Christian Eubanks in a 6’7″ beanpole out of Georgia Tech who’s been an ATP second-stringer since he turned pro in 2017. He always had a big game and all the tools, but he was the sort of player you’d see at Challenger events and the qualies for ATP events, and you’d wonder why he wasn’t doing better.

This year, he’s finally put it all together. He just won his first ATP event and he’s gotten to the third round at Wimbledon, where his match is currently on rain delay. His ranking has climbed from its usual place in the low 100’s to #43.

He was interviewed on The Tennis Channel last night about his success, and this is what he said: “I’ve started paying attention to the little things. You know, things like seeing my physio even if I’m not hurting, getting enough sleep, making sure I eat a serving of protein fifteen minutes after I play or work out.”

That’s all it took! Tightening the bolts at the edges has been enough to lift Christian Eubanks from also-ran status to the heart of the ATP big-time.

Now let’s turn to Exhibit B, also known as — moi. I got a test result recently that suggests I’m considerably more at risk for heart problems than I’d imagined. My situation needn’t affect the quality or length of my life, but I’ll have to manage the situation — this isn’t something I can blink at.

This unexpected news has done unto me what the desire to achieve his full potential appears to have done unto Christian Eubanks — it’s caused me to ‘tighten my bolts at the edges.’ What I need to do, so far as I understand it, is give my heart lots of healthy exercise while also keeping inflammation at a minimum, and so I’m doing things like the following:

  • I have a home infrared sauna — I’m trying to use it 4-5 times a week instead of the previous ‘when I’m in the mood for it.’
  • I also own a pulsed electromagnetic frequence (PEMF) machine (yes, I’m into wellness gadgets!). These scientifically-proven devices reduce inflammation and improve cardiac performance — I’m now using it daily rather than ‘when I find the time for it.’
  • When I play tennis, I’m tracking my heart rate with a Fitbit. I now have two parallel goals when I play — hit the ball in the sweet spot on the racket, and keep my heart rate in the 110-130 BPM sweet spot when I play. This translates into small changes like staying on my feet and maybe even bouncing around a bit when my partners take between-game breaks.
  • Zero gluten, zero sweets — we’ll see how long these dietary commitments last!

It’s actually been fun doing these things. It’s required some reprioritizing (a lot less goofing off, a bit less getting-other-stuff-done), but there’s been a huge payoff not only in terms of feeling good about my self-care, but because it’s taken the lazy out of my game, and that is inherently gratifying.

It’s easy to slack off without really realizing that you’re doing it. This is what Christian Eubanks realized, and the insight has brought him a top-50 ranking. It’s what I’ve realized, too, and I’m hoping that it brings me another 20 years-plus of healthy, active life.

How tight is your game at the edges?

I got some shocking news the other day.

I’ve always felt supremely healthy — invulnerable, almost. For years now, I’ve had no serious physical issues. At the age of 73, I felt healthy enough to start seeing a longevity doctor who helps people maximize their healthspan, the emerging term for a full and active life as distinguished from years with a low quality of life — think drooling in a wheelchair. She recommended a coronary calcium test to check out my heart health. We both assumed it would come back zero. To the shock of us both, it came in really high. It seems I have lots of plaque in one artery leading into my heart.

I immediately wrote her and asked if this meant I should change my expectation of decades more of healthy, active life. She responded with an unequivocal and massively reassuring “no.” With proper management (diet, supplements, meds to reduce lipid levels), there’d be no change in my healthspan prognosis. Medical science had progressed to the point, she told me, that a bad outcome for me was entirely preventable.

Dr. Leventhal also told me that I’d probably developed compensatory arterial capacity along with vessel workarounds by playing as much relatively high-level tennis as I do.

This brings me to the heart of the matter: Playing tennis may have saved my life.

I mean this literally. Playing tennis may have saved my life.

I think back with wonder and gratitude at some of the matches I’ve played over the last few years. Two and a half hours in 90 degree weather a half-dozen times or more. Only last month, I played a two-plus hour match in high-80s heat and felt great throughout. I never dreamed I might be at risk.

I’m grateful to Dr. Leventhal who has been wonderfully supportive with communications like this: “You truly have to look at these inflection points as opportunities. It’s really good information, life changing and life saving, and also a way to rethink things (for the better). Good things will happen, I promise!”

In other words: High coronary calcium as an AFGO, Another Fucking Growth Opportunity.

Thank you, Shery Leventhal, for preaching the gospel of positivity …

I’m confident I’ll get through this, and pretty quickly. My shock absorber is a lot better than it used to be. Things will start to get seriously normalized for me once I see my cardiologist (soon, I hope) and get launched on the regimen that will set me back on my path to having those decades of great healthspan I’ve been counting on.

For now, I’m left with four words of advice for you.

Play tennis, people. Seriously.

How well do you deal with setbacks? Do you assimilate them skillfully? Do you rebound quickly?