Challenges breed champions - in sport and in life
At 64, swimmer Diana Nyad proved that age is nothing but a number.
Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old woman that swam 110 miles from Cuba to Key West, Florida last week, deserves an honorable mention this time around. The adversities and challenges that she faced were endless. She is another example of grace and dignity - a role model for people of all ages who hope to follow their dreams.
Like I’ve said a hundred times before, I’m a firm believer in challenges.
I challenged myself when, at the age of 67, I stepped on the ice for the first time in 35 years at the Winter Classic in front of 45,000 people.
My challenge, however, does not come close to Nyad’s accomplishment. She was knocked down quite a few times leading up to this swim, but she never gave up.
It reminded me that society programs you to believe that your life is over once you hit your 60’s or 70’s. We are made to believe that we are limited as we get older, and once you believe that, it’s what you become.
I’m against that notion.
I see a lot of people in their 60’s walking around with their shoulders down. They’re frail, and their bodies are breaking down. People don’t eat properly or stay physically fit. They believe that their current state is where they’re supposed to be, as they continue to follow each and every generation before them. You become what you attract.
We’re told that we are supposed to get old and slow down, but I refuse to go that route.
Out of all of the things that I’ve accomplished in my life - being 68 with the mental attitude I possess and the physical shape I’m in right now - the toughest part about keeping on track is not the physical aspect. It’s the belief that you need to keep going and the discipline to follow that belief that presents the greatest challenge.
Once you believe it, your body will follow. It takes a strong mind to overcome.
When I was a kid, my uncles were old at the age of 50. That was the mentality back then. You’re 50 years old, you wear suspenders, and you sit on the couch instead of going for a jog. Everyone thought Jack LaLanne was crazy with his fitness and nutritional routine back then, but he lived to be 97. We’ve come a long way with accepting these ideals into our daily lives, but we still have a long way to go.
I spent some time with Joe Watson – my teammate for nine seasons and two Stanley Cups - this week and he looks incredible at 70-years-old. Joe takes care of himself. He’s disciplined, he works out, and he eats well. You have to realize that as you get older, your body needs better nutrition to function, much better than what you were able to live on when you were 20.
It’s important to educate yourself about what nutrition does to your system. You start eating better, you start feeling better, and you start working out. Just like that, your whole life changes.
As you get older, you will face many physical and mental challenges. The physical part will respond once your mental part is ready to move forward.
Get started by focusing your passion on some sort of inspiration. Take a picture of a body builder, then a picture of a frail 80-year-old man hunched over in his normal stance and place them next to each other. Ask yourself who you want to look like. If you’d like to look like the 80-year-old man, just sit back down on your couch and don’t change a thing.
If you’d rather look – and feel – like the body builder, then take action.
Go see your doctor and check your health. Get a physical. Get a professional trainer to get yourself started and teach you how to exercise the right way until you feel comfortable. There are many outlets available to figure out a nutrition plan that’s right for you. Google it, even!
If Diana Nyad can do it, if I can do it, YOU can do it.
I know Ms. Nyad, not personally, but I know her. Make no mistake about it, she is not 64 in her frame of mind. If she told herself that swimming 110 miles from Cuba to the Keys was not a feasible task at the age of 64, she would never have accomplished it.
Your life is a reflection of your thoughts.
Everyone has the capabilities to do what Nyad did … on his or her own level. Use your imagination to create your own challenge, and overcome it.
If I ever meet her, I will congratulate her, and most importantly, thank her on behalf of the whole world for revealing the great potential in all of us.
You’re never too old to chase your dream.
If you want to accomplish something, it doesn’t matter what your wife thinks, what your kids think, or what your friends think.
What matters is what you think. And if you don’t understand that, you’ll never make it.
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