OK, you’ve seen The Sound of Music, so you know that nuns can sing, dance and play the guitar.
But competing in a triathlon? No way!
Well, chances are you haven’t heard of Sister Madonna Buder, aka the Iron Nun.
Now, Sister Madonna (quote – “I train religiously”) wasn’t some genetically-blessed high-school athlete who simply kept up her training regimen when she entered a convent back in her early 20s.
She didn’t begin training until her late 40s, competed in her first triathlon in her early 50s, and did her first Ironman at the age of 55.
In case you’re wondering, an Ironman means swimming 2.4 miles, then cycling 112 miles, then running a full marathon (that’s 26.2 miles).
Which is an incredible achievement at any age, right?
But Sister Madonna was just getting started.
Over the next 30 years she racked up an unbelievable 300+ triathlons, with over 40 of them being Ironman distance.
In 2012 she broke the world record for the oldest person to finish an Ironman, clocking a time of just over 16½ hours.
At the age of 82.
All of a sudden, running my first half marathon at 45 seems pretty weak sauce.
The Man Who Skied Down Everest
Then there’s Yuichiro Miura, the Japanese alpinist who became the first man to ski down Everest back in 1970 at the age of 48.
That nearly cost him his life when he lost control at insane speed and tumbled nearly 1400 feet towards oblivion.
He eventually came to a stop just a couple of hundred feet from a massive crevasse.
You can see just how horrifying that was in the video below.
Now that’s crazy enough, but did it mark the end to Yuichiro’s thirst for adventure?
Not a chance.
At the age of 70 he became the oldest person to climb Everest!
And when his record was broken, he recaptured it at the age of 75.
And then again at 80!
At an age when most folks would’ve considered themselves “over the hill” decades earlier.
Or how about skier George Jedenoff who is still out there kicking ass at the ripe old age of 97?
(Note to self – Tim, your skiing sure needs a lot of work)
And if you think George has been a lifelong skier, think again.
He didn’t start until he was nearly 50 years-old.
He exercises daily, gets sufficient sleep, and is careful not to eat too much.
His “secret”? Moderation in all things.
But perhaps the best thing of all is that this guy is still out there getting stoked.
I love powder so much, I get excited and I don’t breathe, and that’s the worst thing you can do!
Let’s be honest, how many folks at any age do something that really gets them excited and makes them feel alive?
This was Benjamin Franklin’s take on things over 200 years ago:
Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75
Unfortunately, that’s as true today as it ever was.
In the big-wave documentary Riding Giants (one of my all-time favorite movies), surfing legend Micky Munoz says:
“I haven’t missed a swell in 55 years. I’m still as excited about surfing as I’ve ever been. I literally run to the water with my board, hooting and laughing and giggling.”
The best part? He was nearly 70 when he said that, and he’s still out there riding waves over a decade later.
Then there’s 78-year old competitive bodybuilder(!) Ernestine Shepherd.
Ernestine didn’t start formal exercise until she was in her mid-50s and, since then, has won two bodybuilding titles (including the world’s oldest bodybuilder) and run nine marathons.
Her mindset? Age is nothing but a number.
So, we’ve got surfers and champion bodybuilders in their 70s, mountaineers and triathlete nuns in their 80s, and skiers in their 90s.
But they really aren’t.
Now, I’m pretty sure that Sister Madonna didn’t have world records in mind the first time she laced up her running shoes way back in 1978.
She was probably thinking about just making it around the block without stopping.
The same thing goes for Yuichiro Miura and Ernestine Shepherd.
And the first time Mickey Munoz surfed and George Jedenoff skied, they didn’t ask themselves “Do I have to keep this up for the next five decades?”
But without even realizing it, they all stacked small success on top of small success, built momentum and developed the mindset of a champion.
This is so important that it’s the first thing we talk about in our free guide Six Awesome Ways To Get Started Today.
The reality is that for most of us the only things holding us back are the fear of failure and the ill-founded belief that we can’t do it.
Well, maybe that’s where we can learn a thing or two from our kids.
If they fall off and scrape their knee once, do they quit trying to ride a bike forever? No way!
You dust yourself off, slap on a Band-Aid, learn from the mistake and get back in the saddle.
Every one of these folks has messed up big time at some point, but they’ve come back stronger as a result.
Sister Madonna has fallen off her bike, Micky Munoz has fallen off his surfboard, and Yuichiro Miura fell down Mount Everest.
What’s different about them is that they took temporary disappointment in stride and used it to drive themselves on to greater success.
Now for most folks even the idea of temporary disappointment is enough to freeze them in carbonite.
So they adopt the mindset “if no action is taken, nothing can go wrong.”
But even if that was true (and it isn’t), who wants to tiptoe through life living defensively?
Sister Madonna nails it right here:
If we want to do it, we can. The only failure is not to try, because putting forth the effort is success in itself
Amen to that.
Share this article with your friends!