by Michele A.
Two years ago, when I was 49, I broke my ankle while I was out riding on local trails. I wasn’t being a daredevil and the fall was unremarkable; I just fell in exactly the wrong way. When sharing my story with various people, I was taken aback by the reaction I got from several women who all told me that I was too old to be doing such things and I should stop.
One of these women (I’ll refer to her as Nancy) was a colleague I respect and admire who I have known for over 20 years. She has mentored many women in our organization to successfully navigate their careers and has provided solid advice to countless mothers on how to effectively balance a career and a family. Nancy has both daughters and granddaughters All these factors made me especially surprised and hurt to hear this comment from her.
Shortly after I had my fall there were three other women close to my age in my office who sustained injuries. One acquired a tear her shoulder after slipping in a neighbor’s driveway after having had several drinks at a party. The second missed a bottom step while carrying a laundry basket and fractured her foot. The third broke her ankle from losing her balance and lurching forward while she was a passenger on a speedboat outing on a lake in Italy.
It made me wonder, did anyone tell them they were too old to be drinking at parties or doing laundry or boating in a foreign country? I doubt it. Would Nancy or the other women who told me I was too old to be riding a bike have said the same thing to a man my age? Perhaps, but I doubt that too.
After stewing about this for some time and then reflecting upon it further, I concluded that Nancy and the other women weren’t intentionally being sexist or ageist, but they just didn’t get it. They had never taken part in this kind of adventure sport and didn’t know other women their age that did. Because, let’s face it, there aren’t that many of us. By “us” I mean women over 45 who are fitness-focused, competitive and/or performance minded.
We are women who are out adventuring and using their bodies to do things like get themselves across many miles of various kinds of terrain, over hills and through bodies of water. Many of us are there, or have been there, or are looking to be there again, following injury or disability or other life adjustment (or, perhaps ,a global pandemic…)
Recently I discovered the podcast “Hit Play Not Pause” and am so glad I did. It’s for “active, performance-minded women who aren’t willing to put their best years behind them.” I’m certainly not willing to give up doing the things I love now that I’m over 50, and I hope to continue doing them for many years to come.
This podcast is a godsend because I’ve been experiencing unpleasant and frustrating things with my body in the past few years that I don’t understand. Short of comparing notes with friends, information about being active in menopausal years is hard to come by. Not much research has been done on active women in this age group.
I’ve gotten lots of practical advice listening to the podcast: herbal remedies that can reduce hot flashes; ways to keep my lady parts from getting dry; eating and exercising approaches that can help with weight gain brought on by changing hormones. Specifically, I’ve learned that while we may tend to gravitate towards long, slow endurance workouts, we also need to include some high intensity work, like Plyometrics, to replace in our muscles what we’ve lost from reduced estrogen. (Listen to episode 1 for the science behind this.)
I also found out that we’re never too old to be doing Kegel exercises! It can help with incontinence. (Tune into episode 4 to find out more.) These were all useful tips, but the most important things I’ve gotten out of listening to the podcast are a mindset and a community.
If you don’t have much time to listen to podcasts, there’s one particular episode I’d highly recommend – “Joy Goals with Kristen Dieffenbach”. There’s so much good coaching in it about how to manage your own self-image and how to think about your goals amidst a body that is inevitably going to change whether you like it or not.
I walked away from this episode inspired and also with a powerful realization. We – the over-45 women need to be the role models for the generation behind us. Our own role models for being active over 45 are few and far between. Instead of worrying aloud about the weight gain or critically eyeing the crepe-like skin below the leg of your bike shorts, appreciate all that your body has done for you. Show younger women what is possible because of strength and determination. And show them that you can keep doing it for many, many years. Let’s pave the path for them and show them how it’s done, shall we?