These days, it is more than common to find athletes of all ages competing in a wide variety of sports. Adult leagues abound for adults, with men and women in their 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s competing at different levels. We’re not talking about lightly tossing a ball around, we’re talking full out play in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, to cycling, skiing, and of course road running. Track and field events have competitive athletes who train and prepare for race day, 70, 80 years of age. Many businesses, like your Maine Subaru dealer, has on-site fitness centers for employees to exercise during the work day.
Prior to the 1970′s, youthful ambitions of athletic participation was almost exclusively for the young of age, not just the young at heart. To find a “runner” in their 40′s still competing was an anomaly. Friends would say, “give it up old man!”, genuinely suggesting that they were way past their prime. But in 1977, one book turned the tide.
Jim Fixx Complete Book of Running
At the age of 35, Jim Fixx weighed 240 pounds, and smoked 2 packs of cigarettes per day. With a family history of heart disease, Jim started jogging and running to get in shape. 10 years later, smoke free and 60 pounds lighter, he would write the seminal book on the fitness revolution, “The Complete Book of Running”. Published in 1977, the book quickly sold one million copies. In a matter of months, “going for a jog” became the daily routine for millions of adults. The book was able to communicate in common man terms, the benefits of exercise to increase the average life expectancy. It was not based on scientific research, but on common sense. It worked.
It was ironic that the man who wrote the book would succumb to a 1984 heart attack on a quiet back road in Vermont, at the age of 52. The autopsy revealed that Fixx’s heart had one artery blocked 95%, a second 86%, and a third 70%. The years of smoking, his stressful job, a second divorce, and his prior weight, combined with the family genetics all contributed to his death. Still, the medical opinion was virtually unchallenged, that Fixx’s book linking a healthy lifestyle and exercise with longevity were correct.
The iconic book cover, featuring a runner’s muscular legs, red shorts and red shoes, was in fact Jim Fixx. In 1982, Jim wrote a companion book entitled “Jim Fixx’s Second Book of Running”. A third book, published posthumously in 1984, was called “Maximum Sports Performance” which discussed not only the physical benefits of exercise, but the psychological benefits, including reducing stress and tension.