To say that I did not have much strength back then would be...generous, so I did not enjoy a lot of the hiking and stuff, sublime though the scenery was, I was more stealing glances at my watch and calculating when the next break would be and the screaming in my shoulders would be relieved for a few precious minutes.
It was a vivid illustration of my own version of Lombardi's “Fatigue makes cowards of us all,” which ran more like “no matter how nice the stuff is around you, it sucks to be exhausted.” Going on a long physical trip in the outdoors while being out of shape, is like visiting a beautiful, expensive city for an extended visit, but you're broke and have to find a job and earn money as soon as you hit town.
One of the first books on athletic training I got was Steve Ilg's 'The Outdoor Athlete.' Some passages from that book that remained with me were -
“A disgruntled 9-to-5 executive may talk himself into thinking that he is ready for any wilderness adventure, yet rarely will he consider his physical status....Irresposibility in preparing for the mountains has a tendency to breathe living irony into the saying, “There are no victims, only volunteers.”
“Go to the mountains with as much strength as possible, for the heights will soon swindle most of it.” (This one I think is appropriate not just for mountaineering but for pregnancy and early parenthood, for both parents.)
And (I always pictured him pounding out these words on the keyboard with a little extra emotion, as he remembered past events):
“Efficient strength is tantamount to a strong team. I've had instances where non-strength-trained partners, subservient to failing strength, have had to rely disproportionately upon me. Strength-training is not only a responsibility to yourself, it is also a moral responsibility to your colleagues.”
Strength has many facets, indeed, it pretty much means whatever the speaker wants it to (bench press! No, squat poundage! Three-rep squat poundage! No, picking up a really big rock! Hitting a ball with a bat really hard! Hitting a person really hard!) For clients here at BA, however, we start with being able to pick weight off of the floor, move weight laterally and overhead, walk with it, as well as being able to move ourselves through space pain-free with basic patterns like the squat and hip hinge.
There are a lot of people out there for whom life is like an athletic event that they're untrained for, and not because they're stonemasons or firefighters or something. At a certain point, a simple act like getting up off the floor or going up a long flight of stairs became taxing. Bad enough when going through your day feeling like you're wearing a heavy backpack, but what if someone's counting on you to get through that day, pack and all? Or they have to take off your pack, put it on themselves?
Above, I mentioned pregnancy and parenthood as strength-stealers. I've trained several women through pregnancies, though I've always tried to get them going before the actual pregnancy, as I consider pregnancy a kind of extended athletic event, you don't want to show up on the starting line still needing to get in shape. The stronger the parents are, the easier it will be to weather the myriad trials heading your way.
And what about later, when the roles are reversed and the kids are responsible for YOU? Yes, yes, the little ingrates should wait on you hand and foot, you earned it, and they're lucky if you don't blow their inheritance at a riverboat casino somewhere, but....You'll want to make it a little easier for them, right? If only to make your life easier?
I'm fortunate that my surviving parent trains with me three days a week (that's her dragging the anchor chain in the pic), and is also active in a variety of other athletics, all at age 78. I have an increasing number of friends and acquaintances who are having to dedicate in more and more time, energy and money to parents whose health is failing, parents who often think that falling apart with age is natural.
The subject of 'what is natural in aging?' is worthy of a shelf's-worth of encyclopedias (retro alert! Speaking of being old...) but I'll say this: couple hundred years ago, it used to be natural to have your teeth turn yellow, then brown, then fall out of your head, and if you complained that this made your life hard, people would say, hey, whaddya want, you're 45! Happens to everybody!
Now, of course, we have toothpaste and Water-Piks, not to mention dentists, and it's just seen as common sense, forget vanity, to want clean, pain-free teeth. Forget doing well on OKCupid, you want to be able to eat an apple with enjoyment, right? The tech and knowledge is already here to keep people strong into their 70's, 80's, and beyond.
So! People are counting on you. Get strong, and stay that way, for yourself first, and also for them.
“You're tougher than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.”
Motto of the Leadville 100 mountain race