Have you ever told yourself that what you were considering was impossible before you even began? I’ve done it more in recent years than ever before because I’ve grown accustomed to thinking that with middle age, I am naturally more limited! But that, I would suggest, is a lie. And with aging, there aren’t any rules! I am no less able now than I was twenty or thirty years ago. The actual difference in my fitness or abilities is only evident in that I may have a few more aches or pains when I do something, I may have to warm up a few minutes longer, and I may have to go a bit easier at first when attempting things, but the only real limits to training and physical fitness is in my imagination!
When I was younger, I had amazing endurance. It always took me a long time to get winded when working out, or when doing something physical. As an avid hiker, I was often chided by my friends as being part mountain goat, because the uphill effort wasn’t as taxing for me given my endurance. I’m not a fast runner or a speed demon in any pursuit, but I have that endurance consistently. Well, even with age, that hasn’t changed much. I’m still able to “go the distance” when it comes to physical activities and sporting endeavors. I can still hike and do hike, I can move up a flight of stairs without getting winded, and I can train for a considerable time before I start to get winded or fatigued. But the minute I try to sprint, run, or race through any sport, I can’t maintain the effort for very long. So really, not much has changed for me at this stage of life! With stretching, I’m just as flexible, with effort, I’m just as conditioned. The only thing I’ve really noticed with aging is a need to build and keep more muscle, as that seems to be less easy to do and more a challenge of our body’s aging process.
So the lesson I’ve learned the last few years is to not limit myself by what I might perceive as the natural result of aging! Why start to tell myself that aging will impact me this way or that if in fact, it’s not true! Why limit myself and possibly become more sedentary? Why would I keep putting limitations upon my abilities, my possibilities, my efforts, and my goals just because a calendar flips another page? I shouldn’t! I’m realizing that all the changes I perceived about aging are more about giving into self-limitations and false expectations associated with certain periods of life. And that notion of the possible limitations of aging leads a lot of people into prematurely sedentary lives, actually accelerating the aging process, mentally and physically! Loads of people tell themselves that they can’t, so they never make it to can! I don’t want to be one of those people, as life ceases being as meaningful when we give it less space for growth and when we give ourselves less capacity for fullness and fulfillment! I enjoy being active and challenging myself.
Last year, I set a goal during the Summer of swimming two miles without stopping. I have a pool in the backyard, so it was easy to imagine that such a goal would be possible in our long Summer swimming season here in the hot desert Southwest. I worked hard, built up my time each swim, and then swam with the purposeful fine-tuning of my stroke by paying attention to instructions I had once received in swim lessons. I bought equipment which made the effort easier, such as goggles, a cap, and a one-piece swimming suit. I swam several times a week, achieving my goal of two miles non-stop by early July of last year. Even though I had to quit swimming too early to have shoulder surgery (unrelated to my swimming), I felt great for pushing ahead with such a strong goal! This year in mid-May, I started on a new goal, swimming three miles non-stop! It’s a lot of laps in an in-ground residential pool, easily a couple hours of commitment per swim. But, I achieved that goal this year by early July and enjoyed a very productive and rewarding swimming season again! I’m not sure I will increase that goal for next Summer, as it requires a lot of time to swim even three miles at a time. I will keep that as a goal though, even though I’ll be another year older by then!
Since it finally got too cold in the pool for me to swim, now that it is Autumn, I have taken my physical pursuits and can-do attitude in fitness and put them into a new effort – running! I do struggle more with it as a goal, as it takes a lot more physical control and conditioning for me, with such an impactful exercise routine. The benefit of swimming is the low impact the water provides my body. But I’m determined to not let myself be limited by my own mind’s perception of my possible limitations! My body is amazing in that it accepts my efforts by acclimating to my conditioning efforts, so I am left to ponder what more I might accomplish?! Why would I say “never” until I at least try?! And my efforts, though slow and steady so far, have proven that I am already able to do more than if I had just told myself that I was incapable from the onset! My challenge is to build up to some major achievement with this, just as I did with swimming! Remember, with aging, there aren’t any rules.