Aging Gracefully

aging

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently. Having turned 48 last month, I keep thinking about turning 50. Fifty used to seem so old; now it seems quite young. Vibrant, in fact. I guess since many of my friends have already reached that milestone and didn’t suddenly become old, boring men and women, I’ve learned it’s all a matter of having peace with our lives and our choices.

Recently, I was thinking about the team at Everbody’s Fitness, where my husband and I are both instructors. We have an awesome team that cares about our members and celebrates members’ achievements, both small and large. But do you know what’s really inspiring about our team? We have twelve instructors, and nine of them are over 40! Several are over 50, and my husband will be 65 this summer. I believe you can ask any member who has attended our classes, and you will find that age is not a factor. Our classes are tough, and young folks  can attest to getting a kick-ass workout. Personally, I can hardly keep up with my husband in Spinning. Kathy, who is a 50-year-old Spinning instructor has recently added triathlete to her resume. Tabbie, a 40-something jack-of-all-exercise, can out work both men and women half her age. Many of us also run; we participate in races ranging from 5Ks to half marathons to marathons. We don’t let a number define us.

Personally, I am in the best shape of my life. Sure, I have about five pounds I need to drop, but as far as strength and fitness, I am in better shape at 48 than I was at 28. I didn’t even begin to exercise until I was 42. I had spent the previous 20 years raising kids, working, returning to college, starting a couple careers, blah, blah, blah. I have every excuse for not taking care of me. Of course, until my late thirties, I really didn’t have to worry about my weight, and then suddenly the scale began its ascent. Though I was eating no differently, those numbers increased. And then I noticed that when I went up a flight of stairs, I was out of breath. What? I quickly learned that being thin did not mean being in shape or healthy. I’ve since learned that not being thin did not mean being out of shape or unhealthy.

Throughout the past six years, I have run (lots of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and six half marathons), taught Zumba, and now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT classes. Admittedly, it’s much easier to fit in my workouts since my girls are grown and I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch them. I don’t know how I would have pulled it off when they were all young, but if I’d made it a priority, I could have made it work. I think many of us, especially moms, get our children to the point that they can care for themselves, and finally decide to take time for ourselves. We realize we’ve let ourselves go, and it’s time to take control of our bodies and our health. For me, my wake-up call was turning 42. My father died of a heart attack at 42, and his brothers also died in their 40s or early 50s. My family history was not going to work in my favor. I made the decision to take care of my heart; I wanted to be here for my kids and grandkids.

Grandkids. What a joy! Gary and I have six between us, and each one brings us a level of happiness never before experienced. Then I look at myself as a grandmother, ‘Nana’ as I am known. As I don my Under Armour shorts, sports bra, tank top, and Asics, I picture my Grandmother Allen in her homemade cotton dress and thigh-highs. I think I saw my gram in pants one time. I picture her cooking up fried chicken and baking eclairs, sitting watching the news, and going to church. I loved her dearly and spent a lot of time with her, but don’t really remember her playing outside with me, and certainly don’t recall her exercising. My Grandma Greenland was a chubby lady, who happened to be the BEST baker. She could bake anything – butterscotch pie (my personal favorite), a plethora of cookies and cakes…yum. She enjoyed swimming. I can still see her in her blue flowery one-piece and matching blue swimcap, doing the side-stroke (I don’t think that’s an official stroke, but she rocked it). I wonder how my grandkids will remember me. I hope they remember that I got out and played with them, and inspired them to always set goals. I hope they remember my running races and living life to its fullest. Grandmas and grandpas today are forging their own paths. We are not content to sit back and let life just pass us by as we age. We are working to maintain our health and fitness so we can be integral, active members of our families.

Despite my efforts at staying fit and healthy, there are some parts of aging I can’t control. That’s bothersome. This whole saggy skin thing really ticks me off. I was well-aware of face wrinkles; we see those on our older family members and know they are inevitable. It’s what’s under the clothes that we don’t know about until it hits us. The other day I was sitting on the floor, cleaning the toilet, and I looked down at my bare foot and saw the foot of an old woman. Seriously! It looked wrinkly, dry, and just OLD. It looked like my mother’s foot. And then there’s the sagging leg skin. My legs might be well-toned for my age, but I can’t control the wrinkles and crinkles. When the sun is shining in when I am dressing, all I see is saggy old skin. When I look in the mirror, I see my mom. She is 81. I don’t want to see her in my mirror until I am 81. In an effort to remove my mother from the mirror, I even ordered Nerium, you know, that magical anti-aging concoction. I’ve seen some pretty amazing before and after pictures, and thought what the hell? I think I’ll bathe in it.

