A lot of guys ask when Old Man Strength starts. Its one of those questions that if you have to ask, you probably don’t have it.
As they get older, men experience an increasing mental resilience and drive to be stronger which grows powerful with the years and then won’t give up until the last breath is literally squeezed from our bodies.
But when does it start?
When can a man be called old man strong?
“Being Old Man Strong is about spirit, not technique”
Perhaps this is best illustrated by a story about a young archer who was making a name for himself as the strongest and most technically proficient in the region. He challenged his teacher, an old archery teacher of 50 years of age, to a competition which he felt would prove his technical domination and overall superiority.
The old teacher was humble in his response, acknowledging that perhaps the young man was better, and asked only to be able to choose the location of the challenge. The young man agreed readily, saying that it wouldn’t matter where it was held. Anywhere, anytime.
“Perhaps you are better”, the old teacher said, and the young man nodded vigorously.
The old teacher chose a mountain top, where a fallen log straddled two peaks. When a person stood in the centre of the fallen log, some 100m above a sharp rocked ravine, a small brown tree could be seen, and on that tree had been placed a target of some 30m length and width.
The old teacher walked slowly onto the log, drew slowly and let fly. The arrow travelled quickly and hit the centre of the target. He drew his arrows again, breathed softly, exhaling with each shot, and repeated the feat almost exactly two more times.
The young man slipped off his sandals and edged out onto the log, feeling the smooth wood on the soles of his feet, and slowly edged himself into the centre. He caught a glimpse of the ravine, and saw the rocks with their sharp and fatal edges, and felt an updraft of wind blow the hair on his face back. For a moment he wondered if he might fall. Then, he brought up his bow, docked his arrow, and let fly, missing the target by a full foot. The next two arrows were no closer, and the challenge was lost.
The young man was furious, accusing the old teacher of cheating by choosing an impossible location, saying if the event was held on flat ground, with no wind, he would surely have won. The old teacher just looked at him and nodded.
“Yes” he said, “with flat ground, and no wind, you may have been superior and the results different. At your age, you are merely a technician, although certainly my equal in that respect. You forget however that my age and my years have given me the gift of experiencing of my craft under all conditions, where I have won and I have lost, I have adjusted my technique as my body has aged, and I have learned to control myself, my fears and have rebuilt in times of defeat”.
“Old Man Strength grows from a lifetime of overcoming hardship and adversity”
As we get older, conditions affect our ability to train get harder, whether time, commitments or the limitations of our bodies. We push through because we know what it takes to continue to grow and develop. We know we have to train sore, because there is never a time when we aren’t sore. We know we need to push through the pain when we are lifting, because pain starts earlier and stays later than it used to. We have had our flat ground, and our no wind, and we have hit all the targets in our youth. Hitting them when we get older means we have to be smart, and tough, and resilient.
Our technical skill is only a small part of what it takes for us to hit the targets. Being old is easy. You just have to wait for that.
Being old man strong comes from maintaining the commitment to your goals as the waves of adversity continue to buffet you, and to keep moving forward on the path. And that takes a few years to really appreciate. After 35, the body starts to respond not quite as well as it did and life gets in the way. The age of 45 is probably the staring point of true education , where the learning and the real test of mind versus body begins. At 45, you can look at the guys who are training and lifting in their 50’s and start to understand and respect the struggle and their warrior spirit. They are the true old man strength.
Young guys are powerful, technically excellent, and definitely stronger, but let’s see how they go in a few years when the body starts to go, the wind whistles, life has other plans, and the pressure starts to mount. If they are still here when that happens, then we’ll call them old man strong.