The “Less Is More” Approach to Staying Fit in Retirement

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Two years ago, I gave up one of my favorite hobbies: basketball. Since 1980, I had played three times a week with the faculty of Rollins College, where I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The camaraderie was unmatched and certainly better than the talent on display. It was a routine for me. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were the days I looked forward to the most. And it kept me in great shape.

Side note: It was at one of these games back in 1992 that my mentor and friend Mark Skousen (longtime editor of the newsletter Forecasts & Strategies and frequent Oxford Club contributor) introduced me to this business. He set up a meeting with Bill Bonner (founder of Agora – the Club’s “parent” company), and the rest was history.

Giving up basketball two years ago was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I listened to my body, particularly my knees, which were begging me to stop. Forty years on the hardwood gym floors were enough.

I took the signs of wear and tear on my body seriously because of one event that I remember vividly.

I was in Palm Springs speaking at a conference about 12 years ago. I saw a group of men walking through the lobby, speaking loudly to someone behind them. But I could not see that person. About a minute later, a man hobbled into view. It was one of the greatest NFL players of all time who then went on to coach successfully as well.

When I saw him, my jaw dropped. He could barely walk. After years of taking hits on the field, his body had given up. Now at the time in life when he had nothing but time (he was around 64 years old then), he could barely walk a few feet without grimacing in pain. He didn’t quit the game in time, and he was paying the price.

Another time, on a trip I made to China a few years back, we headed to the Great Wall. While the wall is spectacular from any angle, to experience the enormity and magnificence of the structure, you must climb to a high point.

That means a lot of stairs. We’re talking hundreds. And each step is of varying height, something that was done strategically to tire out invaders. For every person who made the trek up the stairs, there was another who couldn’t get past the first 20 or 30 steps.

Some were simply out of shape, but many others were in the same boat as the pro football player I referenced above. You could tell they wanted to, but their bodies just refused.

I travel a lot. Probably more than most people. It’s a hobby I enjoy and take seriously. In fact, it’s my single biggest annual expense.

Last month as I was climbing some very steep stairs to a hillside castle, I felt good. It was then that I made a note on my phone to write this article. This advice may be coming too late for you, but it could be the best advice you pass on to your kids or grandkids.

There comes a point in time when you should hang up the cleats and take up something that’s easier on your muscles and joints instead. If you want to enjoy physical activities later in life, listen to your body early in life and take its warning signs seriously.

There’s no worse feeling than sitting on a tour bus at the base of the Great Wall of China while your companions are making their way up the stairs to enjoy unparalleled views. Don’t be that person!

Good investing,

Karim