No Country for Old Men

Back in the late nineties, I had the pleasure of strength coaching a seventy-some-year-old gentleman named Milton. He had a sparkle in his eye reminiscent of a young boy ready to kick the world’s butt. Milton approached his deadlifts fiercely, ripping 225 off the platform like a bag of groceries the first time I showed him the lift. Guilty of stereotyping, I asked him if he played golf. The young man in an older man’s body gave me a disdainful look and told me that he would take it up when he got old—at ninety or later.

Tommy Blom will never be among the old men
No old man activities for Tommy Blom, Senior SFG

Our Children Are Old Men

This happened fifteen years ago. Today, golf seems like a hardcore sport. I had a startling revelation—most of the favorite activities of today’s ten-, twenty-, and thirty-year-olds can be engaged in by folks in nursing homes. In a New Yorker cartoon a boy is playing with his phone and his mother suggests that he go play outside. The boy gives her an amused look: “What is this, 1962?”

Our pear-shaped kids are the reverse of my student Milton—old men and women in young people’s bodies. They bring the timidity of the old age into the age when one is supposed to drink life out of a fire hose. Fighting, loving, climbing trees, lifting kettlebells, throwing knives, making model rockets, running, and doing pull-ups before dawn getting ready to join the Marines. Dreaming of the future, unlimited—scratch all that in favor of Grand Theft Auto.

There Is No App for Living

Twenty- and thirty-year-olds are equally lame. They walk around like zombies, glazed eyes glued to their prized phones. They cross streets with a nursing home shuffle, infuriating drivers trying to take a turn. They have zero situational awareness and fall prey to any crime or accident.

Not long ago, newspapers published a still shot from the security camera that had caught a contract murder in New York City. The image shows the victim in the last seconds of his life, the killer a couple of steps behind him, ready to pull the trigger. What is the man about to die doing?—Walking and fooling around with his phone. What was the last image imprinted on his retina before his status got permanently updated? A photo of somebody’s lunch or a string of semi-coherent LOLs and OMGs?

Go live. There is no app for that.

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

38 thoughts on “No Country for Old Men

  • I’m 72 and after getting a new titanium left hip in Dec 2012 and then having an incarcerated hernia develop on me in may 2013, i really had to greatfully reflect on the benefits of 50 years of weight lifting and 14e years of kettlebells. The Doctors told me that I would not have had the tremendous recuperative power for that “1-2 punch’ if it weren’t for “those iron pi;
    lls’. And a special thanks to Pavel, the K.B. swing did what running many miles never did – 105/65, 45 bpm.

  • On our powerlifting team we have a gentleman that’s 81 who’s deadlifting 210. His first time ever training was 4 years ago. He had that old man shuffle when he came in. Now he golfs on his “rest” days and enjoys kbs and will be lifting at the okla meet on our team. He’s usually first one there on bench, squat and DL night. It’s never to late.

  • Pavel , it’s great to be able to read your writings again. Strong first with the strong following take care good luck Merry Christmas Happy New Year. Bob

  • Go live. There is no app for that. – Amen to that!

    The sparkle in Milton’s eye was of accomplishment and potential of life. The sparkle in the eye of the victim was the reflection of his phone. Unfortunately, as the article states many people live their life through an electronic device. A shift in what’s important is long overdue!

  • pavel,you told to contract an agonist and relax an antogonist for lifting max but for deadlift contracting body from head to toe in power to people.contradictary…..

  • I’m 49, and I have recently begun to train my One-arm pushups,and my Pistol squats again. And I’ll get them . Don’t give up!

  • Great post. I admire my Oma a strong woman who has outlived her siblings, friends, many of her daughters and sons. At 98 years young doing tai chi, swimming and visiting the “old people” at the old age homes. She often questions me about exercise. Anything is possible.


  • I hit 50 next year and I’m only just getting started, no living life by proxy for me, RL all the way. Excellent read.

      • Your in the right place , follow the principles here and dont over complicate things, its simple (but not easy) . I was in for repairs last night and am already looking forward to the rebuilding process. The path I’ve chosen means Ive clocked up a certain amount of mileage but life is for living

  • I’m 77 and began kettle bell about 10 wks ago. It has greatly improved motion in a shoulder destroyed and fused 28 years ago. Using 20# now. Moving to 30# in a few more weeks.

