Often, people will cite age as a reason for their difficulty in getting in shape. Usually, my first response is to look at them like they have lobsters crawling out of their ears. Then it hits me, “Ohhhh, I get it: you were coasting and never learned anything.” I never coasted. And I’ve been learning more every year about how to improve. As such, it’s never been easier to get in shape than now; and I look forward to how easy it will be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years.
But I get it: if you never attempted to develop more skill in self-discipline or efficiency of self-care, yeah, it’s probably quite a bit more “difficult” than long ago before you accumulated so much damage from your active self-sabotage. That is, previously you did zero effort. Now, you have to do above-zero effort. That may feel like an infinite percent increase.
Some people never coasted. Some people were thinking about and working self-care as children. So the effort to improve as an adult doesn’t seem like anything to them. They’ve logged lots of practice. Now they’re more practiced. It’s easier, not harder. My best success stories come from non-athletes, because they never had it easy as youths. They never coasted. They were never naturally and blithely fit. The former youth athletes, however, have a really hard time. When they were on a team with structure and social pressure and reward and accolade, they were so easily in-shape. Now, as adults, having to impose self-discipline, they flounder, they struggle. They have a much higher quit rate.
At 16-19 years of age, I slaved at running 60 miles per week and starving to achieve a ho-hum outcome. Over 20 years later, and I am more athletic, fitter, and dealing with fewer body aches than then. I don’t workout nearly as many hours (I measure my workouts in minutes actually). And I don’t diet hard. I accomplish 1000 times more than I did in my 20s. And of course this is the outcome. I’ve accumulated two more decades of skill development.
It has nothing to do with “age.” It has to do with what effect you’ve been accumulating over time. A person who does upgrades and daily maintenance on a classic car may well have an improved vehicle 50 years and 800,000 miles later. A person who drives his car hard and never does any maintenance will have a useless bucket of rust in 5-10 years. Age was immaterial. Time and miles even are inconsequential, depending on how you journeyed through them.
I have clients who start paying attention to fitness at age 50, 60, 70, 80; and they improve. The 100m world record for 70-74 year olds is around 12 seconds:
That’s faster than most youth athletes. Go to a track with someone you think is incredibly fit, and see how little (if any) faster their 100m time is than that 70-year-old-class time. You’re going to have your eyes opened. Human physiology has only the limit of how much damage has been accrued. It’s variant, the same way different vehicles progress or deteriorate.
In recent years, I’ve broken 20.0 mph at peak sprint on a Woodway curve and almost hit 2000 watts at peak on an assault bike. When I played soccer in high school I couldn’t even approximate the former, though I weighed 80lbs less. In fact, even some of my fastest peers in high school wouldn’t have broken 20.0 on a Woodway on their best day. As for the latter, I only know OF a handful of people on earth who’ve broken 1800 watts on an assault bike. The passage of time made these things possible. Age doesn’t just make it easier. It turns the impossible into possible.
Thus, as we age, it’s actually incredibly easier to get in shape when we apply discipline and practice certain skills. The effect from those skills can only come about with the passage of time, which young people haven’t had the chance to get yet. Aggregated outcomes rely on time to aggregate.
And that’s why it’s so much easier to get in shape as we age.