Now We Are 50 - Fitness

I love to walk, especially with friends or one of my dogs, with music, or an audible book. But also alone with just the sounds of the city or the birds as accompaniment. Perhaps this is because of an energetic dad who always insisted that his family get up and out and walking – around the reservoir, up the mountain, into town. Somewhere, anywhere!

I also like to run. Over the years I’ve done 10Ks and half marathons. I’ll envy the participants in this weekend’s Baltimore Festival their runner’s highs, firm thighs, and well deserved desserts without guilt. These days three or four miles with no hills is about my speed.

I have to admit, however, that I haven’t had much success sticking to any other form of exercise. This despite the research about the importance of toning and strengthening, especially as we get older. “It’s ok,” I’ve told myself, because statements by fitness experts like “As we age our core strength suffers, which can result in bad posture and a sore back” certainly don’t apply to me. At least I thought that until the unfortunate incident of the vacuum cleaner in the closet when, after a weekend away and a get-the-house-clean binge upon my return, I hurt my back. I hurt my back putting away the vacuum cleaner. Mind you it is an Electrolux, the Humvee of vacuums, and heavy. But still, a little twist and down I went in excruciating pain.

Thankfully, it was a minor injury and it abated in a couple of days. But it scared me. And it made me realize that the whole “core strength” thing is for real. “Don’t keep doing the same thing day in day out,” advise the experts. “Change your routine regularly. If you run at the same speed all the time you won’t get any stronger or fitter.” So much for all those steps, as well documented as they are on my Fitbit. My core is weak. It needs some love – tough love, actually.

So here we go. Of course, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve understood the importance of working out. I’ve tried things, like many of us have.

I’ve been through a yoga phase. I found a nice studio with a teacher I really liked who blended yoga with fitness in a perfect balance. I felt both physically and spiritually fulfilled at the end of a class (even if I did cheat a bit by ticking through my to-do list during Shavasana). But then the teacher sold her studio and moved away.

When a friend recently invited me to her hot yoga class, I jumped at the chance to join her. “It’s been a while but I am sure it will come back to me,” I told her. “I love yoga!”

Well, she’s still my friend. But she might have been a bit embarrassed at my flailing around, my short hair gone crazier than Trump’s comb-over in a cartoon. The warm buzz of feeling perfectly aligned, the grace that I thought I had, were not present. “Are you ok?” the lithe young teacher, standing on her head, asked as I panted in the back. “Of course!” I gasped. Was the hot flash menopause, the room, my humiliation, or all three? “I think I need a refresher class,” I told my friend.

The paddle board seemed like a great idea. My husband and sons frequently go fishing in a nice pond on the weekends. What a perfect opportunity to join them and get a core workout. This could be it! Balancing was a bit tricky at first and it was strange to stand on the water. It made me feel vulnerable and a little bit seasick. But the kids were thrilled. “Go Mom,” they cheered. They took a picture of me as I paddled to shore. Then they showed me the photo. Two things: 1) Yes indeed, my core needs work. 2) I will never get on a paddle board again in front of another human being.

Boot camps are all the rage so I went to one with another friend. It was fun – all those bunny hops with a barbell, push-ups while dangling from straps, burpees, planks. Yippee! Until the middle of the night when I tapped my husband in bed next to me. “I think maybe you should take me to the hospital.” A complex assortment of ice packs and Advil did the trick. No Pain, No Gain. Got it! But I think that particular format may have been like diving in the deep end without knowing how to swim.

And so I forge on. Just do it! I’m not giving up on this because I know what’s at stake – my health. Unfortunately, according to the experts, there’s no going back to the days of easy fitness, to taking my body’s strength, flexibility and endurance for granted. AND I’ve still got to wrestle that vacuum.

Now I’m touring gyms in my area, looking at the course schedules and the costs of a few sessions with a personal trainer. One expert suggests this accountability might be helpful, “Make an appointment with a healthy choice!”

I’m also exploring the app world. There’s nothing like a badge or a beep from your precious phone to affirm your efforts. Currently I’m enjoying a flirtation with a gal I’ll call “Seven.” We spend a little time together every day. I lock the front door and draw the shades so that we’re not disturbed. (Really it is so no one catches me high-knee running-in-place or toppling over in my side plank.)

She’s quite serious, my new virtual friend, counting down to each exercise in the series. “You’re halfway there,” she’ll remind me cheerfully. “I hope so!” I reply, game. The exercises are scientifically chosen, by the way. They’re proven. Well, at the very least for now, they’re seven steps in the right direction.


‘Now We Are 50’ is proudly supported by AARP Maryland, helping the 50+ community and their families achieve their real possibilities.


Christine Kouwenhoven

Christine Kouwenhoven is a local freelance writer. She writes the column "Now We Are 50" every second Tuesday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.

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