Being Me at 57: Reflections on Exercise and Getting Older

I have been in the exercise business my whole life. I guess I must have an aptitude for it. I have a degree in dance because sitting still in class and studying was an issue. When my kids were young, I got up before dawn to practice yoga so that I could be a calm parent. It meant living with a lot of muscle and joint pain that started in my late teens. It meant that I often used my exercise to deal with my emotions: which is good - until it is over done - and then, like any addiction, it has its downside - like more injuries that might not heal. I became over critical of my body even when others told me that I looked good.

And…It also meant adjusting my food so that I can be physical, letting go of drugs and alcohol so that it was easier to get up in the morning. Because I supported my family by teaching physical arts and exercise, I was very aware of my fitness levels even during times when I would have like to slack off. Of course this had it’s upsides!

Now at 57, I am not as physical as I used to be but I take care of how and when I work out more than ever. I spend more time at my computer than I do teaching these days. I have to figure out where exercise fits into my schedule. I don’t keep muscle tone like I used to, I have lost my tolerance for pain, and like everything else in my life, I have an accumulation of experiences that I don’t need to repeat again! My choices for health are more clear-cut. Helping my clients to find a path to valuing exercise is often more challenging than the exercises that I teach them.

For some people, exercise has not been presented in a way that is accessible to them, and negative experiences in their past may have led them to believe that no exercise could be enjoyable.  Working past a dislike of exercise can be very challenging, and may require thinking “outside the box.”  For some, even those whose lives will be shortened by diabetes or heart disease, exercise is so distasteful that they resist it, even if they know that it will improve their health. Some might find that exercising alone at home with a DVD works better for them, while some will enjoy the companionship of a class situation. I have been teaching a kick-ass chair yoga class with group of 60-90 year olds for the past 8 years and they swear by it! I push them in balance and strengthening. We get into every joint to bring it through full range of motion. Some clients have made a change from no exercise to walking around the block or five minutes of stretching in their bed.  For clients who haven’t been exercising at all, these changes can be big first steps. Working up to a 20-minute a day fast paced walk can change someone’s trajectory of aging!

My exercise routine now is very different than it was when I was younger. I do my cardio in the late afternoon or evening at home or at a fitness center. I find that it helps get rid of the stress I accumulated during the day. I also do an upper body routine a couple of times a week that elevates my heart while building muscle tone around my shoulder girdle. I do core and leg exercises before I go to bed to help me sleep. I do yoga stretches a few times a week and I try to get out dancing a couple of times a month. 

So at 57, I work harder and smarter at staying fit. I know that at any age or physical condition, we feel better by adding elevated activity into our lives. I have to remember that being busy or not having enough money is no excuse. Being sick, tired and deconditioned will take up a lot more of my time and finances. What are the ways that you motivate yourself to exercise or include elevated activity into your life? Is it time for something new?