It’s no secret that I love my birthdays. I don’t mind adding another candle to the cake or getting another 12 months closer to Social Security. I just love “my” day. This year was no different, and I had some great plans to celebrate – an extended celebration of sorts.
To properly mark this milestone of 55 years, I set a goal to run a 5K in July. “Everybody” (specifically my young, athletic, in shape, cross country running children) was planning to do it, and I decided I’d get that T-shirt too. I was excited to get in better shape and maybe even drop a few pounds before the May wedding in San Diego. This was going to be awesome!
With great enthusiasm and adequate energy, I embarked on the “Couch to 5K” plan I found on the internet. It seemed to be tailor made for me. The first few weeks were lots of walking interspersed with short intervals of running. The transition to mostly jogging with short intervals of walking was gradual and seemed very doable. Within about 9 weeks I would be running 30 minutes/ 3 miles.
Or maybe not.
Armed with my cell phone for timing (nothing says serious runner like a cellular stop watch), I took to the early morning streets with great determination. Slow and steady I completed the jogging intervals all the while eagerly anticipating the walking segments as a chance to inhale deeply and even out my ragged gasps of breath. Neither rain nor cold could stop me. I was a woman on a mission.
As I should have expected, it wasn’t long before I had to acknowledge that a 55 year old body is a little different than a 25 year old one, and perhaps I was not as physically fit as I had imagined. This was hard work! But I was determined. Pete and Emily reassured me with their stories of entering/re-entering the ranks of runners – pain and discouragement were just part of the drill. People my age run all the time, and I could too.
However, within 3 weeks, reality reared her ugly head, and I was sidelined with knee pain and screaming back muscles. I considered continuing running as the program prescribed using the “no pain – no gain” philosophy. But truthfully, I had visions of re-injuring my surgically repaired ACL, and I was haunted by memories of hours spent in physical therapy. So I quickly decided that running through the pain was just dumb and besides – it really hurt.
I was more than a little discouraged and suddenly felt very old. Was there no place for strenuous exercise in my future? Would I simply totter my way through the next 25 years? Was I doomed to working out with old videos of “Sit and Be Fit”? My big birthday looming on the horizon was beginning to feel more like a solemn memorial to lost youth rather than a celebration of what lies ahead.
At this same time, I started reading a book that Carolyn’s doctor recommended, and since we are genetic twins, I figured it was good for me too. And it was.
The authors advocate that once you reach age 50, you have a new job – exercising vigorously every day for the rest of your life. They offer 7 rules, but the two that really got my attention are:
1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life
5. Quit eating crap!
Well, I can do that. So I revamped my goals. Instead of running a 5K in July, I changed my focus to keeping the next third of my life as healthy – or even more so – than the first two-thirds. Vigorous (but not life threatening) exercise coupled with consistency seem to be a much better fit for me than a crash course in running. Sore muscles the morning following a good workout with weights is far more appealing than crippling back pain.
So now early mornings will find me on the eliptical – outfitted with a heart rate monitor, a taped episode of Oprah, and a water bottle. As the weather gets nicer I’ll take my workouts outside, maybe to the park where I can increase my agility by stepping around the duck poop that decorates the lake path.
And I’ll be younger next year.
They say it’s your birthday –
We’re gonna have a good time.