On Health, and the 70 Year Old Punt Returner

On Health, and the 70 Year Old Punt Returner

Though this pic is of my father, we all take lessons from his grandfather, Miles Sharpless Spencer (hero post); here’s another one. Productive well into his 70’s, Miles had my Grandfather Herbert in his 74th year. It was his 24th kid, and his third wife. Read that again. It’s 100%  truth.

So besides counting the blessings of amazing genes, I also began to wonder what kind of shape the man must have been in. And this is where I take the reader on a detour with no better segue than this: the Spencers all love football, still.

Punt returners are the jet pilots of the gridiron. Imagine looking up in the air for 5-6 seconds while ten predators are at full speed heading for you, and only you. Take your eye off the ball, to steal a look at your doom, and you muff it. Misjudge the spin, or the wind, mis-use your hands, and a bobble will cost you a certain concussion (back in the day). Nerves of steel, soft hands and happy feet, and you have a chance. I did it both at Choate and Washington and Lee, and one of my all time heroes did it at Princeton. Now imagine doing it through your 70th year. How would that ever be possible?

I am quite Sure Miles Sharpless could have done it. He ran a farm and had three wives and twenty for kids for chistakes what’s so hard about catching a pigskin. Matter of fact, he probably caught pigskins daily, but they had four legs and a tail at that point. So what about having kids at an advanced age (like 50, not 70)… and doing some quick math, that will be my age if my son plays ball in college. So I figure I need to be at least that sharp by then. And so ends the detour, and begins my point.

Of all the selfish reasons for good health, there is one more reason to ponder: not only would one get to enjoy the company of our children (or grandchildren if you got started early), but to actually press them. That’s right, to be competing for their respect well into the seventies. It has the triple benefit of 1) being actually vibrant at that age, 2) leading by example and earning their attention rather than just expecting it, and 3) actually beating them occasionally.

But how could anyone ever expect that? Enter: Masako.

Masako, not even on the ball yet Masako, not even on the ball yet

Not so long ago, I was under incredible stress and in fair mid-life shape. I saw a man in the gym that quite frankly blew me away. He was seventy, being trained by a 68 year old pearl diver from Japan who spent 45 minute on a bosu ball working out. If you think that is easy, try 45 seconds sometime. I pointed to her client and asked her to GIVE ME THAT. And I will be forever grateful to her, and when my core, joints, and calves quit burning, they will be grateful too. My good friend Marc Cirilli told me “in order to remain an athlete, you have to lose ten pounds a decade”. I lost 30 pounds in 100 days, my BMI dropped by half, and I ran the NY Marathon three months later.

30 pounds in 100 days. Thanks Marc. 30 pounds in 100 days. Thanks Marc.

Frankly, had I not, I might have had a heart attack. I was not only an athlete again, I was below my punt-returning weight. When speaking to another good friend, Judy Matusky about what happened to me, she suggested I had totally reset my metabolism (more on her magic in another post).

How many of my friends, how many of us Americans are under incredible stress, twenty or more pounds above our playing weight, and risking a mediocre lifestyle. Take it from Miles Sharpless. From Masako, Marc, and Judy. Be active, stay in shape, take care of your selves. But most of all, when it comes to the kids, don’t muff it!

I mentor two kids and several entrepreneurs. Similarities are coincidental.