursuit, or yes, a workout—anything that calls to you and provides meaning. And whatever that thing is, you go after it. 

Keep the fire going, but don’t get into battles you can’t win. Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses. Repurpose your skills and passions. Ride the decline into something new—and maybe better.

Challenge yourself. Maybe not every day, but often enough that you’re always excited about and engaged with something.

Think about ascending a mountain peak. You’re there. The view’s great. It’s frankly exhilarating being on top of the visible world. But you can’t go higher. There’s nowhere to go from there but down. How do you do it? Do you just head straight off, tumbling down over loose gravel to arrive at the bottom, bruised and disheveled? Do you plunge headfirst over a cliff, totally giving up? Or do you ride the edge, walk the range toward the horizon, gradually descending while remaining on a pinnacle? 

I know what I’ve chosen. How about you?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to let me know if and how this post resonates with you.

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TAGS:  Aging

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76 thoughts on “How to Move through Life with an Edge”

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  1. “Every former competitive athlete’s worst nightmare is that moment when you lose to a younger person doing the sport you love.”

    That’s just life. There’s always going to be someone who is faster, stronger, more athletic, more agile, smarter, etc. Seems to me, as a person who isn’t competitively-driven, that it’s less stressful to enjoy one’s 15 minutes in the spotlight, and then willingly, gracefully let it go.

    The same is true of good health. It’s quite possible to stress out trying to do everything right–diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding harmful vices, etc.–and still croak long before old age. Usually doing all the right things helps a lot. Usually. Not always. Sometimes poor health or an early demise is just in the cards. Maybe a better way is to find what works optimally for each of us as individuals, knowing that it might not always work–knowing that there will come a point in time when (as the saying goes) our number is up, and learning to be at peace with that.

    1. Thankyou Shari for this wise perspective…although I think taking responsibility for our health is sensible, being contributing members of our society as we age …giving to others to make the world a better place and BEING compassionate, kind, loving people is more important …and we can do this no matter what our health is!

  2. Great post! I recently gave up CrossFit after 5 years suddenly realizing that my competitiveness was working against me, always trying to be faster and lift heavier, keep up with the younger people and not listening to my body and getting injuries. I’ve accepted that I won’t get a PR on my deadlift anymore, my times are slower and that’s OK. I work out on my own now and do some kickboxing and find I have a much better balance! Happier and healthier.

    1. I have never done crossfit but I used to push myself really hard in every workout and did a lot of exercises I didn’t need to and didn’t want to do, but did them so my numbers still looked good on paper. Then I realized that doesn’t matter at all and switched out the exercises I didn’t like for ones I enjoyed more, and I switched my days up so I have a lighter day in the mix that doesn’t stress me enough that I’m sore or not well recovered fast. Now I find I don’t have those small nagging injuries, sleep better, and also just enjoy my workouts more than ever.

    2. I recently gave up Crossfit too, after 2 years. I’m 60.

      A revealing moment for me was after doing a one mile max effort run with a few men in their 30’s. I’m not a bad runner, so I dogged a fit, lean fellow that I knew went out too fast. It was over in less than 7 minutes. I wasn’t able to pass him, but at the end I said “good effort!”. His reply was simply “I had to beat you”.

  3. Wow, I don’t even know what to say. Excellent perceptive, very inspiring. Thank you for the post.

  4. Thanks you Mark.

    I celebrated my biggest project and best month of my career in November of 2016, and it was followed by 3 months of no income I did not expect. This really threw me for a loop and made it easy to relate with your article.

    1. I am with you Brian, and thank you Mark for this article which resonated with me as well. I recently switched jobs within my profession and have to build up a new clientele, which takes time. I knew this but the peace in my heart at making the switch was uncanny. Now I’m in the slow, low income time again and trying to figure out life at 46….Suffice it to say this article was just what I needed. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  5. Great post, Mark! As a marathoner who “found his game” later in life, I still find myself looking back at earlier performances, pining for those faster times. It’s natural. But then again, I also look at age 70+ runners in my area still getting it done and admire them. Yeah baby, find the edge, and ride that damned thing like Seabiscuit!