Another issue of being middle-aged is what to wear. When I was younger, I always wondered why people my age often tried to dress ‘young’. Now I know. In our minds, we are young. I don’t feel any older. I’m just me, and I’ve always loved clothes. I really have to be careful because I see young girls and think Wow! Cute outfit! I bet I could wear that! And then I realize I am almost 50, and just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. The problem is, I love most trendy clothing. Because of my height deficit, I have to shop in the petite section, and in many stores, the petite clothing looks as if it were made for my mother. Elastic-waisted polyester pants just aren’t my thing. Flowing, flowery tops…nope. Trying to find that balance of stylish, but not too young can be tricky. Thankfully, my daughters are good at letting me know what works and what to avoid.

Overall, I love the age I am. I enjoy my daughters as adults. I like the free time I have and the time I have with my husband. I would not want to go back to an earlier decade. My forties have been filled with many joys and sorrows, many changes, and many life lessons. I have enjoyed them immensely, and actually look forward to what my fifties will bring. So, no matter your age, take care of yourself. Don’t let life pass you by – you can never get these days back. We spend far too much time waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for vacation. And then we complain that life is going too fast! We wish it away. What about today? Enjoy today. Do something for your health TODAY. Embrace TODAY.

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! (I beat her)

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! I couldn’t believe Bethany caught the moment. I just think it’s funny.

Is Age Only a Number?

I ran this morning.  For the first time in weeks, I actually had a great run.  It wasn’t fast, but I ran six miles with no walk breaks, which is something I haven’t done since it has been crazy hot.  I had taken three days off running and focused on Zumba, weights, walking, and even played walleyball (I have bruises to prove it!).  I was supposed to meet a friend to run, but she chose to sleep in, so I was on my own.  I took off with no plan, which sometimes brings about my better runs.  With no expectations, I won’t be disappointed in a run.  The first mile was a bit tough; my legs felt tired, and it was getting hot.  As I continued, I began to get into my groove, and realized that nothing hurt – I felt pretty darned good!  I just kept adding on to my run, and was so thrilled to feel like a runner once again.  My runs had been so pathetic in recent weeks, I was beginning to question if I really am a runner.  Maybe I really wasn’t cut out for this sport, and the last three years I had been posing as a runner.  I needed today’s run to spark the confidence that had been slowly fading away.

As I ran, I thought about age.  I recently had a conversation with a y0unger friend.  She works at school, and the two of us have been running together.  She is just starting out, and I have been trying to help her build her distance (I’d like to say I am just like Jillian Michals, but we all know that just isn’t true).  She was talking with a friend closer to her age, and told her that we had been running.  Her friend began to question why she would want to hang out with “OLD PEOPLE”.  Hmph!  Granted, I could be my younger friend’s mother (she’s a year older than my daughter), and I am a grandmother, but I still don’t consider myself to be “OLD”.  I know, without a doubt, I could outrun many, many twenty- and thirty-something young people.  I could probably outwork them at the gym given the chance.  And really, I have had friends of all ages throughout my adulthood.  What difference does that number make?

My friend and I have some common goals, we go to the same church, and we just enjoy one another’s company.  Do my extra years of experience exempt me from being friends with those from the younger generation?  One of my best friends was several years older than I.  Donna Fenn was not only a wonderful friend, she was also one of the reasons I became a teacher, and I often judge how to handle a situation at school by thinking about what she would have done.  She died a few years ago from cancer, and I have missed her terribly.  The years between us never mattered.  I have another good friend who is my mother’s age.  I love spending time with her.  We both love antiques, baking, and laughter.  I always enjoy our conversations, and have learned from her wisdom.  And, I cannot address age without pointing out (again) that my husband is sixteen years older than I.  Obviously, age makes no difference to us.  We didn’t choose our spouses based upon some number; we certainly won’t choose our friends because of their ages.

Age can be more than a number.  I cannot deny the gray hair that is hidden neatly under several layers of Colorcharm, nor can I ignore the wrinkles that add much character and wisdom to my face.  Skin just sags with age no matter how much we fight it.  Even my leg skin is sagging.  That was quite unexpected and unwelcome.  I work hard to tone the muscles in my legs, but they are hidden beneath the saggy skin.  Despite the obvious signs that I am no longer basking in youth, I am in better physical shape than at any point in my life.  Really.  I feel better and am healthier.   And I would like to take on the young girl who called me old.  A race, perhaps?  I’d show her old!

Are all of your friends your age?  There is so much to be learned from those who have experienced a little more life than we have, and, likewise, we have much to share with our younger friends.  I choose my friends based upon similar values, interests, and compatibility.  Choose friends based upon age?  Never.

The “OLD” couple after running the half marathon (me) and marathon (Gary)