Bob is a retired New York City fireman. Injured on the job, he went into retirement decades ago. There is pain, decades worth. But there is also time, far too much of it – the kind you must figure out what to do with rather than watch yourself wither. For Bob and so many in our community, there comes a vivid, life-encapsulating story about dusting yourself off and then pushing up from a powerfully magnetic couch.
Career, children, and personal growth highlight such life stories. The stories also feature central relationships, an unchallenged drift of time, shattering loss, and for most, a dicey body with a litany of parts degraded, turned to metal, or unfixable.
Yes, this is life. And unto each of our lives, we receive the good with the bad. So for those who freed themselves from the couch, this story is for you, you Lions of San Diego – well done! It is also for those considering that one way push away from your couch. These stalwarts are ‘Lions’ since they choose to stay active on the hunt rather than be left aside by the pride. And surprisingly, happily, we have a broad verdant valley full of such lions living here and there, maybe next door.
Since moving to San Diego 18 years ago, I have now realized that I have been living amongst these proud, grizzled lions. ‘Back east’ when you put on a little age, you also rounded out a bit; and over time, your varied interests slowly whittle down to what is found on cable TV. Surely this is a lousy weather, traffic burdened, stressed out scenario perhaps worthy of another not quite so interesting story. Yet here in San Diego and in much of the sunny West, many choose a hobby that involves regular and often team-oriented exercise. Exercise and perhaps team friendships serve nectar sweet enough to deny the insidious pull of that couch. In San Diego we endure few rainy weekends, fewer extended cold swings. Our excuses along with our complaints about this ache or that are checkmated by blue skies and a light breeze out of the southwest.
By way of example regarding how a newcomer to town might approach free time, in the first year in San Diego, I realized I was thoroughly, wonderfully bone-tired. Before then and back in the ice and snow that was home, most sporty people attack weekends because surely poor weather will grab every 1 or 2 weekends in 4. Gradually and primarily due to these local conditions, those who might be lions chose to give up the fight. Or worse, the pride moves on without them.
In contrast, here and along our coast, there were no poor weekends so bring on surfing, cycling, sailing, biking, and so on. There was no time to recharge and fatten. Gradually, we all must accept, adjust, and embrace just how nice it is here all the time.
Biking turned to racing, triathlon turned to Ironman, 10Ks turned to the Boston Marathon; and eventually all of this turned to knee replacements and so forth.
My story is not this story or perhaps my story is our shared story. You see everyone has developed bad knees and backs. Everyone has or will eventually see their genetic soup result in arthritis, heart issues, poor eyesight, and so forth.
And everyone will face the highly personal challenge offered by scrutiny before a mirror, an unexpected and surprisingly difficult stairs climb, and that lonely time just after one of life’s unavoidable challenges.
Fortunately across San Diego, there is a plethora of opportunities for exercise more magnetic than that couch. And these serve as a meaningful hobby for those interested in being on a team, making some friends, or wanting to go it alone.
Sometimes your motivation originates from a friend. Perhaps more often, motivation began with that surprise you found in the mirror. Some decide to move from the relative solemnity of running or hiking, returning to group sports in order to make new friends, compare your abilities today with what you did when young, or simply to try something new. Certainly there is no once size fits all formula for movement. Individual sports may call you as you observe others enjoying themselves. It could be you finally vowing that it’s time – time to get in shape.
For the Lions or would-be Lions across San Diego, its time to grab your determination and strap it up. There are an awful lot of choices to choose from out there. And almost without exception, you will be welcomed with open arms to a whole new world of the always enticing great outdoors and if you choose, sports and teams full of fellow lions just happy to be out there. A few months ago while shagging fly balls in practice before a senior softball game, I was discussing with a few players about the conditions, clear sky, and perfect temperature. And Terry, who plays right center, offered: “Today is the best day, this is the best moment”. I said, “whad’ya mean Terry”. And he replied, “I’m 65 years old playing softball on a perfect day, how do you think it’ll be when I’m 75?”
So Get Out There
It is easy to find hills to hike, decent surf, sports with teams needing players. The more difficult challenge is to ask and answer the question: ‘is what I am doing as worth doing as _______” – fill in that blank.
“Tennis is what I do, I just can’t see sitting around”, said a friend named Lynda. Lynda played and played well in a several day national championship for people 60 and over in November. What is unusual and what makes Lynda a San Diego Lion, Lynda had her second replaced hip only 5 months earlier in June.
Steve is a double Purple Heart winner who fought bravely in tours in Vietnam. Steve is also a talented, in his 60s, first baseman for a Senior Softball team called the ‘Daddy-Os.’ About 2 months ago, Steve, played in a game only 5 days following kidney surgery. Steve remarked, “what can I say, we were short on players. Heck it doesn’t hurt that much.”
John, a doctor at Scripps and a well known tennis champion in and around la Jolla, had to step his tennis back due to a nasty knee injury. John’s reaction, “I surf so much because it’s about the only thing that doesn’t hurt my knee.” Some call John ‘Commodore’ for his easy way in teaching newbies surfing.
Pick a sport. Pick a place around town and these kinds of stories resound. Suffer a heart attack, get well then increase your cardio and fix that nutrition. Endure a hip or knee replacement consider long distance biking. Limited to walking? Connect with San Diego Hikers, North County Hikers, or the local branch of the Sierra Club.
Below is a brief survey of some of the options we have here in San Diego to join those Lions. Take a minute and give this a chance. Who knows? It may start another chapter in your life that should not be missed.
Individual Exercise Options
- Hiking groups or solo – There are literally hundreds of trails seaside or in the mountains. Choose a waterfall to hike to, a mountain by altitude or difficulty/duration.
- Surfing – San Diego is home to dozens of surfing choices from easy to difficult.
- Ocean Swimming – Both an individual exercise and a group sport. The La Jolla Cove Swim Club is the oldest of its kind in the US.
- Running – There are meetups and locally known ‘night of the week’ runs, almost every weekend organized races of varying distances, and your choice of hills, flats, or seaside runs. America’s finest running city. Also consider the West Coast Runners or the San Diego Runners Group.
- Other options – Paddleboarding, weightlifting, kite surfing, swimboarding, kayak fishing, cave swimming, and so many more. Drive by Fiesta Island some time and see people literally flying about.
Group Exercise Options
- Tennis – World Team Tennis, USTA teams, signup leagues. In addition, many tennis venues now host pickle ball matches for those with limited mobility.
- Softball and Baseball – Men’s & Women’s Senior and Regular softball leagues playing everyday of the week. There are softball sportplexes in Poway and Santee. Leagues are always looking for players.
- Biking Clubs – The San Diego CycloVets boasts bikers in their 80s, they have a ride every day of the week. The SD Bike Club is the largest bike club in town with regular open rides thru the week. Many bike shops offer structured rides and spin training.
- Golf – Most public and many private golf clubs host team play. These teams play home and away matches and even travel to fine golf destinations. Torrey Pines, Balboa Park, Admiral Baker, the Vineyard have men’s and women clubs with hundreds of regular players.
- Triathlon – San Diego boasts the largest triathlon club in US, San Diego Triathlon Club. This club is which is open to anyone, has club races, and promotes development of ability in each sport regardless of age.
- Soccer – In addition to pickup games seen in nearly every park on the weekends, there are organized leagues for men and women for any age. There are indoor soccer leagues and many outdoor soccer leagues.
- Other options – Imagine the sport and there are organized leagues (lacrosse, ice and field hockey, track and field, football, dragon boat racing, sea kayaking, group drill instruction, etc.).
Photos by Author.