As some wit put it, the great thing about getting old is that it beats the alternative. As baby boomers face their inevitable physical decline, and philosophise about life and the d-word, the sharing of practical wisdom can be useful too. The importance of fitness is a subject dear to our hearts, so to speak, but it can lead to some surprising conclusions.
Recent newspaper discussion about obsessive fitness prompted input from 71 year old Peter Halstead of Budds Beach, who claimed that super-fitness can lead to depression. For decades peers had admired his fitness, and he’d maintained an abnormally high level exercise program into his mid-sixties, when disaster struck. He started getting old! Now he is less fit than others of his age group because of this obsession, citing worn-out knees from too much running and squats, and spine degeneration from too much weight training. Apart from the painkiller regime, he’ll soon have surgery to remove a pre-cancerous lung lesion, which he puts down to lots of jogging in city traffic. Now Peter is depressed.
Peter seems to be a baby boomer name, and KC’s gerontology reporter of the same name has been thinking along similar lines following an incident three years ago. After 30 years of trouble-free running a knee suddenly protested that its meniscus was worn and torn, resulting in clean-up surgery. No warning all that time, and then bang! The running regime had been a daily 40 minute jog, reduced to 3 times weekly in recent years, but no marathons or other excess. Of course each of us is a unique combination of build and bio-mechanics, and the surgeon would not agree that it was payback, citing much younger patients with the same injury. The famous writer Haruki Murakami (‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’) is still running marathons at 62, so his unique endowment is going strong. It will be interesting to see at what point he starts getting old.
The famous Peter Principle – from a light-hearted (that word again!) 1969 management book (co-authored by Dr Laurence J Peter) – is that in organisational life a person rises to their level of incompetence. No, it’s not about the incompetence of Peters generally, just to avoid any misunderstanding. The two Peters of our story are separated in age by a decade, but they have reached a similar conclusion. The new Peter Principle is very simple: ‘moderation in everything’. And the beauty of this principle is that, like beauty itself, moderation is in the eye of the beholder. So, Banzai, Haruki!