In an ideal world, a man my age would be enjoying the benefits of having steadily invested in my health and my wealth from an early age. The retirement brochures say we must start early, invest often, and stay invested. The same goes for our health. Unfortunately for me, I had been treating myself in the opposite way I treated my finances.
When it came to my health, I had never really made an investment. Therefore, I didn’t stay invested. Therefore there are no investment returns to speak of. My physical portfolio, the one I’m going to rely on in my 70s, was (still is) under-funded, ill-performing and guaranteed to yield very little over the long term.
I felt bad, still do, about neglecting my health for too long. I was a strong guy in high school. I could easily bench my body weight and spent summers on construction sites and drilling rigs.
Today, the outer layer of skin doesn’t hug the inner layer of muscles quite as much as it used to and things don’t bend as far as they once did. I like that old version of me, the one who felt strong all the time. I was prepared to pay for a way back.
We agreed to a budget about equal to what I would normally contribute to my RRSP. It was a trade-off.
My wife suggested a personal trainer might be the way to go. I was doubtful because I considered trainers a luxury item for ladies who lunch and clumsy computer geeks with money. I certainly didn’t need a dude with a clipboard to show me how to do bicep curls in front of the mirror. But she insisted and we agreed to a budget about equal to what I would normally contribute to my RRSP. It was a trade-off. One year of investing in the knowledge I need to take care of myself versus a few extra bucks I might not be able to enjoy in 20 years.
“I’ve been neglecting my body for longer than you’ve been alive. Now I want to look like Russell Crowe in Gladiator.”
Sean came highly recommended. He is a registered sports therapist and an accomplished amateur athlete. I consider it a major stroke of luck that our paths crossed. He works out of a fitness club down the street; it’s an eight-minute walk (five for most people). In our first meeting, he asked about my fitness goals and whether or not my muscles had any memory of exercise.
“It’s quite simple,” I said. “I’ve been neglecting my body for longer than you’ve been alive. Now I want to look like Russell Crowe in Gladiator.” Russell and I have the same basic body shape when he’s not training for an action movie.
“That’s possible in time,” Sean said. He was being polite. Even Russell Crowe couldn’t get back into that shape at my age. Sean and I met the following week for a fitness assessment. We talked about my past experience with exercise in order to determine a few things: my ability to stretch and perform basic athletic movements and the extent of my kinesthetic abilities. (Basically, was I aware of my surroundings or a complete idiot.)
After an hour of me groaning, Sean was prepared to offer an honest assessment of my situation. I was concerned that we hadn’t hit the bench press but I placed my trust in the process. According to my diagnosis, I had a complete lack of core strength, the mobility of a sculpture and a range of motion that would only serve me well if buried alive.
A total stranger had provided an unbiased assessment of my situation and offered an improvement plan. The similarities between financial and physical health are so obvious to me now. I wish I had started a physical plan around the same time I started my financial plan. But you can’t go back.
Within weeks, I began to notice progress in a few vital areas, such as posture and balance. As time went on, I began to feel stronger despite never doing any bicep curls. Sean explained that we don’t need to do curls at all. A proper plan naturally develops the biceps in combination with all of the other moving parts. This is the advice you get for $70 an hour.
I don’t know how long I can keep paying for this luxury but I know this: I will emerge from this experience with the knowledge I need to take better care of my body. I’ll know what to do in a gym and how to do it safely. This is knowledge I will have for the rest of my life. And when I can afford it, I know that Sean is a phone call away for refresher courses and repairs. So right now, this is looking like a pretty good investment to me.