by Aimée Morrison
I’m about to turn 45 and I’m getting faster and stronger.
No, I’m not immune to aging. The thing is, though, that I had such excruciatingly bad experiences with formal exercise, sports, and athletics my whole childhood that my self-image was based on the idea that I was freakishly unfit. I grew up scrawny, easily winded, and clumsy. I was picked last for every team. I reliably failed the “ParticipACTION fitness challenge” every single year of elementary school, an annual humiliation that has etched certain scenes in my memory forever, scenes that still make me feel small and worthless, even now.
Sports and athleticism for me gained an indelible taint of public humiliation in groups. I have weird, disproportionate emotional reactions to athletic situations to this day. I’ve been running off and on since I was about 28, for example, and so far, my running goal has always been, simply, this: do not humiliate yourself by having to stop in front of real runners. Naturally, this limits me. I do training runs with my (naturally athletic) husband and he is always encouraging me to push my pace, to go harder, to get stronger and I refuse absolutely: what happens when I hit my limit and I have to stop? I will have failed. He doesn’t know that I can’t I can’t I can’t I don’t want him to find out.
We were, actually, going longer and farther and sometimes even faster, even if I found that scary and waited, inevitably to fail. And then I broke my foot at camp and had to stop all activity for eight weeks. I knew I was doomed to lose any and all gains, thrown back well behind the starting line, again.
But do you know what? Since I was cleared to get back into my running shoes, I built back up from scratch to a personal best 5k time in less than six weeks. Because I decided to push. I’ve been doing long runs of 7.5-8k. Today, I’m going to do a slow 10k in the snow. I’m amazing myself.
Maybe, just ready, I am ready to say I’m an athlete.
The good news is that now that I’m a little more confident, and have been learning about how training works, is that I am in fact legitimately improving in all areas. I don’t think I’ve hit my peak yet, and that’s exciting. The bad news is that these gains have space to happen in my middle-aged body because so many gym classes, sports days, “coaches”, and my own experiences over the first 25-30 years of my life led me to believe I could never amount to anything, fitness-wise. And so I didn’t.
That’s why I’m still getting faster and stronger now, in middle age, because I was so traumatized I never even tried.
I’m trying now.
For the new year, I’ve signed up to a running clinic. I’m going to train for a half marathon. I’m joining a group, and I’ll push my lungs and my muscles to their limits with a coach, in public. I’m terrified. I’m excited. This new year, I’m going to be an athlete, and I’m going to change my old story about fitness and athleticism and my own abilities into a new and better one.
Aimée Morrison has been practicing yoga for 11 years, training in a 200 hour YTT in 2014, and Yoga for Round Bodies 2016. Erstwhile yoga teacher introductory to advanced at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener. In her spare time, associate prof at UWaterloo, specializing in social media.