An old Chinese proverb says: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
This has always deeply resonated with me because it reminds us that it’s never too late to begin. As a fitness coach, I often encounter individuals who believe they can’t start their fitness journey due to a myriad of reasons: thinking it’s too late, feeling overweight, lacking strength, doubting their capabilities, considering themselves too old, feeling scared, or thinking, “Why start now when I’ve never done it before?”
One of the people who truly stands out is my good friend, Bill. Considering his age and frailty, he believed it was too late for him. When we first crossed paths, Bill was 76 years old. His daughter, who had been training with me for a decade, approached me one day with a heartfelt plea: “Please, train my dad. If you don’t help him, he won’t make it.” She wasn’t asking; she told me I had to train her father. I share a special bond with her, almost like a sister, and I knew this was an important task. Bill’s daughters even pooled their resources to pay for his training because he would never invest in himself.
Bill had never exercised in his life. When we first met, I asked him to lie on the ground. He looked at me bewildered and asked, “You’re joking, right?” I assured him I wasn’t, and so began his challenging journey of getting down on the floor. It took him around 13 minutes to accomplish this feat, and by the end, he was drenched in sweat. When he finally rose to his feet, he asked if we were done. I couldn’t help but laugh. I told Bill, “I have you for another 47 minutes, and I won’t let you off the hook even a second early. I promised your daughter I’d whip you into shape.” And that marked the beginning of our friendship.
For three years, I trained Bill until he passed away. His daughter will tell you he spent three additional years with us because he started caring for himself. All Bill had ever done was work and provide for his family. He was 76 when he began training with me and worked full-time on the docks. After a tiring and exhausting day, he would show up at the gym, claiming he didn’t want to be there. But he always showed up. I trained Bill for 156 sessions, and every single time, he uttered the words, “I don’t want to be here.” There’s something powerful about that statement and the willpower behind it.
Most people would say those words and remain on their couch, but not Bill. He knew he had to be at the gym. He knew it would benefit him, and he knew his family wanted him around for longer. So, he didn’t have a choice — he went to the gym every week for three years without missing a single week. Eventually, he became so committed that he would reach out to me, ensuring he secured a time slot for his workout. Here’s another saying I love: “It’s never too late to teach an old dog a new trick.” Bill was a living testament to that.
Imagine you’re 76 years old, walking into a CrossFit gym, ready to meet your personal trainer, knowing full well that the workout awaiting you will test your limits for a solid 60 minutes. Don’t get me wrong — the entire session wasn’t grueling. In fact, we shared plenty of laughter, and Bill had a blast getting to know everyone. But let me tell you, it took some serious guts for him to show up and embark on this journey.
This story holds a valuable lesson: It’s never too late to prioritize your well-being, regardless of where you find yourself in life.
It requires courage to take that initial step, to commit to taking back your health. Bill may have started later than most, but in the end, he proved that beginning was far better than not starting at all. spt