Mid-Life Fitness

  • Do something, anything.
  • Do it more than once in a while.
  • Stretch frequently.
  • Find opportunities to wiggle, hang, swing, jump.
  • If you like to be around people, go find some folks who are doing what you like to do and join them.
  • If you don’t like people so much, enjoy working on your own without an audience.
  • Go easy.
  • Even when you go hard, take it easy.
  • Pain means that something hurts. Stop and find out what it is. Deal with it sooner, not later.
  • Think injury prevention. Always. (Warm up well, wear safety gear as necessary, calculate risk reasonably)
  • Spend some time with kids between the ages of 3 and 10. Play something outside.
  • There are lots of ways to build strength. Free weights engage your system more thoroughly and naturally than machines. Using your own body weight provides other benefits.
  • Do things that you enjoy. There are no medals for longest endured drudgery.
  • Sleep more.
  • Pay no heed to the airbrushed images on the cover of fitness and health magazines – movement is for all of us and can take hundreds of forms and do plenty of good.
  • It’s not about the gear you’re sporting, the membership you’ve acquired, what your friends think.
  • Keep showing up even when you have your doubts, reservations and tight hamstrings.

Here’s where this list came from. Many of my adult years have been deeply involved with fitness in one form or another: Initially as a track coach, then as a teacher of physical education, as a competitive runner and more recently as recreational speed skater.  People who meet me often make assumptions about my take on all things fitness. They guess that I must be an especially healthy eater, that I run every day, and that I consistently push myself. All false assumptions and for years, in fact.

What is true is that I have a good sense of what my body is capable of. I am aware of my strengths and weaknesses and understand how these can change over time and also be shaped. Up until recently I didn’t have to worry much about diet or weight and through my work I have had consistent access to both the time and facilities to practice movement in multiple forms.

Having made it to mid-life in reasonably good shape I’ve taken the opportunity to re-evaluate what it means to be fit, how I want to live my fitness for the long haul, and what beliefs and behaviors I may need to adapt to this later phase and understanding. The list above presents a smattering of my current thinking about mid-life fitness. Above all, I’ve come to realize that the things that mattered to me at 30 and 35 do not hold as much currency any more. I’m not interested in monitoring or programming or comparing my physical activity in the same way. I want to either enjoy myself immensely or be clear that the reason I am NOT enjoying myself immensely while moving is a conscious choice to act on another, perhaps different priority.

Back in my competitive days, I was “in it to win it.” When I use the same phrase today, “winning” can mean a whole host of things: showing up, following through, experiencing pleasure, banishing guilt. Also as a full time teacher of physical education, the importance of modeling healthy movement attitudes and approaches remains top of mind. My students discover fairly early on that Ms. Spelic is still learning how to do things -how to juggle a soccer ball, for instance. To their eyes, it often appears that I can do about anything. At mid-life I am proud of some of the things I can do and am getting better at and I have a healthy respect for the skills and tasks which continue to dog me.
Traditional aspects of fitness – flexibility, strength, endurance – start from the heart and mind these days and feed my soul as well as my body. I want to remain flexible in my thinking, strong in my commitment to being all of me and enduring in my capacity to love when it feels hard to keep loving. There can be no technology to measure my progress in these domains. My mid-life fitness remains distinctly my own: independent, fierce, compassionate and present.




2 thoughts on “Mid-Life Fitness

  1. Right on Sherri! Your words of wisdom apply on an age- and health-adjusted basis to the elderly. The fitness director in our retirement community urges residents to “wave their arms,” if that’s the best they can do. I’ll find ways to pass your advice on to some of my peers. Cheers from your soon-to-be 85 year old Uncle Thad.

    1. Thank you, Uncle Thad, for sharing this perspective. Of course this lifetime endeavor of remaining fit extends far beyond mid-life and I am so pleased to know that you find some elements here worth sharing. I am honored and humbled. Be well and thanks again!

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