I had that moment this week; the one where a stranger comes up to you at the gym and you are in that immediate post workout state – sweaty, tired, groping for keys, and wondering if you even have the strength to get up from the chair – and they say “I’ve been watching you, and I see how hard you work.”
I know it’s hard work, as I often feel my body struggle with making one more split squat, with pulling one more set of body rows, with adding 20 more seconds on the climbing ladder.
It never occurred to me that I would be an inspiration to someone given that I don’t fit society’s view of what fit should be. But the fitness process I’m in has offered many discoveries, and I find myself doing things I didn’t think were possible and enjoying it.
I am especially grateful for discovering that post 50, my body can still work hard, even when I desperately want to hit the bench where I can collapse with my water bottle.
I wasn’t always unfit. But I can’t really say I was properly fit either. I was just young enough and active enough at the time until I stopped running and rowing when my work schedule finally took over and my connection to organized fitness crumbled.
Two years ago though, I had that conversation with my doctor. I wasn’t ignoring her, or all the stuff I had absorbed after ten years in health promotion and public health, but I wasn’t really paying attention either. After all, I ate well, avoided salt and high fatty foods, walked three times a week most of the year, had never smoked a cigarette, and looked after my mental well-being.
Not long after that chat, I was on a long-planned family trip when I found myself running for a flight and wondering if I was going to make it to the gate, never mind the plane, without collapsing.
I didn’t though, and when I came back, I did some research and hired a trainer. I laugh when I think about my first fitness assessment. I wince when I remember how stiff and sore I was after each session for those first four months.
But I can’t help smiling when I think about my first series of goblet squats, or when I finished a conditioning set without hitting the wall, literally and figuratively, or when I had to use chalk for the first time.
When that nice person at the gym gave me that compliment, she reminded me of all the tiny steps I had taken to get to the place where I am now. Where lifting heavy things and putting them down again was (and still is) something fun, where developing a consistent approach to eating, sleeping and working out actually does make a difference not in size but in the physiological markers that matter, where connecting with others who are getting their fit on in whatever way that works for them is a good place to be.
These days, every session at the gym brings me another step closer to where being fit at 55 is not a dream anymore, but a definite reality.
Martha is a consultant who writes, teaches and lives in Newfoundland. She is incredibly disappointed that a year of flinging weight around has not added a single inch to her height or her reach.