My goal in this article is to use my life as a learning tool for anyone to use to enhance their future.
Genetics vs Lifestyle
Genetics does have an important role in our lives, but I maintain that it is not nearly so great or important as is commonly believed.
To begin, both sides of my family have coped with high blood pressure. My mother died suddenly at age 34 with the cause specified as high blood pressure. My father and all of my siblings have been on high blood pressure medication for much or most of their lives.
My father died at age 71 with clogged arteries – he was a hard working farmer all his life and people used to ask him why he ran everywhere he went. My older brother died at 64, also from clogged arteries – he was a mail carrier and always insisted on a walking route – and he walked fast. My younger brother, who was 77 last October, had an angioplasty and a stent a month ago and survived a congestive heart failure a week ago.
Only one of my four grandparents reached 80 and one died in her 60’s. My mother was one of 11 siblings who, although 3 made it to 90, most died before reaching 70.
In my late forties – I got a major wakeup call – my father had already died and my older brother was having strokes. I realized that I was headed down the same path – my weight was near 170, my cholesterol was 214, and my blood pressure was 140/90. Upon reviewing my father’s and brother’s lifestyles, what stood out was their love for rich fatty foods. After some research I chose the Pritikin nutritional program as my guiding light and I have pretty much followed it the rest of my life. I am not vegetarian, but am not far from it, with emphasis on eating only foods that have been shown to be good for us as opposed to going on a diet. I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more colorful the better. I eat some whole grains and seeds – currently my preferences are Quinoa and Chia seeds. The animal products I eat are primarily Wild Alaskan Salmon, Nonfat dry milk and egg whites. I eat some nuts, primarily a moderate handful of walnuts and almonds per day. I drink a lot of coffee, but not very strong and with enough nonfat dry milk to make it like a latte. By following this positive regimen, I automatically avoid refined/processed foods including all forms of sugar as well as minimize my intake of harmful fats and oils. It also keeps my Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio very low. I am not a raw food person, but I never cook any food hotter than boiling water (I use a cast iron stew pot) – this automatically eliminates all fried, grilled and baked food. I am not obsessive about eating, ie, when I eat at someone else’s home I eat whatever is served, just not much of things I wouldn’t eat at home. I currently take no medication and my latest blood pressure measurement was 127/74.
I take an ordinary daily vitamin and mineral supplement, but no mega doses. One that I consider very important is extra magnesium, which I started long ago upon reading an article by a respected physiologist stating that if he took only one supplement it would be magnesium. It is not only very important but is one in which our American diet is quite likely to be too low. As I have gotten older I have added some other extras like vitamin D3 and K2 along with some amino acid supplements which are alleged to help with energy and longevity. I have never taken any performance enhancing substances, including the currently touted legal testosterone supplements. I have taken Glucosamine sulfate and MSM for many years, but because I am an experiment of one, I cannot say that they help – however, not knowing, I continue to take them. I have never found enough evidence to take Chondroitin.
Aerobic exercise is very important, but I think not as important as nutrition. I think the bare minimum should be 45 minutes of fairly intense exercise like running at least three times a week. There is evidence that longer and more intense exercise is better, with adequate recovery.
I consider strength training to be both hill running and gym workouts. My favorite hill workout is the switchbacks on the east part of the Wildcat trail at Rancho San Antonio. I do up to 5 round trips. For gym workouts I go twice a week to the 24 Hour Fitness gym. I either run there or do 20+ minutes on the elliptical trainer. I then rotate through upper, mid and lower body routines with about 7 to 8 rotations for a total of at least 21 different exercises. This takes at least an hour plus warm-up. I push upper and lower body routines to exhaustion, but go easier on mid because of the high chance of spinal injury.
We commonly hear about our memory fading as we age, but there is research which suggests that our judgement fades more rapidly and sooner that our memory. I am sorry to say that I think that is the case. Hence I am trying to be more mellow as I age.
I work at REI in the footwear department about 10 to 20 hours per week. This gives me not only time on my feet, but I have to remember lots of stuff like what size I’m looking for in the warehouse and who to look for when I get back out front. It also gives me lots of social interaction which is most likely good for me. I have a goal of getting a chuckle from each person I help or at least have them leave happy.
I don’t do computer games, except for a daily crossword puzzle.
Not sure what to say on this subject – I have mostly good emotional involvements, but some of my work with the PA Ultra Grand Prix has been pretty stressful. Of course stress can be positive so long as it is resolved and not overwhelming. Successful resolutions can even be rewarding.
As I’ve indicated I have lots of social interaction in my work at REI. I also have good social interaction with family and friends and running associates. It is important and should not be overlooked
I think I have about as good a rapport with my kids and grand kids as one can hope for. They are all strong, self-directed and comfortable with communicating openly with me. I’m sure I learn more from them than they do from me – even as painful as it might be at times :). They also tell me that I inspire them which feels real good!
My Best Years
Sometimes we all look back and think about what we should have done differently. I adopt the view that, since we cannot know what would have happened, we should assume that what we did was the best. Having grown up as a farm boy in Southeastern New Mexico with a mother who died suddenly when I was under age 5 and with a father who went only through ninth grade (although he was very intelligent, helping all of us with our math, grammar, etc.), I feel good at having achieved a Master’s Degree at Caltech.
As for my running, I ran my first race at age 51 and set lifetime PR’s at age 60 when I ran a 2:59:58 Marathon, a 1:25 Half Marathon, a 38:37 10K and a 18:30 5K. I ran my first Ultra at age 62 and have now run about 80 ultras.
I participate in the Los Gatos All Comers (LGAC) track meets, two 8-week sessions a year, where I run 4 or 5 events per meet. I also do the Senior Games Track and Field plus the Feats of Strength. I participate in the USATF Pacific Association (PA) Road and Cross Country Grand Prix races with West Valley Joggers and Striders where this year our Veterans team (70-79) won the Cross Country by a good margin and were 2nd in the Long Road by 108.5 to 106.5. Individually I finished 5th of 23 in XC and 3rd of 21 in Long Road.
I run the PA Ultra Grand Prix with Stevens Creek Striders – our teams finished 7th of 8 for men plus 5th of 8 for women, mixed, and overall. Individually I finished 1st of 6 in the 70-79 division. This year I ran in about a dozen LGAC track meets plus the Bay Area Senior Games: 100m (16.47), 200m (38.56), 400m (1:25.78), 800m (3:19.44) and 1500m (6:52.04). In Cross Country, I ran 7 races from 5K to 10K. On the roads I ran 6 races including: 1 Mile (7:37), 10K (51:40), 10 Mile (1:24:18), HMar (1:54:22) and Marathon (4:19:18). I completed 5 Ultras plus 37.5M of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50M – I also volunteered in 6 ultras. My best Feats of Strength events were Pull-ups (17) and Farmers Walk (50 meters with 3 turns carrying 75 pounds in each hand in 29 seconds).