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.




Try on someone else’s shoes – Alternative summer PD

Shoes to try on... Pixabay.com
Shoes to try on…

Opportunities for learning abound when we open ourselves to the possibilities.
Here’s an example: My 6 year old son is attending summer day camp at my school this week. For him it’s a novel situation. He’s involved with peers who hail from all over the world and speaks English all day long (instead of German). He’s familiar with the school but is not a student there. He is having a blast and enjoys telling me about all the games they play and what he made during arts and crafts. The difference for me is that I get to take on the role of parent/customer on my home turf. And in this case, it’s awesome.

I drop him off with my smiling and good humored colleagues. He then starts chatting with his favorite counselors, most of whom are alumni or high school students whom I taught or coached at one point. I am also acutely aware of my responsibilities as a parent in making the cooperation a good one: packing him a good lunch, putting on the sunscreen, respecting the pick-up and drop-off times. When I come to pick him up, I get to stand among the other parents: relaxed, unhurried and so glad to be on the receiving end of excellent care and service. My appreciation for what my colleagues do in these days to challenge, encourage and delight my youngest is immeasurable. What a gift it is to be able to experience the operation from the other side!

This got me thinking about how valuable it can be for us not only as educators, simply as people, to shift our typical perspective and try on someone else’s shoes for a bit. It might be as easy as acknowledging the good work that someone is doing with your child or children and considering the specific elements which contribute to making that a reality. Other contexts present other opportunities. Listening to my oldest son describe the details of his creative process in putting together a well edited video of his last big drum and bass set and feeling his disappointment when the rendering got stuck some 20 hours in helped me think about the challenges of making art and the personal investment it requires. While researching for my coaching practice I recently enjoyed a conversation with a high school principal in which I asked him about the demands, rewards, and challenges of his job. The anecdotes and reflections he shared with me proved thoroughly enriching and enlightening. My curiosity was rewarded tenfold thanks to his openness and a generous time frame. He afforded me the chance to try on his leadership shoes and all I did up front was request a conversation.

Going to a conference? Take advantage of being the participant/learner and benefiting from someone else’s efforts to enhance understanding, generate enthusiasm or spark action.  And before you unleash the criticism, remind yourself of the bravery and preparation that most likely went into creating the offering. If you were his or her coach, what feedback would you give to help that person do better the next time? Try on the shoes.

While the summer is a great stretch of time for educators to explore a variety of professional development options, it can also provide countless opportunities for us to engage in the other PD: Personal Development. In these situations we can actively strengthen and grow the greatest difference-making resource we have at our disposal: our full humanity. That said, I see that  the muscles I really need to train this summer are : outreach, connection and perspective.  There are so many different shoes out there to see and try on!  My PD agenda just got a whole lot richer and deeper.