I ought to know better by now. For some reason, when I saw Oprah recently talk about how exercising at 50 is not the same as exercising at 20, I barely listened. She wasn't talking about me. No way.
Yet, here I am, on a Sunday night, with my right leg up on the sofa arm, a frozen bag of peas on my screaming shin. All from doing something I've been doing for the last 30 years — I went for a walk.
What in the heck happened? I weigh just ten pounds more than I did ten years ago, I still don't smoke or drink and I watch what I eat. Aside from not getting the sleep I should be getting, I'm in pretty good physical shape. No history of hypertension, obesity, heart disease and the only brush with diabetes I've had was while pregnant with my last child.
But finally, I have to admit it — I don't bounce back like I used to. I suppose I should be grateful that I eventually will be able to walk and not hobble, but whereas I'd be sore only a day later from a run or a workout, I now find myself aching up to a week later. It happens if I rev up my walk too much. Or if I go a little too crazy with the arm weights and my Denise Austin "Nix Those Batwings!" DVD. The lesson I learned just last spring from yoga warrior pose with moving arms won't soon be forgotten. I couldn't brush my hair for five days.
Working out when you're 50 is not the same as when you're 20. Damn you, Oprah. Why must you always be right? And why didn't I believe you?
We all age, whether we exercise or not. We can't stop Father Time, but some of us (read: moi) prefer to ignore that. I ignore it even after pulling a muscle in my neck while showering last month just from putting my hands up to shampoo my hair, because I hadn't stretched before my arm workout that morning. It's one thing to deny you're getting older but it's just plain stupid, I'm learning, to think you can bypass good advice.
The lifelong mental pep talk of "no pain, no gain" has been replaced with the more sensible "resting is rusting." Just the act of daily movement, stretching and strength training is all the battle I need to stay healthy, flexible and feel good.
From my propped-up viewpoint on the sofa, I've become realistic and recognize my new limits as I'm getting older. I'm giving myself a good talking to right now and the things I scoffed at a few years ago, suddenly look quite appealing. Zumba Silver now makes sense and saves on the knees. I now hear the siren's call of the gentleness of 6 a.m. water aerobics with the SilverFins. And I'm going to think twice this time before dismissively tossing out the Tai Chi Center postcard that comes to my house every three months. I'll bet you it's more challenging than it looks.
Moving slower, but still moving. Stretching with more care, but still stretching. Practicing balance, essential if you don't want to lose it. Our bodies change as we age — it happens to all of us. It now takes me one month to lose two pounds when just skipping dinner two nights in a row in my 20s would yield the same results.
There are more pops and cracks with my mountain pose than there used to be, my walks may only cover three miles in one hour (instead of the four miles with swinging arms that I once did) and my purple arm weights may never go beyond their present ten pounds, but I won't let any of those things slow me down. Surprise me? Yes. Stop me? No.