As a young boy I was quite judgmental of older people and how they aged. I promised myself I would not get old, become overweight, get sick and frail like “them”. I believed strongly that they became this way because they stopped living. They stopped playing in the woods, hiking on the trails and climbing trees. In retrospect, I intuitively knew what science has overwhelmingly proven, that when we stop using what we have, we lose it. At 45, gradually and insidiously, I did exactly what I promised myself I would not do, I became that old overweight guy that I mercilessly judged as a child, and I stopped climbing trees!
One morning I awoke, huge belly, feeling ill and lethargic and in an instant, as if an electrical shock triggered my brain, all of a sudden I reclaimed my youthful thinking. As of that moment, with undying enthusiasm, I applied what I intuitively knew as a child and underwent the most incredible body and mind transformation I never would have imagined possible. Within only 3 months, I transformed from the office worker who could sit a coffee cup on his belly, to posing for “after” shots on a beach in Hawaii. From that point on, living a health-oriented life in paradise was my ultimate dream.
Twelve years later here I am with my wife living in paradise in Costa Ballena, Costa Rica, at home in the jungle. This is my new “woods” that I had as a child. Every morning that I am blessed with another day of life, I have a choice to make. In Costa Ballena, there is ample opportunity to become an old overweight guy again, but there is more opportunity to stay (or get) fit and live a “youthful” life. I choose the later and here is how I do it.
My wife and I eat lots of whole foods. Here, unlike “up north”, eating healthy is way less expensive than eating badly. We can pay three times the cost for boxes or bags of imported processed junk, or go to the local markets for fresh vegetables, beans and fruits for very little. I can buy a “fruit drink” (bottled sugar) in a store for $3, or a “pipa fria” (coconut water) cut from a nearby tree for $1. We buy organic chickens and eggs from our friend, or fresh caught fish from local fisherman that can be found roadside. Our Tico neighbor often stops us on our way home to give (yes, give!) us fresh pineapples, yucca, beans or some fruit or vegetable we have never heard of. What isn’t harvested from his farm is left for “los animales” (the animals), and it doesn’t get any better than this!
No gym close by so can’t workout. Wrong! We created a home gym in the corner of our bedroom (1 meter by 2 meter area). I brought a bench and dumbbell set in checked baggage, and purchased a total gym here locally. Coming soon – a “jungle gym” in our back yard equipped with dip/pull-up bars, ropes for climbing and rings for “muscle ups” and handstands. Do wereally need this equipment to stay fit here? No! We hike around the mountainous property (killer cardio), trek to the waterfalls or take long walks on the beach with the dog. I am a beginner surfer and the “paddle out” alone is a huge anaerobic and aerobic workout combined with the benefits of balance and flexibility. I recently began attending a yoga class with my wife ($40 for 12 sessions, come on where else in the world is that deal available?). My wife also teaches a strength training class “pro bono”. When I get out of bed in the morning I sometimes punch out a set of “max pushups” or tricep dips using a chair before breakfast. What better way to kick-start the body into a highly metabolic state along with a healthy shot of dopamine for the mind!
I am 58, but as fit and able as a very young man. In my face I look my age, but in my heart and body, I feel, look and move like I am 20. I am so very grateful to live in a place where I can not only meet my fitness needs, but it is a mecca for it. I so much missed that tree climbing boy who reminded me of something so important so much later in life. Now, he is back home with me in “the woods” in paradise.
About the Contributing Writer
Jim Smith, recently retired and living in Costa Rica full time, loves the outdoors, and takes full advantage of the hiking and surfing that is available in Costa Ballena. He and his wife Jan, both of whom share a passion for health and fitness, enjoy their time mountain top, overlooking their wonderful ocean view. With a lifelong interest in home design, remodelling, and construction, they have built a one of a kind home and are now able to sit back, relax and take delight in all life has to offer!