“Old age is not for wimps”
The woman in the photo was slender with clearly defined muscles rippling along her arms, torso and legs. Her eyes squinted fiercely, staring directly at the camera, in a face lined with wrinkles. Long grey hair pulled haphazardly into a bun at the nape of her wiry neck escaped in strands caught in the sweat pouring off her furrowed brow. Scrawled across the bottom of the poster, bold letters read, “Old Age Is Not for Wimps.”
Every time I exited my gym locker room, dragging my thirty-something self toward the weight machines, I paused mesmerized by that woman. I was determined to be her, to be fit and ready for anything in my elder years.
“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
Then and Now
I’m so glad she’s not here to judge me now. I bear no resemblance to my ideal. There have been times over the last thirty years when I approached my goal. There was that year I went to the gym three times a week. And a different year when I woke in the dark to run three miles every weekday morning. For almost five years I met a friend at 6 a.m. to walk two miles almost every morning. When my younger daughter was getting married, I hired a personal trainer and joined Weight Watchers for eight months. I love those mother-of-the bride pictures!
More recently, I spent a spring and summer, working out three days a week, and building up my walking until I could walk 20 miles in a day. By October, I trekked 30 miles in one day as a participant in CureSearch’s Ultimate Hike program, a cause that has raised over 5 million dollars in the battle against childhood cancer.
And it’s ageism, far more than the passage of time, that makes growing older harder for all of us.”
― Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
But after the hike, just as before, I slipped into my old couch potato ways.
There Comes a Time
Now, I’m beginning to pay the price. I don’t stroll as quickly as I once did. I’m out of breath if I climb more than one flight of stairs. I fall more easily. And all this scares me. Am I becoming an elder wimp?
The time when my motivation for losing weight and getting in shape was mostly to appear more attractive has come and gone. It’s become more a matter of life and death. Not death in the absolute sense, but the death of the freedom to be myself, to be a person who choses what she can and cannot participate in.
I’m not alone in recognizing the now or never of this proposition. The authors of “Aging with Freedom,” a fantastic website that explores multiple aspects of transitioning into the “golden years,” studied the supposed connection between early retirement and early death. The literature clearly indicated that it’s what you do in retirement, not when you retire that makes the difference.
If you use early-retirement to exercise more and replace or improve work with other social connections and purpose, early-retirement is good for you. It can dramatically improve both longevity and quality-of-life. https://agingwithfreedom.com/2018/03/27/early-retirement-health-odds-good-or-bad/
There go my hopes that exercise doesn’t matter anymore!
I’m looking for motivators and “tricks” and best practices to pull myself away from this computer and out onto the sidewalk or into the gym. If you know of any, please take a minute to share them in the contact box.
I promise to let you know if I try your ideas and how they work out.
Growing old has been the greatest surprise of my life. Billy Graham