An exploration of the “elite athletes…who continue to perform and compete at the very highest levels long after the age most of their peers have faded away.”
It’s a strange thing that many of the letter jacket–clad kids you went to high school with dissolve into uncomfortable lumps by the time the 25th reunion comes around. “There’s evidence,” writes technology and business journalist Bercovici, “that the later an individual matures, the more likely he or she is to achieve athletic greatness.” Peaking after 20 is thus not a bad thing at all, particularly with life spans extending as far as they do now. In Plimpton-esque moments, Bercovici tackles various aspects of the fitness-for-elders movement, including an encounter with a VersaClimber machine that threatened to do him in: “After another 30 seconds, I’m not thinking anything because all the glycogen in my body is rushing to my muscles to replace my zonked-out stores of adenosine triphosphate, leaving none left over to power my frontal cortex.” The author examines the changes that occur in the older body, which, perhaps amazingly, can be reversed to some extent with exercise so that the production of hormones and circulation of proteins in the bloodstream in a 60-year-old master athlete is more similar to those of a 30-year-old than to those of a sedentary 60-year-old. Along the way, Bercovici considers various exercise regimes and their effects, the technology of exercise and of sports medicine, and ways of hacking the diet for increased performance, such as eating all the chicken gristle, cartilage, and bone that you can stomach: “Have you ever seen a hyena with bad knees?” It’s a good question, if perhaps a little unappealing to the food-squeamish.
A solid work of sports journalism and encouraging reading for jocks who are late to the game but committed to the win all the same.