The best shape of my life

May 27, 2010

Aging brings with it many challenges, and one of them is staying in shape. By this time in life, most of us are more sedentary and the cruel fact is that it happens when our caloric needs also decrease.

Our eating habits usually stay the same.

I know quite a few people in my age group who are getting in shape. I also know quite a few who have remained in shape, usually people who have been athletic all their lives. (Yes, that’s you, Middle-aged Tart, you look great! And you Ms. H! And Ms. J!)

I come from a family that takes fitness seriously. My mother didn’t, but my father worked out two hours daily at the gym until he had to move to a home and he ran 10 miles a day throughout his 40s and 50s. My siblings ski and exercise daily.

I’ve been sporadic in my fitness habits as my hobbies are more cerebral. I like to joke that I’m the family intellectual (that IS a joke if you know my family). Unfortunately, thinking well does not exercise my cardiovascular system nor does it burn as many calories as an hour on the elliptical.

Fortunately, I’m not one of those women obsessed with being stick-thin. I’m pretty ok at between a size 10 and 12 and I have the wardrobe to prove it. A wardrobe that no longer fits.

About a month ago I started working out with a new trainer. M. doesn’t like the regimentation of regular appointments, but it’s the only way I get it done. And I like having professional guidance toward my goals. Being retired makes it so much easier to do this.

Trainer Chris is not even 30 and, it turns out, very knowledgeable about physiology and body mechanics. He is kicking my butt big-time and I LOVE going. We lift weights and use the body as resistance, usually without stopping. So it’s like a circuit with cardio benefit. I am the kind of determined client who will always complete the set and try to do one more. The endorphin rush at the end is like a drug. I crave it.

I was worried that his youth meant he wouldn’t get how it is for people my age. But not so. If I feel that I’m straining or using the wrong muscles, he doesn’t abandon the exercise, he modifies it. The other day I was using my neck on something. “Try it with your chin tucked,” he suggested. It worked. Another exercise put excess strain on my back. “Move your hands further apart,” was the solution.

This stuff works.

I can see incremental results as I start my second month and that keeps me going. Muscle stiffness, those creaks and pops –gone. My back, which went out in a big way for the first time in February and March, is healed, in part thanks to work we did to stretch and strengthen the muscles.

I like to work toward a goal and I thought a worthy one was doing a bunch of men’s push-ups. You might remember that I have never had any upper body strength, but last year I did my first push-up ever. Now I want to do a bunch.

Trainer Chris upped the ante. “By fall, I want to take you to the park and let you do the obstacle course,” he said. “You’ll be able to do it.”

It’s pretty hard. I mean, seriously hard. Not anything I figured I could do.

I’m not sure if he knew that his faith that I would get there is a major motivator. I can’t WAIT to do it.

So I took it one step further. By the end of the year, I want to be in the best shape of my life. I have a milestone birthday coming up in 2011 and I want to enter that decade in the best shape of my life.

We are partners in this venture, Trainer Chris and I.

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