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The Real Fountain of Youth

7204-prime5My 40th birthday, which took place a few years ago, was a pretty significant turning point for me, as it is for everybody. Luckily, I didn’t have time to ponder and muse about the big 4-0 too much, as I was busy preparing to compete in my first national-level bodybuilding contest, the Team Universe, which was also an IFBB pro qualifier.

Doing the Team Universe and having it take place just a couple of days before I turned 40 was a way to prove to myself that I was in fact getting better with age rather than being over the hill, as generations past used to look at it. Not only was my physique the best it had ever been, but I was also competing at the highest level I’d achieved since I first stepped onstage in 1989.

In contrast, turning 41 was quite anticlimactic—just another birthday. That’s how it will be until I get to the next milestone in a few years, 50. As for my wife, Janet, she turns 40 soon, and she looks fantastic. People usually guess her to be in her early 30s, and they are typically more shocked to learn that she has two kids, including one in college.

Janet is currently getting into better athletic condition than she’s ever enjoyed, having joined a CrossFit gym and doing that highly demanding style of training three times every week in addition to hitting the weights for traditional bodybuilding-style workouts with me three times.

In spite of all the advances we have now to keep our bodies looking and feeling young, from working out and eating right to various cosmetic procedures, our society still persists in believing that only the young can be fit and attractive. I have met and corresponded with hundreds of men and women who prove that myth to be pure and utter B.S. People as old as 70 or more have written to let me know that they still train hard several times a week and maintain levels of strength and fitness that most teenagers today don’t come close to having (sadly, our youth are nowhere near as active as in generations past thanks to cable television, video games and the Internet, which keep them firmly rooted to a sofa or a chair).

The only limitations I have at this point are various nagging injuries accumulated over 26 years of heavy training that at times was done recklessly and with terrible form purely for the sake of my stupid ego. I can train around just about all of them, and I’ve also started getting deep-tissue massages every other week, which definitely helps a lot.

I feel very fortunate to be in my 40s at a time in our history when we know that most of the deleterious physical effects of middle age and even old age can be prevented if you simply commit to staying fit.

Weight training will maintain bone density and strength, two things that would otherwise drop dramatically in our golden years. We also understand that proper diet and supplementing with things like antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals can go a long way toward preventing other ill effects of aging. And thanks to the baby boomers and the various pharmaceutical companies that wanted their money, we even have things to help us stay virile, like Viagra, Cialis and legitimate testosterone- and growth-hormone-replacement therapy.

The Fountain of Youth that the Spanish conquistadores were searching the New World for centuries ago was just a myth. We now have the real fountain of youth in the form of lifestyle changes and medical breakthroughs, at least enough to extend a high quality of life many decades beyond what our ancestors ever thought would be possible. And those of us who live the bodybuilding lifestyle haven’t just found the Fountain of Youth—we are practically bathing in it!

—Ron Harris


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