  6. Hi Mark here is the answer:

    It resonates with me like the tibetan bowl the yoga teacher uses at the end of the class 🙂

  7. Really like this one:

    “I’ve often said that retirement kills only because people waste their free time.”

  8. While I can hold my own at 60 years old playing in an adult softball league without embarrasing myself…I can be “the in shape primal stud dude” in the 60-65+ division. Also when you are as healthy as Grok, it is crazy playing with some great ex-athletes that can barely get to first base on a line drive to the fences.

    I’d rather play with my peers and not try to prove anything and possibly get hurt.
    As a side note: There are even softball leagues for the 80+ division. That is amazing and heart warming, to say the least.

  9. Great post Mark, much appreciated! I’m going to be entering my 6th decade soon, and it is good to hear some reassurance that we still need to “go for it”, whatever that may mean at this moment in time.

    1. Scott…so glad you’re reassured because truth be known (and we need to take responsibility for changing the outdated perspective on aging!) the 2nd half of life can be our MOST creative and purposeful years of our lives!!!
      We are finally free of many of our former middle years responsibilities …. we are free of having to please others, look good, be acceptable, march to societies tune not our own.
      We can grow into our true potential finally ….. take risks, do new things, contribute to society according to our passions and values …not to earn money/a living!
      These are the BEST years if you adopt the mindset …and model it to young people who are so afraid of getting older …. we live in youth-obsessed culture sadly.

      1. I think this is especially true for women. I’m in my mid-fifties and much more confident and comfortable with myself that I was when I was younger. I’m also stronger and tougher. My son is an adult, and I’m on my own and beholden to no one. I compete in KB sport, not because I need to win at anything, but because I can and it’s nice to have goals to work towards.

  10. I loved what you said about paying attention to what feels good:
    “That feeling of “this is right, this is good” is a physiological hint that you should pay attention to what you’re doing—and maybe keep doing it.”
    Good words to live by in a world where we tend to focus on what is wrong.
    Thanks Mark!

  11. I can agree with you about physical endeavours, but a writer’s work getting poorer as he ages? I think not. There are some things that are done better by those with experience and wisdom, than by those with youthful energy.

    1. Ditto. I have always thought it was a shame that faculty seeking tenure had to do so before their scholarship had really and truly matured.

      1. Life is so about face isn’t it, Julie?!!
        Its only with age we realise this…we think we know so much when we’re in our teens and early 20’s and in our 30’s and 40’s we seek to learn in order to act with a bit more wisdom and we strut on the stage with great feelings of self-importance
        and then finally, post 60 we have a ton of experience ….including sobering LIFE experience which gives us a bit more humility and understanding of how little we actually know along with how much knowledge we have gained…and this is true wisdom!

    2. YAY…thankyou for this comment Primordial Ooze…spot on!!! …read my comment above haha!

    3. The writing doesn’t get poorer, grammatically speaking – but the evidence is pretty clear that creative output in some fields peak in the twenties. In some it’s much later. Conceptual thinkers tend to peak early, Experimental thinkers peak late. In most writers their finest work is in their 30’s to early 40’s. By finest I’m referring to the works people hold up as groundbreaking or exceptional. Age is not destiny but I know for sure my creative energy and mental elasticity was different in my 20’s that now at 50. I’m not sure i could sustain that output from my younger days. My brain works differently now and i have a lot more on my plate to deal with.

  12. Thanks Mark, I need get my edge back in terms of career. Sometimes when I feel economic futility (like yesterday), I run hilly rocky trails to feel good again. But in the end, I have to achieve redefinition professionally, and you inspire me there as much as in fitness, where results were much easier, maybe because that was mostly all in my control (behavior) whereas the market is big and vicious and merciless and beyond my powers.

    1. Mark one of the many things I like about following your website is your background and current age ( I’m just a little older than you). I don’t want advice from some twenty something with it “all figured out”. I want to hear from someone with an open mind, who has been there, done that, and has the tee shirt.? Someone who can speak from personal experience rather than regurgitating theory.

