aging · Aikido · athletes · Crossfit · cycling

The enthusiasm of youth is infectious (most of the time anyway)

It was a pretty hard workout even by CrossFit standards. 200 m row, 10 burpees, 10 box jumps. 6 rounds for time.

I was sweaty and breathless on burpee 8 of my second last set when I hear, “Hey, Professor Brennan! You’re doing great.”

I looked up and smiled. The encouragement didn’t throw me. CrossFit is like that. But “Professor”? It’s the first time I’ve heard that here. It’s a student from one of my classes last year. I knew it had to happen eventually–the intersection of teaching and CrossFit– though Western has a very nice gym and most of my students workout there. During the break we chatted. It was a late afternoon class and I usually go in the morning so our odds of regularly working out together aren’t great.  But I told him to call me “Samantha” in case it happened again. (“Sam” is for friends, family, and fellow athletes. I wasn’t quite ready to make the leap there.)

misty railway track
misty railway track

I don’t mind working out with students. I’ve done lots of it over the years. If you’re a physically active adult participating in sports, you’ll spend lots of time working out with people younger than you.There’s almost no one my age at CrossFit. In New Zealand there were lots of pretty fit men in CrossFit in the 50 and above category but few women. Here it’s a bit of a wasteland over 40 even. But they are all adults. In other sports I’ve spent time with teenagers and children.

In rowing, it was the high school rowers. In Aikido, lots of us help out with the kids’ classes. I sometimes have to work hard to persuade the young men that it’s okay to hit me or throw me. I won’t break. I outrank them usually. It helps if I throw them around a bit first.

In biking, there were lots of young people around. Some of the young teens just starting their racing careers, liked to train with the masters women. We’re fast–but not too fast–and we ride carefully and don’t drop people. Some of us have good road skills and excellent bike handling skills and the parents especially like to see their kids training with us.

It helps that I genuinely like young people. I really enjoy the company of my undergraduates. Fresh perspectives, energy, and enthusiasm all help me feel young too. I used to work out at the university fitness centre and train with the university triathlon club but after awhile that got to be a bit much. I joke that the final straw was a student who approached me in the shower–in addition to no clothes, I also had no glasses–to ask for an extension on her paper. I mumbled something about email and office hours and grabbed my towel.

There have been some funny exchanges with young athletes over the years.

I laughed once at the velodrome when a young boy approached me nervously on his track bike. “Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

(At the time) “45.”

“Wow, my mom is younger than you and she could never do this.”

“That’s okay my son is about your age and he couldn’t do it either. It’s not about age.”

“That makes sense.”

That made me smile. But young people aren’t always so pleasant. Sometimes they can smug and entitled, just like adults I guess. In Dunedin, NZ there were young women in my CrossFit class in the morning before high school. They drove me nuts complaining about their fat mothers who were trying to make them fat too! Apparently the mothers had the nerve to cook too many carbs and buy crappy groceries. One day I’d had enough. I interrupted the morning stream of complaints.

“There is an answer here, you know.”

“Oh. What?”

“You could cook and offer to buy groceries. Also, who drove you to the gym before high school starts in the morning? Was that your mother? Be nice.”

But mostly I like young people. The ones in my house especially but also those in my classrooms and those in my gym too.

Pretty clouds and hill
Pretty clouds and hill

2 thoughts on “The enthusiasm of youth is infectious (most of the time anyway)

  1. Your post made me smile a bunch of times this morning. It reminded me of a time in grad school when I was seeing a therapist and then ran into him at the squash courts. We said hi, and then at my appt, he said, “that might have seemed awkward. But at least we don’t bump into each other in the locker room.”

    I agree with you– I love doing athletic activity with younger people. Almost all of my cycling/skiing friends are much younger than I am (although I used to ride with a woman 20 years older who could totally smoke me going up hills!). I like the challenge and the freshness that working out with younger folks brings. I don’t work out at my college gym, but I do road rides sometimes from campus, and my students always seem a little surprised (and impressed), seeing me in full kit. It seems like a good thing.

  2. Great article! I also enjoy the company of my undergrad and grad students, for the same reasons. We can teach them stuff, but they can also teach us a lot about fresh perspectives on life.

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