How I Plan to Live to 125: Advice From an NFL Hall of Famer
I want to celebrate my 125th birthday. I’m already in my 60s, so that would mean living another lifetime. Some would say that’s an audacious goal. My response? I’ve achieved some pretty audacious goals before, so I’m happy to strive for another one.
Throughout my life, I’ve been a goal-setter — and that’s been especially true when it comes to my health. Growing up, I watched my mom exercise to Jack LaLanne and other fitness gurus’ exercise videos. When I got old enough, I joined her. Later, I played basketball and baseball. And by the time I hit the football field in high school, I knew I’d be an athlete for life. A Hall of Fame career in the NFL proved me right.
Along the way, I ate up information about proper nutrition, sleep hygiene, and workout recovery. I treated my body like a machine, and I fueled it properly. Even after I retired, I took care of myself. I set mini-goals to keep myself motivated, and never once did I feel that my health was declining.
Then, 55 came along — and so did a prostate cancer diagnosis. I was stunned. I didn’t share that news with anyone except my wife because it was so tough to process. What I didn’t realize at the time was that prostate cancer doesn’t care if you’ve been careful your whole life. One in nine men will battle the condition at some point, for instance, and that ratio increases to one in six for African American males. Either way, far too many avoid talking about it.
At that point, I made two new goals. The first was to use my story to teach and inspire others. The second was to help people prioritize well-being by being more intentional, living an active lifestyle, and influencing those around them to make health-related choices wisely.
If you’re as interested as I am in staying active — whether you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition or just want to live your best possible life — goals are your friend. Goals keep you focused on a target, enabling you to steadily move toward an objective. By setting mini-goals, you can truly achieve amazing results. Remember: Averaging just 10,000 steps a day translates to roughly 1,500 to 1,800 miles a year — or about the distance to walk from Los Angeles to Dallas.
Of course, you’ll have to shift your mindset to really embrace those goals. Take my goal of living to 125, for instance. When I set that goal for myself, I started thinking seriously about everything from my blood pressure to my diet. My attitude changed abruptly because I realized that to achieve my bigger goal, I had to meet much smaller ones. So I said goodbye to red meat, pork, and poultry and hello to a primarily plant-based diet.
I also made sure to focus on my activity levels. As a natural athlete, I’ve always prioritized exercise and never had trouble meeting the recommended guidelines for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity workouts weekly. Now, I make sure that all my workouts contribute to a cross-training regimen that includes plenty of anaerobic and aerobic components. The anaerobic portion boosts strength, and the aerobic one enhances cardiovascular ability.
Besides all of this, my health journey also made me more open to exploring alternative wellness practices and incorporating those that work for me into my daily routine. I figure that if something is natural and has the potential to help me feel my best, why not give it a try?
Case in point: Before setting my goal of living to 125, I never would’ve considered taking something like CBD. But now, I aim to incorporate it into my daily routine. I’m also partial to infrared fabrics that increase blood flow and aid recovery. I’ve found they help me perform better during my workouts and bounce back faster. My infrared sheets also regulate my body temperature at night, so they help me get better sleep because I’m more comfortable. Of course, eating right and exercising consistently are critical, but these other self-care practices truly round out my health routine.
Again, these small goals have become my stepping stones, and I hope they’ll take me sailing well past the centenarian mark. You can join me, and I hope you do. Just take a few steps first to give yourself the best chance of seeing your health-linked goals come to fruition.
Advice for Setting Active Lifestyle Goals
Unless you’re already into sports and regular activity, start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor. Get a checkup where you can talk to your family physician about topics related to exercise and movement. Do you need to be careful with any activities because of a chronic problem like arthritis, for instance? Are you well enough to handle something such as high-intensity interval training, or should you stick with lower-impact exercises? Receiving honest answers will help you make smart decisions and choose activities that you’ll enjoy doing.
After getting your doctor’s clearance, write down some short- and long-term goals. Let’s call your long-term goals “dreams.” The short-term goals will inch you closer to your dreams. For example, you might want to run a 10K next year. If that’s the case, backtrack in your calendar and figure out what smaller steps you need to take to cross the finish line. That could mean running a certain number of miles per week at first — and then elevating your weekly mileage until you can run for an hour with relative ease.
In terms of bigger dreams, I would encourage you to have a few. However, try not to have too many short-term goals operating at once. Otherwise, you’ll dilute your focus and risk not realizing any of them. It’s better to stagger your goals and give yourself time to fulfill them all.
As a final word about goals, I want you to lean on your support group when you start to get overwhelmed or stuck. This might be your spouse, family member, or anyone who can relate to or empathize with your situation. When I was first told I had prostate cancer, I didn’t lean on many people. If I could go back in time, however, I’d be more vocal about my needs. Asking for help sends a message to others that you don’t have to have all the answers. It also frees them up to request help from you when they need it.
You have a starting point — it’s today. Tomorrow, next month, next year, and the next decade will happen whether you prepare for them or not. Trust me: It’s better to prepare. Set your goals high and start moving the ball toward the end zone today.
This article was originally published on Thrive Global on June 7, 2021.