Search This Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2012

exercise for old people

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.



  1. Fit for Life is the class at my gym for seniors. The description on the schedule is "play smart and stay young. This class consists of strength, balance, and agility designed for safety and flexibility."


    I have happened to walk by when class is over and not a drop of sweat on those ladies/gentlemen.

  2. Yes, Terri, very soon you and I shall need to start worrying about our "agility" lest we slip in the shower and be trapped under our loofahs. Or something. I suppose if this "fitness" shiz doesn't work out, I can spring for one of those Life Alerts. ;-)

  3. Lol! Help! I've fallen and I can't get up.

    My mom is 82 and walks uphill on a flipping treadmill at the gym everyday, lifts light weights, and drives way too fast.

    I want to be like her :).

  4. Wow, I want to grow up to be like Trri's mom and mine!
    This is a really good topic, Andrea and one to which I can actually add something that doesn't sound like just "class participation" (used to want to slap those who did that; you know, say something irrelevant just so they and the teacher could hear them saying SOMETHING). Ok, off a tangent again. Since I just turned 56 and I've told younger people repeatedly that UNLESS there are major health issues they will pretty much always feel like they are stuck at 18, I have a theory. It is similar to the impression a person has re. "being fat", based on whether or not one was overweight earlier in life, say from the time of childhood.
    I think that those of us who have not suffered through THAT particular nightmare, but who may have had temporary periods of wt. gain, due to injury or life events that interfered with our typical eating and activity levels, never ACTUALLY feel like we are fat, though in reality, we ARE fat. It's one of those circumstances, like a temporarily messy house. "I'll get to it when this thing is resolved and the house will be back to normal" and we do and it is. This is my longwinded way of saying that the way in which we PERCEIVE ourselves guides the way in which we behave. EVEN when we are in complete denial about the stage of life we've reached (i.e. 80 and quite unable to do what she used to, like my Alpine mom), we think we are strong, fit, able and NOTHING like other people our age. That attitude, in my experience, often leads to amazing feats of strength, ability to heal and recover faster from injury and surgery and a determination that results in being able to achieve what others would never dream of achieving in circumstances that may incapacitate others permanently or even lead to death. My mom has demonstrated that "it ain't over till it's over" and the ONLY thing to which I can attribute her survival of unbelievable circumstances is that she grew up believing that she was strong and can do just about anything.