An Athlete at any age
The alarm goes off… I open one eye. Its still dark, what was I thinking? The night before I decided that I would wake up early and got for a run. Again, what was I thinking? This is a habit from days gone by… many.. many days gone by. Let me explain.
I am 57 years young, some days I feel 40, some days I feel 80. Or what I assume 80 might feel like. I was an active teenager, track, softball, field hockey. When life , family, marriage, children hit me square in the eye, somewhwere along the line I stopped being an athlete. Life simply got in the way.
Eventually, when the kids were older, I was working a little less, met some nice ladies, I decided to play womens soccer. I can attest, this is not a nice soft re-entry into fitness. While I had a lot of fun, made some really good friends, I ended up with a lot of bruises, pulled muscles, aches and pains in places I didn’t know existed!
What I gained through all of this however, was a new desire for that adrenaline rush, the competition, the race!. So I joined a bootcamp, and a running group. The journey that ensued led me to many triumphs, just as many failures , and many do overs!
Over the next 10 years I finished a 265 klm bike ride, two ½ marathons, several obstacle style endurance runs, spartans , foam runs, mud runs and a few other things. I have climbed the chief in Squamish BC ( a 50thbirthday present to myself) , hiked some pretty challenging trails in BC , and became a group fitness instructor and personal trainer.
The advice I could give, and wish I had, is DO NOT become a weekend warrior. If you decide to to take on a new challenge,do so with time, ease , and moderation. Much like clothing for middle aged women, (just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it ) just because your brain says yes, doesn’t mean your body should follow.And yet, the desire for the new challenge, the adrenaline, the adventure, is still there. So what to do? Usually, one makes all kinds of commitments and doesn’t follow through, hence my one eye open at zero dark thirty. All kinds of reasonable excuses are made, justified. Before you know it, days, maybe weeks have gone by and you have not finished that running 5k app, given up on the training package you bought or that fitness class you paid for is over. And you only went twice.
Whats really transpiring here? Is it desire for new adventure? Heck, that can be found in a trip to a new mall, trying a new restaurant, or even cooking at home in a new , more healthy way. (think vegan)
Whats really happening though, is the body telling you, it needs exercise. However your body is wise, it knows its limits, your brain just needs to listen. The body speaks in a language of muscle pain, joint pain and can put a full stop on flexibility, all to get the message across to your brain.
Having been active for the majority of my life, being a teacher fitness, I found myself in a place of non relationship with my body. My brain is saying yes and my body is going into full lockdown protection mode. What this looks like, if you’ve never had the experience, is much laying down, ice packs, hot tubs , massages and finally physical therapy. And during all of that down time spent healing oneself, the lightbulb finally goes on, maybe I need to modify my exercise routine. Looking back to training people new to fitness, or returning after a hiatus, I would always provide modifications of any exercise, so why was I not doing this for myself?
I also had a mantra for my clients, KNOW YOUR LIMIT, WORK WITHIN IT.
Aging is no joke, as my mother used to say, its not for the faint of heart.
Understanding the aging body, listening to what your body is telling you is of uber importance in this getting older thing. We know activity is important to our physical and emotional well being. What we sometimes forget to add to the recipe is self care and a healthy dose of appreciation for all that our body has done for us.
Be compassionate with yourself, appreciate your body and all that it does for you! Be kind to your body, fillet with good fuel, rest when necessary, listen to it. Be in conversation with it.
These days I’m going for walks, not runs. Also, I am using smaller weights, modifiying excercises in range of motion, and working on stretching routines in hopes of being successful at pilates or yoga one day soon. I am not only listening to my body, I feel more like we (my brain and my body) are now in more of a reciprocal conversation. No more heating pads, advil , ice packs or calls to the doctor. A long day of yard work and gardening is a great way to exercise. The goal is to be functionally fit.
Being able to lift that box, or paint the ceiling, without busting something, that’s what is important . As I write this, I am hoping you, reader, don’t feel doom and gloom, rather a sense of freedom in embracing changes that continue to carry us forward, into a healthy lifestyle, an athlete at any age