I saw something amazing in the pool where I was hanging out after a workout today.
First I noticed that there was a group of about 7 men jumping off the highest part of the diving tower, again and again.
This wasn’t a dinky little diving board 1 meter off the water. They were throwing themselves off the 5 meter board, which is high enough to make anyone’s heart go pitter-pat.
And they weren’t just jumping in feet-first. We’re talking about swan dives, flips, and backwards-arching dives off the 5 meter board.
Going off the 5 meter board headfirst is pretty bloody impressive, but I haven’t even got to the cool part…
Every member of this impromptu diving team was at least 60 years old. And I’m sure that a couple of them were in their 70’s.
Rocking their gray hair, black Speedos and baggy board shorts, these senior citizens were putting everyone else in the pool to shame. Again and again they flung themselves off the high board, strutting their stuff and honing their skills.
I asked a lifeguard about these senior citizen daredevils and he laughed, “Those guys come here every single day, competing against each other and working on their dives.”
What a beautiful thing. These guys were training athletics and refining their skills when 90% of their peers are basically trying to do as little as possible physically.
I’m sure that there are a ton of positive side-effects of this daily diving practice that go way beyond the development of the skill itself.
Benefits including social connections, increased bone density, mental alertness, improved diet, watching their weight, and doing additional exercise (some of the septuagenarians clearly had physiques shaped with weight training).
When it comes to having a healthy, happy old age it probably doesn’t matter if your exercise of choice involves diving off the 5 meter board, hiking in the mountains, skiing, or grappling. Doing something physical – anything – is so much better than doing nothing.
But there are some pretty impressive role models who have blazed the way for older grapplers in jiu-jitsu.
I’m inspired by the legendary Dan Inosanto who started his BJJ training with the Machados in his sixties, eventually achieved his black belt, and continues to train almost every day at age 77.
And I think it’s awesome that a friend of mine once got choked out sparring with Helio Gracie when Helio was in his eighties.
I don’t think I’ll ever take up stunt diving, but I sure hope that I’m rolling around on the mats at age 70.
What I saw today was proof that your athletic career doesn’t need to stop at sixty. And knowing that that’s a possibility is motivating as hell to take good care of myself right here and right now.
To paraphrase a famous poem, when I am an old man I shall wear purple speedos and go to no gi class!