Advice From an Older Athlete To Young Folks: 7 Tips To Set Up Your Life

I am first a grandfather, second a husband, third a father of five great kids that are in their late twenties and thirties, and lastly a healthy life-long fitness guy. I have coached and mentored for a living for approximately 30 years now. Here are some truths I’ve observed over the years. They pertain to athletes, fitness people, and others as well.

 

1. Choices

As a younger person or athlete you need to be reminded that you have choices and that your life is the culmination of your choices.

Show me your friends, show me your checkbook or credit card statement, and show me where you spend your spare time. Then I will show you your future.

Life isn’t rocket science. You can choose a healthy lifestyle and be fit or you can choose to be unhealthy and probably unfit. It is your choice. We all have 24 hours in a day and we all shop and eat.

I work out at my 24 Hour Fitness for my general cardio work. There is a power-lifter-type guy there who likes his big arms and chest. Problem is the doctor has told him he is obese at 5’7” and 260lbs. We talk often as I get ready to shower.

He said he wants to be like me—leaner and thinner. I told him he can but he must want it badly enough to change the way he eats. For three or four years, I used to ask him what he ate, but I stopped because I already know. He is Hispanic and love his chips, rice, tortillas, beans—way too many carbs.

I challenged him to eat small portions of fruits, nuts, oatmeal, protein, and fats for breakfast and lunch. Then enjoy a dinner he likes by 6pm. I also encouraged him to have smaller portions…and no ice cream at 10pm before bed. When he tries this approach, he loses weight, and actually his 260 lbs is down 20 lbs from 280.

Yesterday, I said, “Hey, you look bigger again.” He said “Yep. Can’t control my beans and rice and ice cream.”

Really?

Question: Do you make daily good choices or are you just lazy and a slave to your addictions?

 

2. Patterns

We all set patterns in our life. We have lots of them from how we brush our teeth to how we comb or brush our hair.

When you’re younger, you start setting patterns that affect you later on in life. Some young people choose to exercise and workout as a priority. Others, just flow with life.
It is easier to build a new house than it is to undertake a remodel. Remodels have lots of unforeseen problems.

You don’t want to be a continual remodel in life. It is too hard.

If you set good patterns when you are younger, you will attract healthier people into your life and you’ll also learn to feel good. But if you live unhealthy mentally, physically and emotionally, you will forget that you could live better and you will be a constant “remodel project.”

Story: At 44, my father’s back went out. He was a non-exerciser. He was an academic, smart, but non-athletic Superior Court judge.

The doctor gave him a choice: go buy a hospital bed, because he was going to be immobile for a while, or go have surgery. He wasn’t going back to work anytime soon. He bought the bed and it was put in my room. When I’d come home from college, he’d be laying in his bed frustrated and hurting.

About the fourth months in bed, he said to me “Son, are you learning anything from this?” “Yeah,” I said. “Don’t mess up your back!”

He said “No. Work on your stomach muscles and make them strong. They wrap around your stomach and back and make your back stronger. A weak stomach makes for a vulnerable and weak back.”

We call it “the core” today. The doctor persuaded him do isometric exercises while in bed. The Doctor wanted him to start strengthening his stomach and back.

He finally strengthened his back to the point he could walk to the toilet rather than crawl. And one day he went back to work.

My Father did sit-ups and core work from age 44 until he was 96 years old—everyday! Never missed it. He said he was never going to throw out his back again. He later started golfing, playing tennis and stretching. Life got better. And he felt better. He became happier.

How do you learn—by pain or by knowledge? Show me your patterns now and I will predict part of your future.

 

3. Priorities

Smart people set priorities in their lives. Then they schedule them in. Non-smart people just live and hope for the best.

What are the top five priorities in your life?

What are your daily priorities? Do you have any? Can you be talked out of them? Do they include being healthy and fit?

Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder.

 

4. Disciplines

Nike’s “Just Do It” was a tremendously successful campaign. Why? Because it is so hard to do.

Discipline is hard, by and large, because you have to say “no” to something, or many things, so that you can say “yes” to other things. We don’t like to tell ourselves “no.” But successful people have learned to say “no” to many unhealthy and good things to be able to enjoy the great “yes” things.

Have you learned to be disciplined in many areas? When you do, life gets better.

Exercise is a way of mastering yourself. It takes discipline and work. It is challenging. You must be consistent. You must often challenge and overcome your feelings. You must say “no” to certain ways of eating, drinking, sleeping and other lifestyle choices in order to be successful. It brings up the issue of slavery: are you in charge of your life or are you a slave to your stuff?

We admire successful people. but we can be successful too. Just work on disciplining yourself. There is no victory without a battle! There isn’t any overcoming without overcoming something!

Exercising and becoming fit is a battle you need to win.

 

5. Feelings

I love different types of feelings. I love being in love. I love feeling good. I love accomplishing something challenging. However, I don’t love feelings of fear, vulnerability, embarrassment, shame and sickness.

A young person needs to conquer the habit of being led by their feelings. Certainly, feelings can be helpful and protective but following them, unchecked, can bring terrible results.

Exercise is a challenge. It takes discipline and consistency. If I lived by my feelings, I wouldn’t exercise a lot of the time. I wouldn’t get out of bed. I wouldn’t think about my physical goals. I wouldn’t think about how fat I was getting or how out of breath I am when climbing the stairs.

Either you learn to rule your feelings in many different areas or they’ll rule and dominate you! Feelings can steal that better future that’s in front of you.

Exercise reminds you to challenge and overcome your feelings.

 

6. Consistency

Are you a pro or a weekend hacker? Anybody can hit a golf ball well once in a while. But can you do it consistently and even under pressure?

Why do people seem impressed that some graduated from college or were in the military? Because it shows that they were able to persist through the good times and the bad for four or five years. They didn’t give up or quit. Is that a big deal? Yes, because quitters never win at much of anything, nor are they happy people.

Consistency is a huge attribute. It means you exercise when you feel like it and are “inspired” to do it, but also when you don’t feel inspired.

Why do you do it? Because it is right and it is good for you. And you know you will feel better after you do it! Developing consistency in your life is huge. And if you marry someone who isn’t consistent, they will drive you crazy.

It is a character trait that reveals so much about you.

At 63, I wanted to do something that most 30-year-olds would never try. But for me to pull it off, I’d have to be consistent in changing my body for at least two years. So I made my plan. But half way through, I tore up my right shoulder. It set me back a year. It took me six months to rehab the shoulder. Then I had to start over.

In all, it took me three years of consistency on my goal to accomplish it. Most people thought it was impossible and too big of a goal. Now they admire me. Let people admire you too! Just find a goal and learn to become consistent.

 

7. Money

Show me where you spend your money and I will show you what is of most value to you.

If you want to become more fit, stay fit, or become healthier, it may cost you some money or maybe not. (With all the exercise apps that are available today, many of my friends workout and train from home at no cost.). But if you’d rather eat crappy food or drink your money away, then knock yourself out. A smart person will include health and fitness in their budget before throwing money away on “stuff.”

 


Robert Hamilton Owens has completed 12 Ironman Triathlons, the 238-mile “300 of Sparta Endurance Race,” the SEALFIT’s Kokoro 50-Hour Challenge, and the World Marathon Challenge: 7 Marathons 7 Continents 7 Days, to name but a few. For more information on Robert, please visit: www.roberthamiltonowens.com

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