At best, I have always been a reluctant athlete and I have never been what anyone would call a talented one. I am persistent and I have pretty good endurance, but I have never entered a serious athletic contest with the expectation of winning. Even though I will occasionally enter a running event, just being able to finish is, for me, reward enough. My goal in getting semi-regular exercise, paying attention to my weight and staying in reasonable shape has always been, simply being able to continue doing the things that I love doing.
Several months ago I joined a gym and started actively working out. Even though I was staying active, I was starting to find myself getting sluggish, missing some great photography shots because I wasn’t able to get into position fast enough or just being being a little winded after climbing hills or long stairways. It had finally gotten to the point where these frustrations were worse than my phobia of weight machines and gym culture so I gave in and joined.
For the first few months, the mere act of getting dressed and going to the gym was a huge mental challenge and I searched for excuses not to go. When I found myself getting really lazy, I would make an appointment with a personal trainer just to force myself. At first, it was awkward, not just learning the machines, but seeing everyone, almost all younger than me, in shape and looking good, while I struggled. But everyone was really nice and eventually, even though a bit slow, I found myself making progress and going to the gym actually became a part of my routine.
[pullquote]Age may be more than just a number, but attitude and taking a little bit of care of myself makes all the difference in the world.[/pullquote]
Even to this day, I can’t say I have ever looked forward to a workout, but now I do find myself looking forward to that feeling you get when a workout is over. I don’t think anyone comes home from a workout saying they wish they hadn’t done it. It has been a lot of little victories, but one thing I have found encouraging is that now, more often than not, when I set up a machine I find myself using more weight than the previous user did. Before I was always having to take weight off from previous users.
I do find it hard to keep working out when I am traveling. I get bored with the mere thought of doing bodyweight exercises like pushups or crunches. Because I know I am likely to fall behind when I am away, I use that as motivation to work harder when I am at home. When I am traveling I intentionally avoid elevators, escalators, and moving sidewalks to get just a little more exercise. Also, where possible, I will walk over taking a cab or public transportation. I try to always carry my own bags (much to the consternation of some bellmen) and if there happens to be a hotel gym I will use that. I refuse to spend too much time in search of places to work out, but it is nice when things fall into place.
I try to balance getting older gracefully with actively fighting the process. I still eat pretty much everything I want and I do occasionally punish myself with too much good wine or beer. Generally, now my level of overall health and fitness now is probably as good or better than it ever has been. I can now bound up and down stairs, crouching up and down to make photographs is easier and I don’t feel any guilt taking the occasional extra helping of pasta. Yes, recovery may take a little longer and my joints sometimes make more noise than I would like, but I feel better overall now than I did ten years ago.
Age may be more than just a number, but attitude and taking a little bit of care of myself makes all the difference in the world.