Almost 120 million people saw a 39-year old Peyton Manning capture his 2nd championship title this past Sunday at Super Bowl 50. After 18 seasons of pounding NFL football and four neck surgeries, all the talking heads expect Manning to shortly retire as a champion and undoubtedly one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time. After all, Father Time catches up with every great athlete and person sooner or later, right?
While a storybook ending to Manning’s illustrious career is likely, what is more remarkable than his on-field production and high football IQ is his long-term physical resiliency. The repeated blunt force trauma strewn upon every pro football player’s movement system during each and every play renders Manning’s longevity nothing short of amazing. Borderline improbable. Good fortune and protective offensive lines aside, to what can one attribute this delay in Father Time’s inevitable mainstay, and how did Manning elude a vast decline in production or serious injury for so long? And did he actually become a better quarterback late in his career (as numbers allude to)? Well, by his own accounts, he didn’t become a “better” quarterback, but merely a “different kind” of one.
The human movement system is consistently faced with an interesting paradox as we age- we break down if we move too strenuously, AND we break down if we are too sedentary and move too little. You won’t hear much debate from the medical community that the human body was not designed for the stresses of elite athletics. People weren’t meant to collide with one another at the G-force of a car crash. Thus, while there has been much recent discussion about the long-term effects of head injuries and concussions, one of the consensual viewpoints frequently cited is that athletes have full knowledge they are signing up for a lifestyle with likely perilous outcomes. At the other end of the spectrum, however, humans also were not designed to sit sedentarily in office chairs staring at computer screens for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Just like geology is the study of time and pressure, the same principles apply to what is happening to our skeletal and muscular systems as we go from younger to older adults living the ways in which we do. From a physical standpoint, we do, in essence, become the residual of how we treat our bodies and spend our time on this planet.
Peyton Manning hasn’t been injury free throughout his time in the NFL. His neck issues have been well documented over the past seven or so seasons, yet his physical and mental preparation have long been revered as some of the most committed in the history of the game. Most quarterbacks understand sooner or later that the degree to which they prepare, and the way in which the play both have a large effect on how LONG they play (both from a production and health standpoint). For Manning, becoming an instinctive pocket passer with an uncanny ability to complete short passes while taking as few big hits as possible has become an important part of remaining healthy and being able to play late into his 30s. While factors like a capable offensive line, productive receivers, and a certain level of good fortune play pivotal roles in this, it has more been Manning’s commitment to movement prep and applicable strength, and understanding the kind of quarterback he needed to become to actually remain in the game that have guided his longevity. In essence, he has put himself in the best possible situation for avoiding that “big hit” that could have easily ended his career prematurely. Essentially, he adjusted to the circumstances.
Conversely, most people in society have the opposite problem. They “avoid” movement. Thus, it isn’t “blunt force trauma” that is the greatest risk to the majority of individuals in non-contact professions, but rather a weak, de-conditioned, unstable and unprepared movement system. When you are highly sedentary and fail to exercise at a moderate intensity for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, you are at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, circulatory problems, diabetes, osteoporosis, and of course lower back and skeletal issues related to poor posture and positioning. Essentially the “pressure” of gravitational force bearing down on all of us wrecks havoc on our bodies when we are frequently sitting or spending time in sub-optimal positions. We need to move “purposefully” and “efficiently” to keep our bodies functional! Here are 5 ways to delay (or block) Father Time’s inevitable visit:
Move Smartly EVERY DAY!
We just said it, but it cannot be overstated. MOVE YOUR ASSES!
While the effects of full contact football aren’t going to better our joints or braincells, neither is being a couch potato. Get up and MOVE…as often as you can. Set an alarm and get away from your desk EVERY hour for at least 5-10 minutes and MOVE! Perform 20 bodyweight squats at the water cooler. Do 15 pushups against your desk. Do rollout’s with your office chair. Take the stairs on purpose- turn it into a challenge. Better yet, block off 30 minutes a day that are just for you, and work on stretching out your lumbar spine and getting in 5-10 minutes of full “diaphragmic” breathing to help restore your posture. If you can’t avail 30 minutes a day to better your health, you aren’t trying hard enough. Make time. It’s there somewhere.
Drink 100 Ounces of Water a Day
While this number varies depending upon activity levels (if you work out two hours a day or just ran a marathon, obviously you likely will need more), 100 is a great number to shoot for since most people aren’t even close to it. Keep a bottle of fresh, cool water on hand at all times. The greatest way to make sure you are regularly drinking water is to simply have it near your person. If it’s at your desk or in you car cupholder, your chances of sipping it regularly increase exponentially. Keep the cup or bottle filled!
Dehydration not only disrupts our production on a cellular level, its effects mimic the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Dehydration leads to fatigue and lack of mental focus, and your overall output in the gym and in your physical life will greatly decline without adequate water consumption. Drink up…you’ll feel a lot better, and function a lot better.
Get a mattress that works well for you, sleep in a cool, dark room, turn off the electronics 30 minutes prior to climbing into bed, and avoid foods high in sugar and caffeine late into the evening. This might take some work in consistency, but without proper sleep your fitness, nutrition and other wellness efforts are mostly wasted. As I always say, get more ZZZs each night for more W’s during your day!
Get At Least One Serving of Vegetables and Greens with Every Meal
Might sound challenging but it’s actually quite easy. Most veggies are easy to cook, can be eaten raw, or are available at any of the places you are already patronizing as an add-on or side. You simply need to put them on your plate.
Your plate should be a rainbow of colors…greens, reds, oranges, and yellows. Green isn’t just the color of money, it’s the color of health, and leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and lettuce are loaded with phytonutrients important for cell structure and growth, while green vegetables like broccoli are loaded with anti-oxidants that help to combat many types of cancers. Steam them, sauté them in olive oil or combine them with things you already enjoy to make the overall plate healthier.
Take 30-60 Minutes a Day to Pursue Something Your Enjoy
Companies like Apple and Google are already revered for encouraging their employees to both take care of themselves and work on projects that interest them. After all, work is only work if we don’t enjoy what we do, (sadly this afflicts a lot of people) right? Therefore, it is important to allow time each day to participate in activities that we do indeed enjoy. Doing so helps to neutralize bad stress (discussed in a previous blog), increase happiness, and facilitate life balance (which increases overall health and wellness).
Whether it’s a workout at the gym, a yoga class, a long walk, a movie night, or a particular television show, take some time each day that is solely YOUR time. If it involves fitness or nutrition, even better, but make sure that you reserve an hour a day to “do you.”
Peyton Manning remained a highly productive, future Hall of Fame quarterback by evolving his ways once age invariably reared its head. Injuries and setbacks will happen, but by focusing on movement, hydration, recovery, nutrition and life balance, and making each of these things a PRIORITY, it’s amazing how young we can remain both mentally and physically. As they say, age is just a number, and you are only as old as you feel. Feel better, and don’t forget to MOVE. You’re designed to!