Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.

 

 

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.

Here we go again…

Well, it’s January. Once again, we have a chance to start all over. We can make resolutions, start a new fitness plan, set goals. The year is ours; we can make it the best year ever. “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Blah, blah, blah. Why is we start the new year off with great expectations, work towards those goals, and then our enthusiasm fizzles out as the year progresses.

Working in a gym, I see this trend every year. In January when resolutions are made, there’s not an empty treadmill or elliptical in sight, and classes are jam-packed with enthusiastic newbies. We are excited! We are going to lose weight and get buff by summer. We’re going to finally get that washboard stomach, get rid of our jiggly arms, and hell, we’ll just run a marathon while we’re at it. And then we discover it’s hard work. And it isn’t quite as fun as we thought. And the Bachelor is on, and it’s so much easier to sit on the sofa and watch these already buff young women drool over some egotistical man with finely tuned abs and great hair. We’ll go to the gym tomorrow. But then Idol is on, and the kids have homework, and…well…maybe the gym just isn’t for me. Who really wants to sweat on purpose? By February classes are full, but not packed, and by March it’s back to normal. We might have a few newbies who found they enjoy the results of their hard work. They realized that those rock-hard abs and Michelle Obama arms take time, and they’re willing to work for it.

Those who stick it out make it through most of the year maintaining our routines; we run races, go to classes, watch our diets, and encourage our friends to join us in the new healthy lifestyle. Then the holiday season hits. And it hits hard. Personally, I held it together really well until November 2; November 1 I ran a half marathon – I was in optimal (middle-aged-nana optimal) shape. After that I cut back on my running, but continued to teach Tabata and HIIT. Along comes December: parties, baking, and dinners…oh, my! I was still teaching and running a little (very, very little), but I was eating everything in sight. I begin baking Christmas cookies in mid-November, and I eat them as they come out of the oven. Somebody has to make sure they’re fit for human consumption. The cookies bring pounds. The pounds bring chub. The chub brings tight clothes.

This year was particularly rough. My father-in-law was very ill over Christmas, so we spent our time either sitting in the ICU waiting room or making the 2 1/2 hour trek to the hospital. My plans of running every day of our break went out the window. Cafeteria food, fast food, and cookies went in my mouth. One day I was feeling especially frisky, so I managed to walk a mile worth of laps at the hospital. I got some strange looks from the staff, but I needed to move. It still amazes me that it takes so long to get in shape and feel comfortable doing squats, burpees, and push-ups, but take one week off and I have to start all over.

It’s now 2015, and like many Americans, I have vowed to get back in shape. I run the Biggest Loser competition at our school, and the first weigh-in is tomorrow morning. I ate chicken bacon ranch pizza for dinner. Four pieces. That was totally unnecessary (but gosh, it was GOOD!). I’ve gone to the gym every morning before school, even a morning that I didn’t teach, so I could’ve slept in. (On a side note, I find it completely depressing that I now consider sleeping until 6:00 am sleeping in.) I am not going to be on a Biggest Loser team, but I am going to do the weekly weigh-ins and try to get to where I need to be. I am going to try to eat healthier (I say that every year). But really, 2015 is going to be the BEST YEAR EVER. Until December, and then 2016 is going to be the best year EVER!

Just Three Years

The other night my husband and I were sitting at a baseball game with our friend Jeff. His son, Sam, just completed his freshman year of high school, and I commented about how quickly time is going. Later, I thought about how Sam will graduate in just three years. Because my mind is often filled with crazy random thoughts that spin out of control, Sam’s future graduation led me to think about all the changes that would occur in the next three years, and how those years will pass so very quickly.

In just three years…

  • Addison – my baby – will be halfway through college, and she will be 20 years old.
  • Bethany will have a couple of years of teaching under her belt (Lord, I hope she finds a job in that three years.)
  • Morgan will be nearing 30 years old. Yikes.
  • Layne will be starting kindergarten.
  • Rhett will be 3 1/2, and following his big brother around.
  • Molly will be driving.
  • Lucy will enter her teen years.
  • Gabe will hit double digits.
  • The first class I had as third graders will be graduating.
  • My first eighth graders will be starting their senior year.
  • And I….well, I will be 50, no longer able to deny middle age (Hell, I will be just about past middle age. What comes after that? Upper middle age?).

Add to that list that loved ones will die, babies will be born, new friends will be made, and lives will be changed, whether it be for the better or worse, by choice or circumstance. Just three years.

