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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Age is Just a Number

I just received a book (from Amazon) that I have been very excited about reading! It's the Dara Torres book Age is Just a Number. She has become such an inspiration for me especially since I am in my mid-thirties. I am thrilled to see that you don't have to lose that competitive edge after a certain age. I grew up watching men and women give up being active when they turned 30. I do not want that for myself or my child. I have had this mental block for so long that age IS a number. Dara talks about feeling old at different ages and I completely understood what she meant. I felt old when I met my husband at 25 and had a child at 29. I felt old when I finally got my bachelor's degree at 31. I felt old at 32 when I started graduate school. And every time I train for something like a race or the attempted figure competition two years ago, I felt old.

Even though I have sometimes put up a mental block about age, I have never had a problem hitting the gym 5-6 days a week and pounding out a few miles on the road or lifting weights like a teenager. Now, my joints often ache, I have injured both of my shoulders and my back will sometimes give out. Ha. I know...I really do sound old. The truth is I have just learned to work around these issues and have found different forms of exercise to take over for the old ones. Age is not an excuse for letting yourself down.

Whenever we begin doubting our own abilities, we begin to feel even older. You have to realize that although your body may have certain limitations, you cannot give up. When I was younger, I kept thinking that I would just have to stop being active at some point other than taking walks or swimming. Then I ran a trail run with an 84 year old man. I decided to keep pace with him and I am so glad that I did. He was agile both mentally and physically and I was not slowing down to keep pace with him -believe me. This was a run that I had put together and a not a race so we were able to keep a leisurely pace and talk. Otherwise, he would have left me in the dust. He told me that he had cancer when he was in his sixties and the doctor told him he had about six months to live. He was a smoker and completely inactive at the time. He quite smoking immediately, became a vegan and a runner - in his sixties - WITH CANCER! Obviously he did not die after six months or even after six years. Here he was at 84 running with me. He told me of how he had run over 20 marathons and he planned to continue running in them. I was mesmerized by his story and I realized that age really is just a number. The age limitation is all in your head. I am not saying that you are going to live forever - you are not. That's why it is even more important that we pursue our goals no matter our age. You may not be able to do everything physically that you long to do if you have certain injuries or health issues so find another goal. Don't stop dreaming about all the wonderful and powerful things your body can do.

The next time you think you might want to try something new and then stop yourself because you think you might be too old - stop it! Think again. Think of the young 84 year old man I ran with or think of Dara Torres and Brett Favre who by conventional standards should have retired many years ago from their sports, but still believe in their abilities and push on. I often think about my many friends who are over the age of 50 who have all picked up running and other sports later in life. My other co-worker friend in her late forties went on an eight day excursion on the Appalachian trail with other women where they carried 50 pound backpacks and roughed it. I am sure it was tough, but they did it. None of these people have let age define them. Don't you let it define you either. Age is JUST a number.