Is It Ever “Too Late?”

There comes a time in every person’s life when they begin to notice certain physiological changes starting to take place. Oh, we all like to think those changes will never happen. But the reality is that it sneaks up on you as time marches on. And no, I don’t mean puberty. Maybe some of your hair gets a little greyer. Maybe your muscles are bit stiffer and your movements are a little slower. Time makes a fool of no one; we all know these changes are coming, we simply choose not to acknowledge them.

I write this post after waking with severely sore muscles, a cramp in my neck and a need to rock back and forth twice in order to hoist myself out of the bed. I recall a time when I could vault out of bed single-legged when the alarm went off, be showered, dressed and out the door in under ten minutes. Now, if I happen to have slept wrong, I need to sprawl on the couch for the first two hours of my morning before I restore enough circulation to start my day; a benefit that is only possible due to COVID-19 and being at home.

Have I sufficiently bummed you out, yet? I may be exaggerating the facts a bit (although I am starting to show quite a bit of grey) but it’s important to acknowledge that we all get there. There is no magic potion, no fountain of youth and no way to go back and do it all over again. This is why it’s critically important that we take care of ourselves and develop ourselves as best we can, while we can. An idle engine will eventually seize, and the human body is the most complex engine there is.

I’ve often chatted with folks who are no older than I am, about martial arts, my chosen career and how I’ve accomplished these things despite Diabetes and other associated issues in my life. Almost 9 times out of 10, these folks will usually say something along the lines of, “I always wanted to try karate,” or “I always WISHED I’d tried karate.” I use karate as the example, but I’ve had people utter theses sentences for a variety of activities, jobs and fitness aspects, including karate. When I ask why they don’t try it, I always get the same answer: “It’s too late for that, now!”

No. No, it’s not. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to be afflicted with a terminal illness that prevents movement, it’s never to late. A person may not be able to turn back the clock, but there’s nothing stopping a person from making a start from right where they are. In fact, I’ve watched people in their late 40’s and even their 50’s make their way through basic training. I’ve seen people of all age groups, body types, weight categories and backgrounds join karate and do quite well. In some circumstances, it may not necessarily mean that they go on to be an action hero or anything, but there’s nothing stopping them from trying.

The idea is that you can’t allow yourself to become idle. It’s important to take at least twenty minutes a day to stretch, move and get some sunlight. I know the current state of the world has reduced how often we leave the house, but most people can still manage walking outside, taking a drive or simply standing in their back yard and breathing in the fresh air. Physical activity is important. You need to be able to work your body physically, in order to maintain it. You can eat well, but this only provides the fuel. What happens to your car if you keep adding gas to the tank without driving it? Eventually, the gas will overflow, make a bloody mess and the engine will eventually still seize from lack of use.

I always like thinking of my grandparents for this comparison. My grandmother was a sedentary woman. She gave birth and raised seven children and was by no means lazy. But once those children were all grown and out of the house, her life pretty much ground to a halt. She never worked, never exercised and never moved (and no, knitting doesn’t count!). By the time she reached the age my mother is at now, she became hunched over, her body started having serious difficulties and her muscles became slack and useless. She passed away in her 80’s, unable to walk and function.

My grandfather joined the army when he was young and fought on the European front during World War II. He worked as a blacksmith, carpenter and always kept himself moving. When the sun rose, he’d be up and about. By the time retirement came around, he made use of a wheelchair, but he was still using dumbbells and exercising up until the week before he passed away, which was at the age of 95. Physical activity and working his body was a part of his life, which resulted in better mobility and health for longer, as well as almost ten added years of life than my grandmother.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… There’s no way to confirm what the difference may have been. After all, if my grandmother had done everything my grandfather had done, maybe she’d have fared better for longer as well. And there’s no accounting for the differences in inherent physiology, differences in hormones, etc, etc, etc… But that’s exactly the point: she didn’t! It can debated ’til the cows come home, I’m simply offering a true example of how two bodies will differ, based on two different lifestyles.

People often ask me how I’m in such good health, despite having Type-1 Diabetes. In my 40’s, I essentially suffer from none of the typical complications associated with someone who has had my condition for decades. My nervous system is clear, my kidneys are in excellent health, none of my toes have had to be amputated and I keep being told by my doctors that I have the heart of a horse. Now, if only my efforts would start to melt this “dad bod” I seem to have developed…

I’ve been moving, training and working out for as long as I can remember. Although I remember the specific details of how I started on all these different journeys, the images of those memories have started to blur. But I know that if I had never started karate all those years ago, I would still find it within myself to try it now. In my early 40’s, I could still conceivably reach some pretty high levels. The lesson is that it’s never too late.

If you’ve always wanted to try something, try it. Have a sport you want to attempt? Go for it. Have a career you’ve always wanted to have? Work for it. It’s never too late. Want to join karate in your 60’s? Bow and step inside, I’ll teach you! You may have to research what you’re looking to try and take the proper precautions, but there’s no reason you can’t do it. Your body is your engine, and you’re the only one who can keep it running smoothly and clean. Even the most efficient engines only hit their stride once they’ve geared up to increase their momentum. So, you need to get started. Start by getting off the couch. Start by stepping into the dojo/gym/outside. Start. Your personal motivation is what dictates what you’ll try, not how many candles were on your last birthday cake. ☯

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Shawn

I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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