So, what is the point of all of this? It enables me to see how quickly our lives evolve, how change is inevitable, and that I had better make the best of each day rather than letting those three years pass without making them count. What changes do I want to make in those three years? Who do I want to be three years from now? What goals do I have? Here it goes…

  • I want to continue to run. That might sound simple, but with the knee issues I have had, it is no longer a given that I will run into my twilight years. I want to take care of my body so that I can continue to do what I love.
  • I want to continue to teach classes at the gym, and hopefully inspire a few people to love their bodies, and to never give up on themselves.  In the past two years, I have made so many incredible friends through Everbody’s; I am blessed by their presence in my life.
  • I will continue to grow and learn as a teacher. I will care about my students, encourage my students, and help them find their talents. I am so fortunate to have such a great job, and I will not take that for granted.
  • I will stay fit and strong. I will continue to cross train, and set a positive example for our kids and grandkids.
  • I want to be living in town within the next three years (in a house with a large yard and a pool).
  • I need to work on taking time for prayer. I always wait until I go to bed, and then my mind wanders like crazy. I will be in a big old conversation with God, and suddenly I am thinking about what to wear to school the next day. I need to focus.
  • I will run sprints. I will run sprints. I will run sprints. I don’t like sprints, but know they are good for me, so I will do it.
  • I will stop avoiding running up Mozart. Just like sprints, hill work is a necessary evil. I will run hills.

And, there are some things I know won’t change in three years:

  • I will still dislike most vegetables. Give it up, Mother.
  • I will stay say stupid crap without thinking.
  • I will still be neurotic about arriving places early.
  • I will still like candy, dessert, and junk food.
  • I will still tell my girls what to do, even though they’ll all be adults.
  • I will still tell Gary where to go when he is driving.
  • I will still use sarcasm when I probably shouldn’t.

Where will you be in three years? Will you make that time count? It’s just three years.

A couple other random thoughts for the evening…

Thanks to all who read and shared my last blog about accepting homosexuals. It was read by over 1700 people. That might not seem like a big deal, but 1700 readers learned that this happens to real families with real feelings. If that blog makes even one person think twice about how he or she treats others, it was worth the effort. Just be nice.

Running. My goodness, we went from a long, cold winter straight into hot, humid weather. I am not complaining (because I complained all winter about the cold), but my running is suffering tremendously. Six weeks ago I ran 13.1 miles in a race; now I am struggling to run three miles. I committed to the Runner’s World Running Streak, which means I will run at least a mile every day for 40 days, from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. I finished day seven today. I thought this might help me build back up my endurance, and it forces me to exercise every single day. I am also doing more walking because my daughters like to go. This is the first time that all three girls have been home for an extended period of time in a few years, so it also gives me time to spend with them.

Make this week count! You won’t get a do-over. Peace and Love..

 

 

 

Really? How did that happen?

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

 

Do you believe it’s possible to age overnight?  I mean literally – gain about 15 years in an eight-hour span of time?  I swear that’s what happened to me last night.  I went to bed looking my normal middle-aged self – some wrinkles, gray roots shining through, saggy skin.  I have pretty much accepted this evidence of years gone by (though I don’t embrace it).  This morning I awoke, headed to the bathroom to ready myself for church, looked in the mirror, and there was a more elderly-looking woman staring back at me.  It was darned near my mother.

While you might think I am exaggerating, even my husband, who is very careful with his words, noticed the transformation.  I had these huge dark bags beneath my baby blues, and under my left eye, I had a red, puffy pouch.  Oh. Crap.  Perhaps once I put my contacts in, I would see it was just my imagination.  Nope.  I still had the almost-black bags of a woman much older who hadn’t slept in a week.  The problem was I had slept well (I’ve had a long snowy weekend – of course I’ve slept!), I don’t have a cold, and I don’t have a sinus infection.  I felt fine…until I looked in the mirror.  Foundation – that’s what I needed.  I began to smear and rub and add and smooth and…there wasn’t enough make-up in the world to cover those hideous dark bags.  Is this it?  Is this how I am going to look from now on?  I can’t afford a plastic surgeon.  What can I sell?  A third job?

As I have wiggled my way into middle age, I have realized that there are many things no one bothered to tell me about when I was younger.  We all expect the gray hair and wrinkles; we expect to lose some of our energy; and we even expect (or hope) to become somewhat wiser.  There is, however, so much more to the aging process.  There are things our older friends fail to tell us; perhaps they had to figure it out the hard way, and feel that we, too, should have to learn as we go.  I disagree, so I am going to enlighten you.

