Geriatric Gymnast · Self Care

“Age is just a number”

Yesterday, I didn’t feel well. I couldn’t completely put my finger on why, but I just didn’t feel…right. Mild nausea, feeling every little joint ache, low energy – every little thing that I might otherwise ignore, I felt. It’s not often I feel this way. Not that I don’t feel ouchie every so often, but I usually know where it’s coming from. For example, joint aches are from age or a workout the previous day. Nausea when I’m looking at my phone while riding in a moving vehicle. Low energy if I had a really active, stressful day. But it’s rare that I get hit all at once. Not to mention, my shoulder has been acting up and needs some medical attention.

Generally, I’m pretty in tune with my body. I pay attention to changes. Food isn’t usually an issue, unless I overeat or have too much to drink, but yesterday, my body was clearly dealing with something from the day before. And feeling unwell is so…unsettling. My norm is to feel pretty good, in spite of the normal process of age that keeps creeping up on me.

I think about people who feel unwell all the time; how unstable they feel because their bodies (or minds) are not operating the way they’re supposed to. How they still have to function while they are not in good form. I know this is why I spend so much time trying to stay fit, eat wisely, and take care of myself. I see a nutritionist once a month to keep my weight in check. She reminds me of the macronutrients I need and that I need to eat in a certain way to counteract the natural effects of aging and hormonal changes. I’m not in menopause yet, but it’s looming.

See, I’m at the age now where things start to break down. Technically, a woman’s bones stop naturally building in her thirties, so I took up gymnastics to counteract that process. Well, that’s not why I started – it was because I was jealous of my kids who were bouncing giddily on trampolines and I really wanted to do that as well. Then, I got hooked. Recently, when I went to urgent care for a gymnastics-related hip injury I sustained, I was fully anticipating the doctor to ask me why I would engage in such a dangerous, not-for-adults kind of activity (which happened before, thus my apprehension to go to the doctor whenever I get injured). Instead, she commented on how strong my bones must be with all of that bouncing. So, I’d like to think the universe pointed me in a direction that would keep my body healthy and strong. And I listened, happily. Oh, and my hip healed just fine, thank you very much.

On days when I don’t feel well (thankfully, those are few and far between), it makes me think about aging and well-being. I’m trying desperately to avoid the cross-hairs of time and disease. I think of my mom, who spent the better part of four years riding a roller coaster that she didn’t want to be on, battling cancer and everything that comes with it; the medication, the chemotherapy, surgeries, infusions, sudden trips to the ER when something went terribly wrong. Looking at it from the outside was terrifying. I can’t imagine actually going through it. I spend one day feeling slightly unwell and it rattles me. What happens if and when something really goes wrong?

I like to think that my history may have cosmically put me in a place to avoid age-related disease issues. When I was in my twenties, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It took two major surgeries (apparently one wasn’t enough) to remove the diseased gland, radioactive iodine treatments, and some medication balance. Now, I am disease-free, a mother of two teenagers, with a satisfying career and a penchant for taking care of myself. I take a tiny pill every morning to replace the thyroid hormone that my body can no longer naturally produce, and I’m off to have my day. In recent years, I’ve added more vitamins and minerals, glucosamine, fiber and fish oil to my morning regimen, in hopes that they will help keep the machine running smoothly. I like to think that I have paid my dues to the gods of disease, and now I’m free to enjoy the rest of my life with my health intact. I just need to pay attention, feed myself wisely, and keep moving. I hope that remains true in this second half of my life.

I guess I should mention that I will be turning fifty in a few months. People say, “age is just a number,” and while I laugh and agree on the outside, I know that is not really true. Age doesn’t have to dictate everything, but it does present some things to think about as you approach each day. I don’t heal as quickly as a twenty-year-old. My hormones are different, which slows my metabolism, despite all of the activity I do. My joints have more wear and tear on them. I need to rest more to recover from the demands I put on this body. That said, my brain doesn’t want me to slow down too much. There are too many things I want to try, and I want to be able to do them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

So for now, my philosophy is to “age smart.” Be mindful of what I can do today, do what it takes to maintain that, and try to challenge myself a little bit here and there. If I have to take a step back and rest, so be it. When I feel strong, give a little extra push. I’m not planning to run a marathon, but I’m not against considering the idea if the conditions are right. Heck, I did a half-marathon last year. It took me three-and-a-half hours to complete, but I did it. I think I have a decent balance (whatever that means) because I wake up most mornings feeling ready to have a good day.

Today, I woke up feeling much better than I did yesterday. I’m planning on going for a hike later with a twenty-something friend. I hope she can keep up with me.

Read more about my flipping escapades in the first official installment of my Geriatric Gymnastics blog series, Chapter 1: Flipping For All To See

8 thoughts on ““Age is just a number”

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