The millions of fans who watched Derek Jeter drive in the winning run in his last hometown at-bat -- after 20 record-breaking years on the diamond -- will not soon forget this 40-year-old Yankee. Why do some great athletes reach their potential early, then fizzle out, while others inspire us because they seem to get better with age?
Some goals become more difficult as we age, especially physical ones where we're competing with younger players who are stronger, faster, and have more endurance. It's simply a fact.
However, if you're determined to keep playing your chosen sport, as Derek Jeter did, or just want to maintain a vigorous, regular workout schedule, here are strategies to help you stay in the game -- no matter how old you get.
Six Tips For Keeping Sharp At Any Age
1. Adapt your goal. If you used to compete in marathons but are now at an age and stage of life where your most immediate goal is to feel good and have energy, maybe it's time to admit that slogging through a 26-mile race isn't the appropriate goal for you. Even after retiring, Derek Jeter no doubt wants to stay fit, trim, and healthy so he can pursue other interests. That's a wise and worthy goal.
2. Keep consistent. All good things come from consistency. If your workouts become stress producers rather than stress relievers, don't stop working out. Instead, cut back 10 to 15 percent until you find that good feeling again, both in your body and in your soul -- and then work at that level consistently. The right pace and duration for your age is just as beneficial to you, done consistently, as a longer, faster workout is for a younger person.
3. Mix it up. Try a new sport, or an old one you haven't done for a while. Either way, you will experience the feeling of getting better and learning new skills all over again. Find fresh sources of motivation and inspiration until you land on an activity that you feel passionate about and can easily do regularly. Remember to adjust your expectations to match your current age.
4. Share your experience. Teach someone else how to do what you've become good at. Imagine the lucky Little Leaguers or college athletes who might get coaching from a baseball legend like Derek Jeter. It's a thrill to see someone else experience the joy you felt while learning the ropes, and it helps you stay involved with a sport that you may no longer have the stamina or fitness to engage in.
5. Find peers in your age bracket: Set personal fitness goals based on your peer group. As our population gets healthier and older, there are more opportunities for every age group to play or compete. Try moving up through the ranks among your peers, who are getting older and slower, just as you are. Doing this will help you gain perspective about the kinds of skills you are developing. For example, instead of speed, you might now focus on pacing or accuracy, depending on the sport.
6. Keep investing in good health. Keep making deposits in your lifetime health account. View your health as a bank account that should always be managed and added to. Every day you sit around, you are withdrawing from that account. Every day you exercise, you become a little wealthier. Learn from older people in their 80s and 90s who still swim, walk, or play golf. They are still reaping the rich rewards from a lifetime of investing in their health and fitness.