1.  You might have heard that it is more difficult to keep weight off once you hit 40.  Well, let me tell you, it is super hard.  I exercise at least five days a week, sometimes two or three times a day when I am teaching at the gym, and though I don’t eat the healthiest of foods, I don’t eat a lot.  And yet I battle that scale every single day.  My sister, who is 11 years older than I, says if she eats one normal-sized meal, she will gain a pound.  My mother, who is 80 and still very conscientious of her weight, lives on very little because normal meals will cause weight gain.  That fact does jive with the fact that I also like to bake more the older I get.   Just because weight was never an issue in your twenties and thirties, don’t make the mistake of thinking your immune to the middle-age spread.  It will find you!

2.  Eyebrows.  What young 30-something mom worries about her eyebrows?  Sure, waxing or tweezing are part of life, but trimming and filling in?  Did you know that in your 40s your eyebrows begin to do weird things?  There will be some that grow long and need to be trimmed (often).  And there are those that disappear leave patches of skin showing through.   Really.  Aren’t you glad I warned you?

3.  Saggy skin.  We expect wrinkles on our faces, and maybe even our chests.  Did you know your leg skin wrinkles and sags no matter how toned your muscles are?  Yup.  That’s something to look forward to.  When I wear shorts and do a plank, I try to avoid looking down at my legs because the skin is sagging in an attempt to rest on the floor.  And should my belly be exposed for some reason (in the privacy of my own home), well, that’s just disgusting.  It looks like chicken skin.  Saggy, nasty chicken skin.

4.  Despite all of the crazy things going on with aging skin, you can still get zits.  I think that is just cruel.  If we have to be tolerant of wrinkles, we should at least be free of zits – save those for the teenagers.  So, now I have dry, oily, wrinkly, zitty, saggy, bags-under-my-eyes skin.  That’s attractive.

5.  About your bladder.  Now, I am fortunate that I haven’t had leaky bladder problems, but I hear my Zumba ladies talking about having to be careful during jumpy songs.  Even though I haven’t had issues, I had to have my non-issues checked out before my hysterectomy so if there were a problem, the doctors could fix everything at once.  Do you want to know what that test consisted of?  It was humiliating, to say the least.  The lovely nurse stuck probes in two out of three places I don’t want probes to go, and then I had to jump and stretch and cough and push as if in labor….you get the point.  But, hey, I passed the test.  Ask me in a couple of years.  Thankfully when a Depends commercial was on the other night, Addison told Gary and me she’d be happy to purchase them for us when the time comes.  Thanks, kid.

6.  While I was able to avoid doctors through my twenties and thirties, unless I was expecting a child or my allergies were in high gear, I find myself spending more time at doctors’ offices these days.  Heck, I’ve had two surgeries in two years.  And besides my hysterectomy and knee surgery, I have had a recurring staph infection in my eye, and numerous other inconveniences since reaching 40.  In the late winter and spring of 2013, I had something wrong with me every other week – and I am not a hypochondriac!

Enough of the ugly.  Now, what is good about aging?  Lots.  But that’s for another blog.  I gave you younger people a lot to absorb.  To plan for.  To dread.  You’re quite welcome for the warning.  Enjoy your young supple skin, strong bladder, normal eyebrows, and energetic body.  It can be gone – overnight.  While you sleep, instead of the tooth fairy, your own personal middle-age fairy will be visiting.  Prepare, my friends – take down the mirrors, purchase Ponds and anti-acne wash, load up on workout capris, purchase an eyebrow pencil and little scissors.  It’s coming…

old-lady-driving

The Thing About Middle Age…

For some reason, middle age has been nagging at me.  I have no idea why.  I am certainly not middle-aged.  That’s what I thought anyway.  And then a couple years ago, my husband said something to me about being middle-aged, and I was highly insulted.  Because I had already embarked on my forties, my husband asked me the logical question:  Just how long do you expect to live?  Hmmm….He had a point.  I just don’t feel like I am in mid-life yet.  I am healthier and in better shape than I have ever been.  I still like to stay active.   I guess I always pictured middle age according to the previous generation’s version of middle age.