      On the same page as you with the reinvention of oneself. For me it the water…surfing>skin diving>SCUBA diving> waterskiing> sailing> cat sailing> windsurfing>kayaking>surfskis>wave skis> I have evolved through these sports as I have gotten older…now it’s mainly paddle boarding.

      It’s amazing what one can do if we keep active. On my 48th birthday I paddled 20 miles in my surfski and was quietly impressed that I could still go at it for 4 hrs in the Florida August heat.

      Then this past June at 63 participating in a 100 hrs of paddling in 100 days challenge. I paddled my SUP for 8:51 hrs non stop to a total of 30.1 miles in one day…didn’t plan to…just felt like it…guess I’m far from done. If someone asked me before hand if I could do that I would have said they were crazy..,While it’s not all “mental” it feels like the mental factor drives the train.

      I guess it like the NAVY SEAL’s say…when your think your done you’ve only used up 40% of what your really capable of.

      I believe “exercise” should be a bi-product of doing something you love…not a goal in and of itself.
      Find a type a physical play that makes your heart soar and you will be fit, yet never have to exercise another day in life.

      1. “I believe “exercise” should be a bi-product of doing something you love…not a goal in and of itself.
        Find a type a physical play that makes your heart soar and you will be fit, yet never have to exercise another day in life”

        This resonates with me, I love to cycle, as does my Hubby, so we both have fun together. It’s not hard core riding, just getting out and about enjoying life with the wind in our hair, and the smells in the air.

        Awesome post Mark!

  13. We can’t ignore the genetic time bombs we inherit. I’ve gotten a torn meniscus and ACL in my right knee, and a torn labrum and left hip congenital impingement, all slowing me down in the last year. I didn’t even fall off a building for it to happen. Turns out, my mom started having major joint problems in her 60’s, and I’ll be 57 in 8 days. Keeping up with the bone broth may help…..

    1. Haha Daria, join the club!!! I imagined I’d be doing all sorts of trekking in my 60+yrs but not possible …. AND there is so much more to life than these activities! I have never had such a rich, purposeful, fulfilling life…learning new things, creating a social enterprise through which I meet new, inspirational older people daily!!! The physical is only part of who we are AND I do keep myself fit and healthy within the constraints that have been imposed on me …there’s always another way …this is resilience!!!!

      1. Meg great perspective. But it’s not ‘resilience’. It’s called antifragility ( the opposite of fragility). A term coined by nassim nicholas taleb. It means you benefit from variety, randomness, chaos and time. In this case it is age! Something resilient doesn’t change or evolve like you describe, it stays the same. This is antifragility!!

  14. Oh, wow, this one really resonates. Totally agree with the whole retirement thing. My grandmother always kept herself busy with all kinds of projects. She lived in a three story home with a basement. That’s where she kept the lawnmower. Until she was in her 80’s, she would drag that little push lawnmower out of the basement once a week to cut her tiny little lawn. She is now 104 and has slowed down considerably. But I definitely think keeping busy (and fresh lemon juice every day) made a big difference. I’ve never been that athletic, but I actually feel more confident physically now, at age 50, then I did when I was much younger. I have a part time job at a restaurant that I love because it keeps me really active. After a busy night, the college kids are usually dragging and I have energy to spare. And last year in Mexico I beat out a group of mostly teens to win one of those crazy pool games where you run across the water on a long mat. Maybe I won’t always be able to do that, but it’s definitely a great feeling. I attribute it to a healthy lifestyle (being a fat burner is life changing) and also attitude. Thanks for the inspiration Mark!

    1. Many older people are truly inspirational …. in their BEING and DOING!
      Just a caution with the word ‘busy’ ….Henry David Thoreau Quotes. It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants.
      Being contributing, engaged members of our society living a purposeful life is being an ELDER!

    2. My 86-year-old mother cut her one-acre lawn until last year, when after a bout with heat prostration she realized that it was getting to be too much for her, and finally hired someone. We asked if she wanted to put a washer/dryer combo in her master bath, so she didn’t have to go down the stairs to the basement to do her laundry, and she refused, saying that using the stairs kept her fit and made her use her balancing skills. She keeps pretty active with her friends and she too has refused to take medications and supplements when she thought the doctor was casually recommending something that really wasn’t going to help her. My mom’s family is long-lived — her grandmother was on her own (with a coal stove!) into her 90s — so I’m expecting her, and me, to be around for a while!

