To be given the opportunity to become older is a privilege, not a predicament. So why do we feel the pressure to defy and stave off the process?
Do you sometimes look to the past to bemoan what you no longer have in the present?
I used to be able to run 10km and then head off to work, instead of back to bed. I used to have breasts that looked up instead of down. I used to have a six pack that wasn’t packed away.
I used to, I used to, I used to.
That was then.
What do I have now?
I have a well-worn body that I love and for which I am eternally grateful. A body that has carried me valiantly through 58 years and survived two years of lockdowns and restrictions! And one that has an entirely different set of needs to those of my younger self. I may not be able to sustain high impact exercise anymore but I can maintain a great level of fitness with Pilates, Yoga and Barre classes. My core is strong and that translates to being functional. It helps keeps me upright and moving with ease through every day life. And well, the boobs? They had a damn fine working life, so they deserve to be out to pasture!
Embracing the ageing process is challenging because we are programmed to think we have to fight it. How many advertisements do you know that are focussed on selling us anti-ageing products and services? Why is being perceived as younger seen as better than being our real age?
As a fitness instructor, I so often hear clients say, ‘I used to be able to do ..xyz’ with a sense of real deflation.
But that was then and this is now.
Looking backwards and focusing on what you used to be able to do doesn’t help you move forward. It operates on the premise that everything in life stays the same, however the one constant we can’t deny is change!
Why not create a new template for the present that accommodates the changes that have occurred internally and externally over time and feel excited about it?
Everything we have done in our past should underpin the way we look at our present. We have a wealth of ‘body’ knowledge and experiences to draw upon if we are willing to view them realistically and in context. Don’t forget that injuries, work situations, children, illness, stress etc all play a part in what we are able to do in our ‘now’.
Whilst we might not be able to do exactly the same things as we did previously, what is most important is that now we know exactly what we love doing and what makes us feel good. We are also stronger and more resilient for having done them in the past. I love that I used to be able to run a half marathon and the sense of achievement I had in doing it. Now I can channel that same sense of endeavour into activities that don’t result in the same wear and tear on my hips and knees. Running is no longer good for my body, so I can let go of the need to try doing it again.
So before rejoining the gym and launching head long into an exercise regime you did in your younger days, you might like to:
Reflect on what you understand about your body and how it responds to exercise and then set your goals accordingly. What do you need your body to do to be able to get through each day feeling happy and satisfied? If you need to build stamina maybe hit the pool for some laps. If you need to build strength and flexibility, try a Pilates or Yoga class.
Be proactive. Do the research on your local area and find a place to exercise where you feel comfortable and supported. Speak to friends about their experiences or better still enlist an exercise buddy to help you find a place you can exercise together.
Be realistic Consult health professionals and seek the information that you need to create a sustainable health and wellness program that works for you. Do the health checks that you need before you start. You don’t take an old car on a long road trip without getting it serviced and safety checked first. It’s not that it can’t go the distance, you just want to make sure the ride is smooth and enjoyable. Think of your maturing body in the same way.
Be happy with small gains Everything you do today that you didn’t manage yesterday is an achievement. And that achievement, however small is something to feel good about.
Founder and Director of Just Believe Fit