My friend and colleague, B. J. Smith, is teaching a Lifetime Fitness class in our Summer Blitz program. He snagged one of our personal trainers, Tom Martin, and me on Monday. “What are you doing for the next couple of days, during the day?” he asked. I figured there was a lunch invitation on the way so I replied that I had a pretty open schedule. “I have a meeting with the academic VP on Tuesday morning; other than that I’m free.” Frankly, I was pretty pumped about the idea of a free lunch.
“I want you guys to speak with my Lifetime Fitness students. You know, talk to them about what “lifetime fitness” means to old people.”
Okay, he didn’t actually use the term “old people” but I knew that’s what he was getting at. Tom is only three years younger than me and in forty years better shape than I am. He rides a bike for a couple hundred miles and then works out. I can ride a bicycle, too, and I’ve probably ridden for a couple hundred miles in my whole life. Whatever the qualifications B. J. had in mind when he selected us, we agreed to represent senior citizens at the Lifetime Fitness class yesterday.
I admit I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, as anyone who knows me at all knows about me, I love to talk about stuff. Whether I know anything about it or not. And the chance to talk about mud runs and workouts, well that was just downright appealing.
On the other hand, I’ve taught Summer Blitz classes. I’ve also taught other classes whose enrollment primarily consists of freshmen athletes. A lot of those students have all the academic inclination and enthusiasm of a tanned otter hide. Actually, when it comes to enthusiasm for classroom learning, I’d have to give the extinguished otter a slight edge. At least it can usually keep its eyes open for most of the class period and it never tries texting during a class discussion or test.
I admit there have been notable exceptions. Two of the best students I ever had were football players at Highland. The other forty were not. Superficial social stereotypes notwithstanding, Tom and I showed up at the classroom at the Wellness Center yesterday at one, per B. J.’s instructions.
We spent the next hour-and-a-half having one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had with college students. They asked some very thoughtful questions and seemed genuinely interested in our responses. Tom made several excellent points about nutrition, determination, competitiveness and not letting ego and machismo in workout routines lead to longtime injuries. “Most problems with your body for athletes in middle-age are not because of something you just did; they’re because of little things you did over and over twenty years earlier.”
I’ll admit that there were a couple of students who seemed to make a deliberate show of how sleepy and disinterested they were. I’m pretty sure they’re football players. But the other twenty were shining examples of courtesy, respect and engagement. Apparently, there are still parents in this country who don’t just spawn their young and wait for them to hatch out and make their way downstream. There are teachers in our public schools who still insist that students pay attention, demonstrate respect and at least pretend to listen to classroom guests. These parents and teachers still teach and work to instill the same principles that raised people as old as Tom and me. That seems to be working out okay so far; I think this country might make it another generation or two.