  15. Great article Mark. Comptely agree.
    As a competitive swimmer, by age 13, I was training 8 times a week, alongside Olympians and a couple of world record holders I had a very tough coach, a bully really, who was all pain no gain and more is better in his approach. I quit at age 16.
    Fast forward to university and training half the time I had at a younger age, I bested nearly all my times and found I excelled at long distance. 4th in Canada in one event and 10th in another, while being pre-med and having a life.
    Now as a integrative and functional medicine physician, I feel it’s all about optimizing what is in your control, while accepting what isn’t. Mindset is always in your control. And not ceding your responsibility to yourself for taking care of your health to any physician. Thanks for spreading the word

  16. I want to do this! I WILL DO THIS! Great sound advice. Thank you!

  17. Great article! Sometimes I get a little down on my self so this perked me up. I’m still doing pull-ups, dips, etc. to keep in shape like I did as a teen. At 75, I’m very careful but get a lot of satisfaction being able to do it. Art and reading are my passion.
    So, yeah, guess I’m keeping an edge, just never thought of that way. Thanks….

  18. “Challenge yourself. Maybe not every day, but often enough that you’re always excited about and engaged with something.”

    Perfectly stated. Moving into my 50’s that means challnging my weaknesses, with a deep understanding that the most important benefits always come when you can combine effort with relaxation, strength with flexibility. I care less and less what the “other guy” is doing/achieving. Everything becomes relative to my own baseline, and achieving the maximum equanimity from my physical and mental exertions.

  19. I believe if you commit to learning, growing and becoming the best version of yourself, no matter what stage of life in which you find yourself, you are winning!

    1. Great comment Corey! …if we are not growing ourselves, not life-long learners with a purpose …we wither and die….scientific research shows!!

  20. As a former competitive endurance athlete, I can certainly identify with what you’re saying Mark. My strategy has always been when performance wanes, seeking efficiencies in technique/training come to the fore. Do I gain more from less? Can I move more efficiently? All with the mindset that the new PR was around the corner…
    Well, that changes when you get to the tipping point, either by accident or design (burning the candle at both ends, or just getting older), but the strategy varies little. How do I get the most of myself in the state I’m in now, and still be engaged in all the other activities that occupy my life? There’s the caveat…a life well lived has to have engagement in all the other aspects…family, friends, work. You are trying to work with ‘smaller’ resources, so to get the most of life you need to constantly improve your “skill set”. I don’t run 15 miles/day anymore, but I can run intervals. Maybe I won’t attempt my deadlift PR, but there are other exercises that achieve close to the same thing. It sounds silly to admit, but in trying to increase my performance, I forgot to ask myself when I was younger: “will it make me happier if what I’m doing now is successful?” You best believe that is my criteria now.

  21. Nice post, Mark. I liked this particularly: “Keep the fire going, but don’t get into battles you can’t win. Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses. Repurpose your skills and passions. Ride the decline into something new—and maybe better.”

    I turn 60 this year and I am not approaching this milestone as easily as I approached, 30, 40 and 50. A lot of that is because I realize that at this stage in my career, it’s time to ensure that those on my team who are younger get the resources they need to enjoy their careers and extend their possibilities. I feel like I’m going out in the cold to sit in the paddock with the horses until I die of exposure.

    I recognize that the next years are going to bring a different set of challenges that I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with. But then, after a little contemplation, I’m not sure anyone is ever prepared to deal with accelerated loss of one’s contemporaries, dealing with the toll that diseases begin to take on your loved ones and, let’s face it, the end of a career that peaked far too long ago.

    So before I continue to wallow in my slough of despond, I need to shake it off and start planning to deal with the next decade. What new goals can I define and attain? How will I define my “golden years” as “golden” versus “rust-bucket”?

    Rather than careen forward in life depending on the kindness of strangers and the virtues of fortune, perhaps I can move forward or onward with a little more sense of purpose than I have in the past. Perhaps, instead of narrowing my focus further on career and mortgage payments, I broaden my focus to be more inclusive of adventure and new information.

