I found this little video on YouTube about one of my heroes, Ernestine Shepherd, who says,
"age ain't nothing but a number."
Yeah. Put that right up there with,
"you're only as young as you feel."
Ernestine didn't start weighlifting until she was in her fifties. She didn't start bodybuilding until she was 70. Now, as I approach my 50th birthday, cliches have meaning. Since I started weightlifting last year I feel better than I did at 30, no joke. I feel strong and healthy and young. I get it now.
A few weeks ago at work I was at the doctor's and at the end of the visit he said, "Oh, by the way, your heart isn't enlarged." I almost cried. I have spent the last two years feeling time might be running out, mainly because my mother was diagnosed with an enlarged heart at age 53 and died at 61. She spent most of her life morbidly obese and refusing to exercise. Most of the members of my family have died. Alcoholism, refusal to exercise, smoking, suicide...it's all there, buried in my genes. Even my children don't really exercise and are starting to look and act old.
|Easily carrying two full bags.|
Recently my sister, age 58, shared with me her rapidly declining health. She's 9 years older than I am. She LOOOOOVES making chocolate cakes, and she's good at it. When I visited last year she didn't look healthy. There was no glow, she's put on a lot of weight, doesn't exercise, and is stooped over. She refused to go DOWN a HALF flight of stairs while carrying a lightweight basket and insisted her husband pull the car up curbside. When I hugged her goodbye, I begged her to take care of herself.
Now, she tells me, her teeth have suddenly started decaying, and she's had to cap them. She has unexplained hives and itching, "and I'm anemic. I'm not sure why I eat all kinds of food with iron."
Then she commented, "getting old is not much fun."
Well, I call bullshit. This isn't getting older; it's making crappy choices. That comment also made me sad, because. I wonder how long it will be before I'm the only one left in my family.
I used to look at people like Ernestine, and while I found them inspirational, I defnitely saw them as The Other. The Other are those people I saw as inspiring, but that I believe are exceptional. There was something about them to learn from but I could never do what they do. For me, fitness was about treading water, not really being competitive.
|City of Lakes Triathlon, June 2014|
But now, after a year of weight-lifting, I'm thinking, why not? My life has been a series of improbabilities. I became an athlete at age 40. I started a new career at 45. Next year, I turn 50, and recently told Sweet Baboo, "I didn't think I'd feel this good at fifty."
Thanks to the gorgeous man I married who introduced me to athletics, I feel like the universe has handed me a few extra decades to play with. There's lots of stuff I haven't tried, and some I've dabbled with. I'm stocky, and I'm strong, and I think I could be fast if I focused on that. I'm kind of burned out on ultras, but I love running marathons. There's a place for me to excel, and I intend to have fun finding it.
So, I've been training with Kathleen at No Limits Fitness since May. We're working on improving my strength and level of intensity, especially the problem I have where I get panicky from having to breathe too hard.
I also started this past week working with Korbie at Training Innovations to get a handle on my nutrition. In his office, I find my gaze drifting up to the pictures of the female physique competitors he's trained, posing on a stage, some of them my age. "I don't think I'd ever be able to do anything like that,' I said.
Korbie chuckled. "Neither did they."
I still have one last long distance race, Ironman Boulder, to tackle in less than a month. And then of course, the inevitable question:
I wonder what else I can do?