When my mother was in her forties and fifties, she just didn’t seem to have much fun.  She spent her days cleaning (every single centimeter of our house – not a dustball in sight), and (despite hating it) feeding her family. She was fortunate that she did not have to work outside the home, but I also think that for her, that wasn’t necessarily best for her.  She might have been happier had she gotten out amongst people.  She didn’t do a lot with my sister, brother, or me.  She rarely attended my sporting events or band contests.  I love my mother, but, Lord, she was boring.  I don’t want to be boring.  I will try just about anything – except rides that spin.  That would make me puke.

Now my  <older> friends are beginning to turn 50…50?  When I was in my twenties, I thought 50 was old.  Now I look around at those embracing mid-life, and I am so impressed.  Our generation is in the gym, both taking advantage of classes, and leading groups and teaching classes.  We’re out running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons.  We’re biking an incredible number of miles, swimming, and dancing.  Most of my friends are also in the best shape of their lives.  My friend Debbie just turned 50.  Over the past year I have observed as she has worked her tail off to get in shape and lose weight.  She looks absolutely incredible.  She has always been beautiful, but now she has confidence, and radiates grace and contentment.  She not only rocks the classes at the gym, but she is also a runner!   What an inspiration.

My friend Jackie will turn 50 in January.  She has been one of my running partners and best friends for years.  She, too, is in amazing shape, and one would never suspect her being near 50.   She is a strong runner, who usually drags her sister and me along, and we are both younger.  She is setting such a great example for her sons by showing them that she is worth the time she takes to be healthy.  Our kids might not buy into this yet, but someday they most certainly will.

I have also seen a few people who are around my age who seem to be caught in their parents’ mindset.  They move slowly, avoid much activity, and just seem older than their years.  I suppose that is the life they choose, and it’s their business, but it makes me sad.  We only have one shot at this life; I don’t want to waste it being unhappy or boring.  In all I do, I try to live without regrets.  When I am at the end of my days, I want to bask in the memories of all I did, not regret all I didn’t do becauses I thought I was too old.

As for me, if someone had told me even five years ago that I would be able to run over 13 miles, I would have cackled.  And teach fitness classes?  Heck, no.  I didn’t even like to exercise.  Don’t get me wrong; I was never lazy.  I ran a business with my good friend while raising three daughters, and then returned to college full-time, while still working.  During my thirties I earned a bachelor’s degree, changed careers, and got remarried.  In my early forties I earned my master’s degree (and stayed married).  Exercise never fit into that schedule.  I did well to shower daily and make sure the kids were fed.  Take time for myself?  There was none to spare.  I couldn’t even pee without a little girl’s voice screeching, “MOM!”

Then the girls got old enough to stay by themselves, and I began to take some time for myself.  What began as wanting to get some exercise and lose a little weight, became a whole new life.  As I was driving to the gym last night, I thought about how much time I would have if I didn’t exercise.  Seriously.  We do some type of workout five to six nights a week.  Last night we were at the gym from 6:00 until 9:00.  And I loved every second of it.  I was with my husband and daughter; I was with my friends; and I was working my butt off.  I am sore today, but as I tell my friends, it’s a good sore.  I don’t want to imagine my life without exercise.  It is a part of the middle-aged me, and I rather like that part.

Middle age?  It’s what you make of it.  As far as I am concerned, these are the best years of my life.  I love the relationships I have with the girls; I love being a nana; I love my marriage to a pretty terrific man, and I love the person I have become.  I am comfortable enough in my skin that when someone speaks badly of me (imagine that!), I can let it go (okay, sometimes I dwell on it, but I eventually let it go), and I know what I stand for and whom I want to spend my time with.  I know now that the trials in my life have made me a stronger person, as well as given me more compassion toward those going through their own trials.  I am not afraid to take risks, knowing that sometimes I will fail.  I know it’s okay to fail.  Am I perfect?  No way.  Far from it.  I make mistakes (almost daily), and I make bad decisions.  I am – and always will be – a work in progress.  If we stop growing, we stop living.  Why would I want to do that?

Of course, middle age brings some friends:  gray hair (that’s what hair color is for), wrinkles (earned every one of them), saggy skin (no amount of exercise can make my skin look good during a plank.  When in a plank position, don’t EVER look at your legs or belly.), aches (Ibuprofen in bulk), hot flashes (avoided those thus far), and out-of-control eyebrows (no one bothered to warm me about those).  It’s part of the process, so there is no sense getting my panties in a wad over them.  The only alternative to aging is dying, and I surely am not ready to check out just yet.  I have more races to run….more Zumba to teach….more friends  to make….more kids to teach………more life to live!  Now get out their and live yours!  What have you always wanted to do?  Do it!  Live with no regrets.

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)