Every Sunday my friend Nicole and I go climbing at EarthTreks. Like me, Nicole is in her late-thirties. We started climbing in January, through a buy-one-get-one-free intro class, which was awesome. So now we’ve been doing it for about seven months. We get banged up a lot. My knees and arms are generally covered with bruises that I can’t entirely explain.
Last Sunday another friend of ours joined us. Lori is about a decade older and she had only been climbing once. She nodded, her eyes focused, while we showed her how to tie in and explained belaying. We ran through the calls, and again she nodded. Everything was fine.
And then she looked up at the wall and froze.
“I’m too old for this shit,” she said.
It’s a sentiment I hear a lot, but not one I understand. My mom said it when she explained why she didn’t want to ride her bike anymore. “I’m too old. What if I fall?” I hear it from co-workers when they ask what I did last weekend. “Oh, I’m too old for that,” they say, and laugh. Some of these co-workers are younger than me, so that’s depressing.
Do your limbs work? Are they mostly intact? I mean, hell, there are plenty of athletes who are missing a limb or two, so if you have all four, you’re ahead of the game. Do your lungs adequately take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide? I don’t mean in comparison to your teenage years, or your twenties, or even your forties. Do they work now?
Then you’re not too old for this shit.
Age is just a number. Health is what’s important. And here’s the Catch-22 on health: If you tell yourself that you’re too old to participate in an active life, guess what? You are. But you don’t have to be; you choose to be. And that’s just sad.
Lori, by the way, climbed the route just fine, motivated in part by the sixty-something woman nearby who did a 5.10. And the next time Lori went, she climbed a 5.8.