I’ve been involved in highly physical practices for a long time now, more than 30 years.
I’ve pushed my body and mind to the limit countless times, in various disciplines. I’ve participated in many difficult challenges and peak experiences throughout those years, some alone and some alongside other like-minded idiots…
I’ve learned that there is no single panacea that will apply to every individual, as our uniqueness demands unique approaches to learn how best to last.
However, I can see some patterns and habits recurring time and again in those who demonstrate true longevity.
1. They vary their training as they develop
Your body will change. Understand this. If your training does not change with it, you are heading for difficulty. Vary your practice and listen to your body. Phases of high impact and intensity must be balanced by phases of softer movements and recovery. Don’t be afraid of taking breaks, even for days or weeks on occasion. You’re playing the long game here. And, most importantly, keep learning.
2. They are good at managing stress
This may be the most important of all. Stress is inevitable and necessary, but whether you can transmute it into eustress (positive) or distress (negative) will decide a lot. Those who last and remain healthy tend to be those whose mindset remains light, positive, balanced and curious.
3. They are not ruled by their ego
Longevity and elite competitive performance do not seem to go hand in hand. Be wary of doing things to impress, whether yourself or others; this is not the way. Do not rush to excel: mastery takes a long, long time. There are no shortcuts, no matter what the latest ‘hacks’ might promise. Be wary of new methods that have not survived the test of time or been proven in practice – there is great wisdom to be found in many of the old ways.
4. They have a balanced approach to health
Not so many extremes, either in indulgence or avoidance of vices. They don’t smoke, drink only small quantities, and maintain consistency in their approach rather than putting their body through a rollercoaster. They laugh often. The majority of their thinking is stress-free.
5. They prioritise people
Friends, community, peers and role models will have a huge impact on your long-term health: they will sustain you through the fallow times and drive you to greater heights through the times of plenty. Individual health is social health; the two cannot be separated easily. Don’t neglect your connections.
But remember, there is no single solution. Your journey will be unique, and no one knows your body and mind better than you, if you take the time to listen and understand. Go at your own pace. Forgive your own errors.