Recently I found myself sweating it out in the gym and thinking to myself “Is HIIT an age-appropriate activity for someone like me (in their mid-forties)?” then I put down the 30lb sandbag and came to my senses; I was actually in the middle of a HIIT workout, and I was killing it.
Let me rewind a little bit. I love lifting weights, I’m not necessarily very strong and I don’t always lift consistently, but its an activity I always come back to when I’m in a fitness slump and it always makes me feel great, both mentally and physically. So naturally I’ve been cross-fit curious and HIIT curious for a number of years. But also scared that just one workout will leave me lying prone and sucking wind.
So when my 30-something neighbour invited me to try F45, a new functional-training HIIT gym that opened around the corner, I decided to finally do it. I’d go slow, I’d lift light and if I hated it I would simply never go back. With a one week free trial there was literally nothing to lose, expect perhaps “face” in front of my younger, fitter, neighbour.
And that’s how I found myself lifting heavier, going harder, and feeling amazing, yet questioning whether I belonged in a studio filled with younger, some much younger, people.
Its something I do now that I’m not as slim or as young as I used to be; whenever I walk into a new gym/restaurant/concert/etc., I check out the crowd; are there many women? What’s the median age? Is the crowd diverse ethnically and in body-shape and size? Are there other grey-hairs in here? Do I fit in? Is it okay for me to be here?
My F45 studio is full of pretty young and pretty fit people and it gets points for diversity of all kinds (thank you Toronto). However, I am definitely among the older folks in class and I’m positive I’m the only woman rocking a head of grey hair. So maybe I’m not exactly the target audience for F45, however, the idea that I shouldn’t be there while I was actually doing the workout seems ludicrous in retrospect but I had a genuine moment of doubt that I can’t shake off.
It’s clear to me now that this self-questioning is a symptom of the whole cultural idea that women have an expiry date and therefore when we reach a certain age or milestone (motherhood, menopause) that it’s no longer okay for us to [fill in the blank]. Wondering if I belonged in a HIIT class was like scolding another woman for wearing a mini skirt after age 40; unfair, arbitrary and sexist.
I choose to do F45 in middle age. I choose to enjoy it, and I choose to not care whether I’m the oldest person in class. If I can do it and I love it, I belong. There’s no age limit on feeling good in your own skin.
Jewel of Toronto is a feminist, fitness enthusiast, MBA living and thriving in Toronto. Her likes include pets, pizza and cool leggings.