    Or I could just lock myself up in my living room and only get up to look out the window and yell at the kids who cross my lawn. *shaking fist* Hey you kids! Get off the lawn!

    Nah.

    Not likely going to happen.

    1. Oh Julie …. I want to let you know how wonderful these years after 60 are!!! (I’m 61yrs)
      You are about to be liberated from the constraints, pressures, obligations of your middle years to follow your own tune… you have not reached your full potential yet …. these are the most creative and purposeful years of our life if you adopt this mindset and continue to take risks, learn new things, find a new purpose for this stage in life that gets you bouncing out of bed with enthusiasm every day (I do!!)…contribute to society to make the world a better place…this is your opportunity NOW…embrace it eagerly and you’ll never look back!!!!
      Love to talk to you if you’re interested!

      1. Thanks, Meg, for the lovely note. My current and insurmountable challenge is an unfortunate work situation. Lost my love for the job but need the health benefits for my husband and it’s too soon to retire! 🙂

        I’m a tough bird and I’m finding some equilibrium even as the year ages. Thank you again!

  22. At just turned 52 a couple of things occurred to me recently. Should I get an electric bike, and will I ever be able to do a press handstand? It’s not that I can’t go for long bike rides when I commute, it’s that I really don’t feel like it. And, of course, and the electric bike still means constant low-level aerobic exercise. As for the press handstand, it’s still there…taunting me.

    1. Go for the electric bike. I use mine daily to commute to work
      But think before you go into it: once you go electric there is no turning back!
      PS: mine is a converted one, but with the current prices to buy it is a good option (I like to tinker with my toys)

  23. What an awesome post. It’s very hard for some of us to admit we cannot move the way we could 10 or 20 years ago. I keep saying where has the time gone? Thanks for the inspiration to keep walking the edge.

  24. This is a wonderful post. I think the key in keeping the edge is attitude, which through practice becomes habit. Yes we will continue to decline, but if we train ourselves to push back and to ride the edge, a) we will keep a lot more of our abilities for a lot longer and b) our first reaction to everything will be to push for the best instead of cringing and running away, thereby exponentially increasing our decline as we shy away from every challenge. When we habitually avoid challenges everything becomes hard – and then the downward spiral accelerates.

  25. A VERY well written, powerful and heartfelt article. I’m the same age as Mark. I was always the guy that people patted on the back and said “I can’t believe how young you look, how good of shape you are in for your age, unreal … yadda yadda”. Pride before the fall. I always exercised and ate healthy and took a massive amount of supplements as I have been biohacking myself since I was in my 20’s. Subconsciously thought I was somehow invincible even though intellectually acknowledged the aging process. BUT … 30 years as a software engineer / desk job combined with stress finally caught up with me, pelvic floor pain, torn soa, back pain, grade 3 groin injuries, hernia surgery, foot surgery … I mentally fell apart and came close to a nervous breakdown, not being able to do the sports and exercise I loved and fearing for my livelihood. It’s been several years of therapy, rehab, developing new habits to offset a sedentary job and redefining what mental, physical and spiritual health and happiness is really about. I’m now finally back to lifting heavy weights, doing HIIT, long walks and lots of stretching, band work etc. Mark has been an inspiration to me throughout all of this journey as well you you folks that are a part of MDA … AND … my nagging little health problems are minor compared to what many are going through. /dissertation … TL;DR probably ;~}

  26. I haven’t commented on an MDA post in a while (though I always read them) but this was perfect. I am forever thankful I discovered weightlifting after age 50, but then realized that the constant push to add more weight was hurting, not helping, me. So at age 58, I am now incorporating Gymnastic Bodies for mobility AND strength, and keeping the weightlifting to reasonable weights and reps without the need to push for more. I love this new direction – I am way more interested in health than PRs these days. Thanks for a great article and perspective!

