One of the best (and worst) parts of working in the athletics, fitness and recreation industry is personally witnessing how many of my readers have gotten better with age. At the 2014 Athletic Business Conference & Expo, the exhibit hall was packed with veteran single-digit-body-fat attendees testing the latest and greatest in fitness equipment. Even Fast Company cofounder and keynote speaker William Taylor tweeted that it was the fittest audience he'd ever addressed.
"Educational" has always been the word most frequently associated with ABC, but for me, it was "inspirational." I wasn't one of those inspirational "better with age" stories. The reality was, I was an out-of-shape, hard-working father of two young daughters who prioritized work and family over my own wellness. Compounding matters was an important milestone looming: This year, I was turning the big 4-0. You think back to when you're in your 20s and how you pictured yourself at 40 — this wasn't how I pictured it.
But I came home inspired from my first ABC in 2013, vowing to get back in shape. I was determined to make my final year in my 30s a great one. I even dangled an inspirational carrot — I signed up for my first marathon in a decade. During my training, I lost close to 30 pounds and felt myself getting stronger and faster with each run. I was doing things I never expected my body to be doing, especially when I looked back on where I was at that time the previous year.
I wanted to challenge the time I had run when I was 24, back when I didn't have to train and everything came much easier. I didn't come close. Turns out I was in good shape for a half marathon. The final 13.1 was pure hell. I had nothing and could barely move my legs. My confidence was gone, and I was a shell of the man that felt so good running throughout the year.
I hated myself for failing. I was embarrassed for my family that had braved chilly conditions to cheer me on, the first race my girls had ever seen me run. Memories of previous failures flooded in. When I finally made it to the homestretch, I had no idea if my family had even stuck around. I figured they had likely gone home, but less than 100 yards from the finish line, my two beautiful girls appeared, each grabbing my hand to help me to the finish. We jogged to the finish line together, and that moment erased every negative feeling I had. They were smiling big and telling me how proud they were of me. It was at that moment I realized one of my greatest failures was actually one of my greatest triumphs. The goal had been to close out my 30s in style. Mission accomplished.
Now, I can confidently say that I am getting better with age. It makes no difference what others see; it only matters what you see and feel. You can't measure your success, your wellness or your happiness against the results of others or what you did in the past. It's all about your own personal journey, and what you are doing at every turn to be the best person you can be.
For most of us, life is not a sprint. It's a marathon. Here's hoping we all find inspiration to help guide us to the strongest possible finish.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Better with Age."