Have you ever wondered why we spend billions of dollars every year to defy looking older? Culturally, there are many negative associations tied to aging and appearance, despite the fact that living a long life is an amazing gift. Why is aging something we are trying to alter?
As a gym owner, it is not uncommon for people around “mid-life” to contact Fitness on the Run (FOR) because they feel an urgent need to finally commit to getting “fit and healthy,” hoping it results in shapely arms or legs and a flat stomach. There is so much emphasis on physical appearance in our culture that it makes sense – we want to feel young and look young, forever.
As a fitness professional turning 50, I could have begun worrying (Like Elizabeth, I am a seasoned worrier. See her story on “50” here) about how my age would impact my business. I could have pushed myself to compete in this or that fitness challenge. I could have become consumed about how I look at each new passing day or year. I could have become confused in thinking that my value as a person or professional is tied to my physical appearance.
Instead, I chose to turn to the guidance that my mother offered me. For most of her life, she never concerned herself with age. She never thought about how old she was or the number on the next birthday card. She modeled that well-being is about how you feel – on many different levels — and how you live, not how you look, or measure up to the girl next door, or whether you are adding a candle to the cake.
On the eve of my 50th birthday at the writing of this article, I am listening to mom. I am separating myself from all the external and artificial markers that society and the media have identified about what it means to be 50. (Google it!) I am choosing to be me, not defined by age but by how I feel, by the blessings in my life, and by what health and fitness mean to me…what they mean for me. As a result, turning 50 couldn’t be a prouder moment for me!
In this four-part series “Fit at 50,” I will share with you my exploration in different areas of health and wellness all within the context of aging. I will share my personal journey and how I am engaging with “fit” at the age of 50. I am offering this not as a recipe for how to become fit at 50, but rather to grant you permission to sit with the question of what fit and healthy means to you, whatever age you happen to be. We even can begin a dialogue and free ourselves from external norms and expectations that are not designed with you and your health and wellness in mind.
My personal evolution began as a surfer kid in a town just off the coast of Newport Beach, California. I had an athletic mom and a brother who turned me into a tomboy who could jump into any athletic venture with success. (I was Alex’s THIRD sister and he was crushed I was not a boy.)
I played competitive sports through elementary and high school. I also held a 30-hour per week job at a grocery store pushing carts from the parking lot to the storefront. I entered the Miss Garden Grove pageant at 17 and won first-runner up as the youngest participant in the history of the pageant.
The pageant, which was a qualifier for Miss America, was one of the best experiences of my teenage years. I was surrounded by talented women, all older than me. I learned how to communicate with those in respected positions. Winning both the talent and interview competitions taught me that beauty comes from within, that we all define it differently, and whatever it is for us is just perfect.
All of this helped me cope at a time when my family was falling apart at home. I gained confidence, perspective, and yes, fitness.
In college, I ran. I ran a lot. It was stress relief and, of course, an attempt to “run off” the calories from the previous night. After graduation, I learned to use my body as a tool for endurance as I worked 12-15 hour days on Capitol Hill and K Street. I began to learn about how my own body was a source of inner and outer strength through combined strength training to improve my race times.
In starting Fitness on the Run in 2004, I poured over research from the best minds in fitness. It was then that I grabbed the reigns of my body and learned about feeding it the right food for fuel (for nutrition and sleep), moving it in ways it’s intended and, as a result, gained strength inside and out. It became clear to me there were no “quick fixes” and that fitness, like anything meaningful to me, takes time, effort, and patience.
Throughout my evolution, I am re-imagining what health means to me – and what it can mean to you. It is my (your) world and (your) body and it is worth the time and energy to define its source of strength. Whatever your age, ponder these:
1) What if you already had those beautiful and fit arms? Would it change how you view your aging process?
2) What if you loved your body for all it is? Would you change anything in your life – your self-talk and your compass?
3) What if you already “qualified” or were already on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue? Would your inner voice tell you something different about who you are to the core?
Join me on this journey as I reflect and share about my relationship with my body, my fuel (food and sleep), and my spiritual and emotional wellness. Together in this series, we can change the definition of aging – and what Fit at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and beyond really means to all of us.