  27. Hi all
    What great timing! Here I am having a ‘lay day’ after I ‘tweaked’ my knee skiing in the trees run I probably shouldn’t have!!! Feeling depressed since I usually ski every day, either cross country or downhill. At 64 yrs still loving the sport but realizing my limitations and focusing on new pursuits like yoga and Nutritious Movement and writing my travel blog…yeah! Planning a really big bicycle tour in Europe for 3 months in the fall! Today is the day, and tomorrow my knee will probably be a whole lot better!
    Thanks Mark for making my day!

  28. I am a retired 62 year old that has reaped the physical benefits of having been Primal for the last 5 years and therefore very much tuned up physically. It is precisely the philosophy expressed in this piece that is so needed now. Opt out of conventionality. One of the biggest dangers in retirement is being sucked in by the TV at all hours. It was never our habit to watch TV during the day but the current crapshow in the political sphere made it seem as if we needed to be constantly informed of the latest outrageous developments. Having worked for newspapers for a total of 52 years between us we are naturally habitual newspaper consumers. But we need to resist the insanity and refuse to be sucked full time into the stupid reality show that we have all been forced into. This is the latest of the many inanities we need to opt out of. I realized the other day what a toll this whole mess is taking on us, time to eliminate the constant news along with the grains and sugar.

  29. I also want to take a moment to thank Mark for the often requested nod to the older people who follow him. That’s been a long running suggestion when he’s asked and, since he’s done this, we need to take note! Thanks Mark!

    1. Julie, thanks for your note. I’ve heard the message, and I’ve wanted to do more with this theme myself lately. This won’t be the last post on the subject, I promise. Stay tuned, and Grok on!

  30. Thanks for the great post. A positive attitude is an important factor in maintaining one’s health. I was in a Mt. bike accident last summer. I fractured my 1st rib, sternum and crushed my ulnar nerve. I started trying to swim, attempt golf and less physically demanding activities after six weeks. When I was not healing and my symptoms persisted I went in for more tests and discovered my spinal cord was crushed in two places. I opted for surgery when MRI confirmed I was less than 1mm from being a C4 quadriplegic. I may ever be able to run, jump, hold a pen or a fork properly again but that will not prevent me from adapting to the capacity in which I make myself recover. I believe my 80/20 primal lifestyle prior to my accident has given me an “Edge” and made my recovery process possible.

  31. Wow. Hey Mark, you’re getting profound in your old age there buddy. JK. As someone who is just five years behind you on that edge, I find your perspective very helpful and illuminating.
    And I don’t care if that young whippersnapper beats you at downhill, you still make the best mayo around. 🙂

  32. This is spot on! I entered a rowing race this past fall, which I’d usually been able to place in top 10 with average training. This time, at age 57, I struggled to be in the top half of the field. I was in denial on the result for several months, and rededicated myself to training. However, along the way I discovered that I enjoyed weight training more than long endurance, and am following my instinct.

  33. Thanks Mark. I had turned 50 recently so I thought it might be interesting to see what I could still do compared to my peak fitness and it was a lot of fun. No surprise that some of my times are now slower and my endurance is not there anymore, but I was surprised to be able to do more chin ups now, I can hold a handstand better, I can still touch the bottom of a basketball backboard (vertical leap) and my 50m Butterfly is quicker ( maybe it’s my technique now). But the big plus for me was that I can still do most things, not as good and I do pull up sore and need more recovery, but I am still out there having a crack. And that’s what matters fro me
    Pete

  34. On the one hand, being in my early thirties this maybe shouldn’t resonate with me as much as it does. On the other, it’s really the first decade of my life where my ability to push myself sometimes outstrips my body’s ability to perform. Things start to break.

    I’ll add that I’ve always admired the professional athletes that manage to stick with the sport they love even after they’ve reached the pinnacle rather than the ones that feel like they need to “go out on top”. Think Jerry Rice as opposed to John Elway. It shows they love the sport rather than loving being the best, and that shows a certain kind of grace.

  35. Interestingly, the average age of the Olympic Equestrian is 38, with multiple riders in their 50s and 60s winning gold medals.

