What do I do when my body tells me I’m old?

ageing clockI had a lot of fun turning 40 last year.  I reckon it’s a good age – young enough to feel time is still on your side, but old enough for experience to (mostly) have your back too.

Trouble is, my body seems to be telling me something different.  I do a slightly faster or longer run than normal and I get shin splints.  I move a pile of logs and put my back out.  I choose booze, biscuits and late nights and I get spots a teenager would cringe at and black eyes a panda would kill for.

What’s a girl to do – it’s either grab the gin and head for the oven; do a Gwyneth and go all juice, gym and jimjams by 9; or ignore it all and go hell for leather, life’s short so who cares.

I say there’s another way.

No longer can we rely on ‘use and abuse’ (so 20s).  The ‘I’m just too exhausted by kids/work/life’ doesn’t cut it (so 30s).  We need a new mantra for our 40s:  Suck it up, take the dull on the chin.  Care to live.  Insert your own version as you wish.

Whereas in my 20s I scoffed at the dentist preaching to me about flossing habits, now I both floss and visit the hygienist religiously – better that than massive dental bills or falsies gnashing in a bedside glass by 50.  I don’t want old lady dribble issues, so those pelvic floors will just have to fit into my daily life.   I do my best to resist the siren call of the daily post bedtime glass of wine and chocolate (yeah, that one might need some more work), and I’ve finally signed up to a weekly pilates class – by all accounts  the best (if boring) way to strengthen my body in ways that help as I get older.  I take make-up off every night, I’m finally paying more attention to sitting properly at my desk, I exercise regularly, etc, etc.

Yes, our bodies get old.  I say, deal with it.  We weren’t designed to live so long and evolution will take a damn long time to catch up.  Accept it, take the boring self-care routines on the chin and get on with enjoying the precarious and precious life we are lucky to have.

That said, I’m keeping the gin and oven close at hand.  Much as she glows, the Gwyneth route is far too dull, and ignoring it all just makes my head hurt.   So if my resolve fails, you know where to find me…

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A tale of unanticipated consequences

A proud school mum shows off her tandem skydive photo, a tick on her 40th year to do list.   I think: “what a good idea, a 40th year to do list.” I turn and ask a dad-friend if he’s ever fancied having a go at triathlon.

While slightly hysterically laughing about sudden triathlon suggestion, an intensely active, just-done-a-marathon dad expresses interest in joining in.

One week later

Wife of marathon man tells me he is pestering her to find out which triathlon.  Gulp.

Two weeks later

Little H and I attend Olympics.  I get fired up about sport, trying new things, the reward of effort, leading by example.  Manage to commit to triathlon goal on blog (see here if you missed post ‘I don’t want to be in Olympics’).  Now public. Double gulp.

Two weeks later

Arrive on holiday to discover French gite hosts are triathletes, indeed one is a coach and ex-pro, no less.  Watch them disappear off for daily bike rides, swims, runs.  Feel a teensy bit envious of lifestyle, bodies.

One week later

Husband asks casually over wine and cheese if I’m serious about triathlon.  I (deep breath, big glug) nod yes.  Husband calls my bluff. Offers early Christmas present of coaching by ex-pro triathlete.  Gulps so big just manage not to choke on wine.

Spend hour with pro talking goals, training plans, races, kit.  Express concern re swimming – never learnt front crawl. Bravado surfaces – maybe I could do or watch a race this season to get a feel for it.  Shopping list grows; from goggles to road bike to gym membership to swim lessons.  Realisation of extent of challenge deepens.  Feel excited, apprehensive, a bit gung-ho.

Last night of holiday

Have swimming lesson in small gite pool. Have to stop, gasping for breath after one length of 5 metres. All bravado deflated to fear.  The reality of racing a 400m swim hits.  Coach suggests how exciting it is to be starting right at the beginning.  Decoded: Wow, she really wasn’t joking when she said she couldn’t do front crawl.

Kit list gets longer.  Many swim aids required, starting with swimsuit.  Coach, husband and I agree halter neck, boy short tankini not really appropriate.

Two days later

On return home, training time negotiations and kit shopping begin.  Whenever brain idle, thoughts turn to triathlon.  Mix of excitement (Cool – a new, difficult challenge! A chance to be properly fit! Professional help to do my best and not just ‘enjoy the experience and not embarrass myself’!), nerves (Can I conquer front crawl – being forced to control breathing when working hard in particular. Will I have the mental strength for proper training that hurts and takes sustained commitment) and wondering about all the unknowns (How does it feel to swim with loads of other people? Will I ride and run in a swim/wetsuit? How much will it hurt not to have crotch padding for a 20km bike ride?  Is the transition from bike to run as hard as everyone says?  Will this take over my life completely or just mostly? Will I want to do another one?  Will all this cost and effort and using up of husband support points be worth it?).

5.40am Monday morning after holiday

Out for a run before Mr H off to work.   And so the journey begins.