An online weightlifting buddy of mine confessed over the weekend that she was in a little funk over her impending 55th birthday. No amount of reassurance that she was fitter and shmexier than most people half her age would relieve the funk, because that wasn't actually the problem. She knows that she's in better shape than many 25 year olds. No, it's more what society attaches to her forthcoming age that was wearing her down. A person can only receive so many AARP solicitations or opportunities for the "senior discount" before she is forced to go, "Holy shit. The world thinks I'm OLD."
I was commiserating with her because I've had a few WTF moments concerning my upcoming 50th birthday or my age in general. You know, like when you realize that, statistically, you are probably closer to death than you are high school? It's a little disconcerting, especially when in your own head you're still the same hoodie-wearing, semi-hip young thang you always were. Another example I shared was that my Y has started a new program this session which I believe is officially called Fitness Over 50, but which on close examination really should be called Exercise for the Decrepit. If, y'know, anyone cared about truth-in-advertising laws. God. That one killed me. Do 50 year olds really need to be grouped in with the senior citizens, fitness-wise? Maybe the ones who've never exercised a day in their lives, are terribly overweight and/or have serious pre-existing health conditions, but wouldn't you also say that about a 30 year old who's never exercised and is very obese and/or has a serious medical condition? Call it Fitness for the Unfit or something and leave my next birthday out of it, yo. (Not to mention, there are some actual elderly people at my Y who are super-fit. They aren't the target market for this class either.)
(Just look at this guy whose picture I snagged off the internet. Doesn't he look Perky and like He Even Lifts? Get that actor a Cialis commercial, stat.)
And then this morning, on the heels of that, another online buddy who I'm fairly sure wasn't privvy to the weekend's conversation, mentioned in passing that in the group exercise class that she teaches for people over 50 (sigh--and she's in Europe; apparently 50 =decrepit there too) she was having her students do front/Zercher squats which they complained about. And that she gave them the option of using weights anywhere from 12 to 45 lbs.
It made me realize--two years ago I was an average almost-48 year old woman, healthy and reasonably fit for a middle-aged chick, but not anyone who was a life-long athlete, super jock, or in any way remarkable. My exercise consisted of walking a lot and doing yoga on and off. Then I started lifting. This morning I back-squatted 170 for reps. And that's not my absolute max. My point being, if an average middle-aged, almost-50 year old woman with no great athletic gifts can squat 1.5x her bodyweight after a couple years of training, just through, y'know, showing up at the gym several times a week and doing work, how much are we short-changing 50-ish people and above by convincing them they need special classes, etc? By making them think it's too late, they'll never lift heavy or run fast or swim far or whatever? Yeah, maybe they (we) *won't* reach the level that someone starting out on an exercise program when they're 20 will. Maybe they won't be as strong or fast or full of endurance. Maybe it will take them longer to reach their goals. But that doesn't mean they need to stick to aqua aerobics with the 2lb dumbbells either.
Um, no disrespect to those aqua aerobics ladies. Cause they're tough. They'll cut a bitch if you interfere with their sauna time.