  36. Mark, I am only a few months older than you (If I’m not mistaken–I’ll be 63 in April). This subject of aging as healthfully as possible, and finding a new definition of “optimal” as we age, is vitally important. One thing is clear: Our society has “shamed” the aging body so it can keep us feeling insecure, and buying products that we don’t need. The anti-age propaganda starts as early as people are ready to buy makeup, clothes, hair color, work out clothes, movies… You name it. Ageism will be the last “ism” to be defeated.
    I refuse to feel ashamed of my age. I am going to love exploring life from this perspective. I am constantly seeking out people my age or older– men and women– who know a thing or two about life, and who are still fabulous. You are definitely one of them. We need each other, and young people need us too. Our culture has many toxic ideas about age, and misinformation, too. We need culture warriors and artists to show a better way. Thanks for your courage in addressing this issue.

  37. Ummmm,, yeah, it resonates with me alright!!! Really hit the nail on the head for me. I deal with this every single day….Turning 59 in one month…huge advances in fitness…doing 50 pull-ups or more in a workout….(no bands…jumping up and swinging and doing real pull-ups!!!). I could not even do this in college when I rowed crew!! But, I will do a workout, push through it , breathing hard, focused and finish it ….then look around and see how the 20, 30, 40 year olds were done…like 5, 6 minutes ago. And I am doing big workouts!!! So, its humbling every single day. Every day I need to do an attitude adjustment. thank you for writing. Love it. love it.

  38. Mark, many, many thanks for your thoughtful article. What a good attitude for which to strive. One of my challenges is figuring out how to adjust my 30 year yoga practice. It is a daily question of where is my edge today? Some poses are no longer done out of respect for certain 65 year old joints, but deciding what is still building versus hurting is a constantly moving target.

  39. Thank you again for a wonderful read. Always inspiring and positive. Much needed!!! 🙂

    1. Fantastic writing, Mark! So important and inspirational to us baby boomers. Such a challenge we cannot ignore. Reading this makes me feel at peace and one with the Primal Blueprint movement. At 58 I keep seeing the light and truth to your many insights. I’d like to read a future book by you on this topic of aging gracefully. Thanks!

  40. Thanks Mark, an excellent post that resonates with me at age 60. I have always been fascinated with strength sports, especially Olympic lifting. I decided what the heck, why not try it? Better late than never! I found a gym near my home with an experienced, awesome and encouraging weightlifting coach, a guy who was in diapers when I bought my first gym membership. I am loving every minute of my training, have reasonable goals and feel energized, stronger, and more flexible after each session. I will NOT be a frail little old lady! Ride that edge indeed!

  41. My favorite birthday was my 70th one. I always thought 70 was old. I was elated to find out that wasn’t even close to being true. At almost 73, I’m still wondering when or if I will ‘get old’. Right now it looks a long way off.

  42. Over the winter I teach a “yogasport” class for our high school students and have about 30-35 sign up. Invariably, I find out I’m in much better shape, at age 51, than they are. I can lift more weight, do more ab work, and get into inversions in a calm and stable way. I also walk more, and faster, than they do. It is a source of pride, but I also realize, at my age, what isn’t practical. I don’t run (it hurts my right hip), I don’t “overlift” because a strained muscle means too long a recovery time, and I don’t attempt poses that I know my body isn’t flexible enough to accomplish. I love walking along the edge and use my age and wisdom to make smart choices about my fitness regime.

  43. I love this article!! 🙂 This is one of my favorites so far! I liked it so much I saved this part of it to my list of favorite quotes: “Pay attention to that voice inside urging you onward. If something speaks to your soul, answer the call. Check it out. See where it leads. It’s usually guiding you to a good place. When something feels right, stay with the moment, even if you can’t articulate what’s happening. Suss it out. What are you doing? Who are you with? What were you thinking about? That feeling of “this is right, this is good” is a physiological hint that you should pay attention to what you’re doing—and maybe keep doing it.”

    Thanks so much for writing this, Mark!

  44. Great perspective. I’m well down on the other side of the mountain, and have given up some things, but have developed new passions. It’s all about doing something, not just looking for our grave.

  45. Thanks for re-posting this link. I read this when it was originally posted, and a few times since. I’m an avid consumer of your site and your blog, and think this is one of the best things you have ever written.