  • Spot on! Devices have become a social cancer. It’s really a sad thing to see a family at dinner all glued to some tiny screen or another. Don’t get me wrong, the convenience of the technology, and the fun of video games is really cool, but we’re forgetting to teach balance. Sure enjoy technology, but enjoy visceral experiences, too.

  • Smart phones and stupid people. Not sure where I heard that but it rings true; for this reason I’m still rocking a $20 eBay special from 2007 that barely takes pictures. I feel that social networking platforms have created an unhealthy sense of entitlement, an illusion of personal exchange and an attention span black hole that sucks the life out of life. The less time I spend on facebook and the more time I spend having genuine human contact, the stronger my reality and life in general become. It appeals to the ego and is very instant gratification minded. To hell with my news feed, give me a personal battle worth fighting and an adventure to live!

  • Pavel, you nailed it, with the exception that it is not just the younger crew. Plenty of folks our age are just as nauseatingly self absorbed in their social media and mobile devices, which is all this new technology really does that I can tell. It closes down the world into a self-enclosed, self-centered little bubble, and compresses the bubble into your tiny little phone screen.

    What drives me nuts is when you see an NBA game, and you look in the crowd, and everybody has there heads down staring at their phone. You’re sitting at a live sporting event! Life, excitement, fun is happening right in front of you…and you’re texting, or tweeting, or ???

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go chase some kids off my lawn…

  • This article…’s hard to describe how I feel reading it. I’m 33 and there are many times where I wonder where technology has taken us as a society. I feel like people are really missing out on life more and more each day because of all these stinkin gadgets.

    I’ll just say…this article was awesome. Good job Chief

  • Oh man, this is so succinct and poignant. I cannot believe how you nailed this in a few words. Like the extraction for virility. Very nice brother.
    Lotsa love from down under.

  • Once again, Pavel. you continue to lead from the tip of the spear. Outstanding insight!! Still waiting for updates on your father:)

  • My six year old deadlifted my 53 lb KB at 5 years old and weighing 45 lbs. The other day we did form work with the 12 kg and 16 kg bells. She may like dolls, but she wants to be strong, too. As a parent, it’s up to me to decide what is appropriate activity and to be good role model. I believe that if I didn’t limit access to electronics to some degree, I’d only be asking for a hunchbacked zombie as a child.

  • Today, I saw a person with an iPad while out on a hike. (Temescal) They were walking through the wilderness, with all of their attention on an iPad in front of their face. EVEN there. Astonishing.

    And so I took a photo of them and shared it on Facebook. Haha, just kidding.

  • Great blog piece. Great title choice. “No Country for Old Men” ~Cormac McCarthy. Examing our conduct as individuals. Each one of us has the opportunity to make wise decisions that are easy to live with. Or, we can make unwise decisions that are hard to live with in the future.

  • Life was grander prior to the Cell phone and when one would actually have to go to an Arcade (a place where they have various electronic gaming machines and no not slot machines) with a handful of quarters and play then jump back on your bike or skateboard and head back home the mile or so. We used to play ding dong ditchem, tag, freeze tag, army, cowboy and Indians, run jump and play before it was called Parkour or free style running. We played until dark playing kick the can, baseball, basketball and the likes. We use to spend weekends at the beach or tossing a football or climbing trees before the started calling it all Obstacle Racing and started charging to what used to be free when we were kids. These are all foreign to the kids/youth of today and a refection of the demise of our Country. No longer is there required Physical Education but yet they are allowed to use smart phones and calculators in our schools. And we wonder why America is the way she is today.

  • My kid is 11. She has rheumatoid arthritis and some days, she can barely walk. Despite that, I got her to try some seated kettlebell presses. She did them really well. She still can’t get around due to her autoimmune disease, but she loves doing her presses.
    I mention her because she is an example of someone who might get told she can’t do things other able-bodied kids can, and yet she is more active than many of her peers, even though she can barely walk.
    Thanks for this article.

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