We need a movement. We need a rallying cry. We can’t just sit around and let ourselves fall apart as we get older.
We can’t stop ourselves from aging, but we can probably change the way we do it.
So, I decided to start with myself. What could I change?
I’m an exerciser, but never considered myself an athlete. A lot of walks, the occasional bike ride and some skiing during season were most of what I did. There were trips to they gym and some equipment at home, used during bad weather. I’ve done various sports, but I’ll admit I wasn’t pushing myself a whole lot lately.
Last year my daughter ran a marathon. She’d never done anything like it, was never a runner before. She made it across that finish line. She dedicated herself and trained for months with a group called Team in Training. Afterwards, she told me about a short distance triathlon (run, bike, swim) and suggested we do it.
I looked it over and thought, “maybe”. Then I decided that if I were going to push myself, now was the time. I wasn’t in bad shape, I don’t have any injured parts to worry about. I could find the time to do training.
So, I made up my mind to do a triathlon. I chose a “sprint” distance because it’s the shortest kind there is. I had no intention of sprinting through any part whatsoever, I assure you. I’m 63. That’s not a popular age group for beginners in triathlons.
I thought perhaps I could do it if I had a whole lot of practice.
At first I couldn’t find a group to train with and I didn’t want to do fundraising, as some trainings require. So, I just set off on my own with determination to get control over my aging, starting this very moment.
I joined a gym with a pool. Changing my usual habits was uncomfortable. It felt awkward. I kept forgetting something I needed: my goggles or to put them on. How to get the stupid key into the slot in the locker. I felt like a pea-brain.
I could do only two lengths of a 25 yard pool before having to stop and catch my breath, but I kept it up. At least I already knew how to swim. Gradually, over several months, I worked up to a swim for a half hour without stopping.
I bought a new road bike with skinny tires. I like to ride as does my husband, so I had someone to go with me. Training for biking was a lot of long rides with him. He goes faster than I do, so I kept trying to keep up. I got stronger, but he can still dust me. The best part of this was, I got to buy a whole new wardrobe of colorful biking clothes.
Then there was the running, which I admit I neglected because it was hard for me. I figured out after a while that 60+ joints do a lot better running on dirt or on a track, so I had to find places to do that. I am a small-sized person. Long legs are not my genetic gift. Running is a lot of short strides on short legs. I’m learning about running still. I do a combo of run/walk/repeat. Extending the run times was coming along very slowly.
As the date for my triathlon got closer, I got worried. I wasn’t sure how much to train and I was feeling alone. My daughter got scheduled out, so I was on my own. I finally found a womens’ tri training group, Flower Power Sports. I signed up immediately. I began to find out what it’s like to get your butt kicked training. This is good for you, right?
You see, there were no sports for girls when I was young. I had never been on a team sport except intramurals in college. That was very, very long ago. This is kind of like a team sport, but everyone in the group is training together, not competing with another team. It’s great! A coach to teach us. Friends to share the workouts and the fun. Yep, I felt right at home. I am the second oldest person in the entire group.
A month of serious effort 6 days a week ensued. I got stronger, but noticed that I was a lot slower than the younger folks. What to expect? I kept doubting myself. Am I going to be dead last? Will the event be over before I get to the end of it? Was this a nutty idea?
My race day came. It was an informal, untimed thing, with lots of beginners. I was definitely one of the most senior women there. A few mature men participate, but this sport mainly attracts a lot of 30-40 year olds.
I say, “so what?”
I did my race! I finished in one piece!
Great feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment. Here’s a short VIDEO my adorable husband shot of the highlights. He’s my support team.
So, what I learned is that we can all push ourselves a lot more than we think we can. A big lesson for me was to appreciate that I can do 3 sports one after another. I will never be critical of my body again,ever. Regardless of cellulite. It made me a believer in the movement to take control of our aging. And yes, it’s a lot more work than sitting on the couch.
Actively seeking to do more than we’ve been doing doesn’t have to be a triathlon or even a sport. It can just be a 10 minute walk if for you, that’s more than you’re used to doing. It can be a dance class. It can be a stretching routine you learn from a DVD. It can be anything that makes you feel good and gets you in motion and thinking positively about yourself.
Aging doesn’t have to be a sentence to immobility or falling apart. We have plenty to do with how we age in the choices we make. We can make choices that will have us feeling we’re in charge of how we travel on this aging journey. We can accept that being older can slow us down but it doesn’t have to immobilize us.
Here’s hoping I’ve at least gotten you thinking about getting control of your own aging. So, come on. Just take that first step. It can be something small, something simple. And let me know how you’re doing. Boomers, unite! We’ve got to do this aging thing our way.
Until next time, Carolyn Rosenblatt AgingParents.com