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Before You Say "I Can't Do That" Read This

April 15, 2024 4 min read 3 Comments

Before You Say "I Can't Do That" Read This

This is Howard Booth vaulting over the U.S. Capitol. Ok, it's not really that high a vault, but Howard is still doing some extraordinary things for Geezer Jocks.


By Ray Glier

This is another Why-You-Should-Eat-Your-Vegetables statistic from Geezer Jock.

Collegiate pole vaulters who continue to train at an intensive level can still perform at 80 percent of their collegiate level after 50 years.

Wait, wait. Don't go. Keep reading.

The science behind this stat was done by one of your own. Howard Booth, 80, has a PhD in Physiology and he is 60 years beyond his pole vault peak. He still competes in the pole vault and is ranked No. 1 in the world outdoors so far in 2024 (7.21 feet) with competitions just starting to heat up.

Don’t stop reading because you feel you don’t relate. You do relate, even if you don’t have a pole vault runway and pit in your Michigan backyard, like Howard, or squeeze every bit of juice out of your body, like Howard.

Booth and his research students studied 30 pole vaulters from 2007-2015 and what they found was these athletes, if they maintained the superb physical fitness they had in college as they grew older, could have a world-class Masters career.

Who the heck does that? Who maintains what they did in college? 

That’s not the point.

The point is “What’s Possible”.

I get it, most Geezer Jocks (and others whose exercise is walking a lot) are casual athletes and do not have bottomless energy, like Howard.

But if you wanted to get after it with exercise, the benefits are enormous.

Booth also studied those of us at the opposite end of the spectrum from him. Males in the general population, Howard said, can perform at just 22 percent of their collegiate peak after 50 years because they don’t have the same "drive". Some do. Most don’t.

Booth said this behavioral science cuts across every endeavor in life, not just athletics.

“It’s drive and a motivation to succeed, and it doesn't just stop with pole vaulting, or with track and field,” Howard said. “It's a willingness to commit yourself to it and having a psychological perspective that this is worthwhile.

“We have a tendency in our rewarding economy to look at things like ‘If it doesn't make $1 is it really worth doing?’ Absolutely, yes, from a physiological point of view, it is worth it. It's part of the reward system. It's part of the challenge system.”

We all know the concepts of devotion and effort, but we take them for granted, or we feel they no longer apply to us.

Worse, we’re told to back off strenuous physical work to preserve our health.

Does the graybeard leaping over the U.S. Capitol (sort of) in the picture above look like he is backing off? Howard takes care not to injure himself permanently and you can see from his continued work he has been successful at it.

Booth has won three gold medals in pole vaulting in World Masters Athletics championships. He will go to the WMA in Sweden this summer and pole vault and also do the hurdles and compete on a 4x100 relay team. He doesn't want sight-seeing to be all he gets out of the trip. He is going to win to try and win a medal.

When Howard trains for Sweden and other 2024 outdoor meets, he works on speed and strength. The pole vault requires you build speed over 128 feet and core strength to bend a pole and lift yourself over a bar seven feet in the air. 

“I don’t have magical speed,” Howard said. “I have enough because I work at it.”

Booth is 5-foot-6, 130 pounds. He described himself as a “runt” as a kid. But he was runt who competitors found hard to deal with on a basketball court in Mio, Michigan because he worked with weights and was more agile than most kids. He played football and baseball, too.

“Drive is why I got a PhD. That's why I had a great career as a professor,” said Howard, who taught at Eastern Michigan University. “It is paying attention to details of what you're doing at that time.

“It’s reading and studying and working really hard and succeeding at something. It all works together and you're feeling good about it. I mean, it is adding to your quality of life.”

Booth runs hurdles in the middle of his lawn on a spring day. Birds are singing, he said. His dog is running with him. It is delightful. 

On Sunday afternoons, Howard and friends gather at the pole vault runway and pit on his Michigan property.

Most of us are part-time at the fitness game and would rather give a grizzly bear a tummy rub than do pull-ups. Howard, on the other hand, cherishes the fitness bonanza he is on.

"It's good for you within limits, you can always go to the extremes and and overdo it," Howard said. "This is a good time. This is fun."

There is a place for casual athletes, too. 

“It is it is good for your physiology, for your body, but it's also good for your psychological state, your quality of life," Booth said. "It becomes not just how you're living, but how well you're living and are you enjoying it. Those are things I can preach about quite a lot.”

 

Is Howard smiling as he competes at this world event? It sure looks like it.

 

 


3 Responses

Florence L Meiler
Florence L Meiler

April 14, 2024

I am a pole vaulter at age almost 90 in June and I sure enjoyed this story. My motto: never too late

Andrea Elliott
Andrea Elliott

April 14, 2024

Dr. Booth is also a spectacular zoology and physiology professor! He invited me to take his beginning animal biology class as an older student (early 40’s at the time) and I jumped on the opportunity. After that, it was all over. I took every class he taught after that. It was the most challenging and rewarding learning experience of my life! I love hearing about his athletic exploits. At 58, I’m in awe of him.

Howard Booth
Howard Booth

April 14, 2024

Thanks, Ray, a great and fun article💥👏🎉😄

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