Fit at Fifty

I’m fit and fifty (plus some). I’ve exercised all my life: ballet from a very young age, netball, softball, athletics. I always competed in school sports: long jump, high jump and 100m and 200m races and relays. Later on as an adult when areobics first came into vogue I started doing those classes (Jane Fonda style). After my son was born I went back to ballet. And then I joined a gym. 6 days a week I worked out. Baby in the creche while I spent an hour or so blissfully exercising. I felt good. I enjoyed exercising. I still do.

I don’t understand people who don’t, but I get that I just have a partiuclar genetic make-up. Plus I’m blessed with a small frame. I’m 165cm tall and weigh about 53k. And I have relatively little body fat.

For years I took up just about every exercise craze that came around: high impact aerobics, low impact arobics, step, pilates, fitbox, boxercise, zumba. But increasingly, I started to notice twinges and aches – boxercise would make my lower back and hips ache, aerobics would bother my knees as did step. One day I threw out my rotator cuff as I thrust my arm up too fast.

A young woman I worked with told me about Bikram yoga. I had been telling her about a beautiful 50s sundress that I had that was a bit too tight in the waste (I couldn’t get the zip up) and she suggested I do Bikram. A few hot sweaty classes and I would get back into that dress. So I gave it a go.

Hot and sweaty? Like nothing you’ve ever known. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. But I persevered while still going to the gym on alternate days. My husband hated Bikram. He came to 3 classes and then point blank refused to go to any more. Even though we would always go and have a swim afterwards, it was too hot and too uncomfortable for him (and he couldn’t balance properly on one leg). I found a yoga studio half way between work and home and started doing more classes. And then I discovered power yoga (what’s that?) I was a real novice. Had no idea what a downward dog was or child’s pose, let alone any of the other poses. But I soon got the hang of it and started coming regularly. Soon I gave up the gym and now I am a yoga devotee.

At first, I just liked the exercise and discipline but soon I found myself coming out smiling feeling like I’d got exaclty what I needed, no matter how I was feeling on the way in. It felt good on more than just a physical level. I’m not a hippy yoga person (and I must say, I stay clear of those who are – they’re another breed) but I do think there’s some incredibly satisfying in just switching off and working with your breath and exercising your body – inside and out. Because yoga does have an effect on both your external muscles and your internal organs. Not to say anything of your mental state.

So at least 5 times a week I exercise. I recently joined one of those 24/7 gyms so I could get my cardio fix and also do some work to help support my back and arms etc. Every other day I try to get to the gym. At first I was going to the gym for a 30 minute cardio hit before my yoga class. But one year later it just feels too much.

Which brings me back to my initial intent: 50+ means a lack of energy. It just feels harder to do things. And I find I’m prone to injuries and when they do occur it takes much longer to recover and bounce back.

My greatest fear, post 50, is becoming one of those rotund unfit women. How is it that they get like that? I always vowed it would never happen to me. I always thought it must be that they didn’t exercise or they didn’t have a healthy diet. But I’m beginning to find out that that’s not the case. Sometimes its just the dreaded M word.