Courtesy, seniors and fitness assumptions

By MarthaFitAt55

I’ve discovered that I can be seduced by click bait. I see the headlines, and boom, there I am reading an article and fuming over the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss screamer headlines and their unsubstantiated content, but sometimes, you get drawn into an article because you just can’t help yourself.

STOP OFFERING YOUR SEAT TO ELDERLY PEOPLE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT, ADVISE HEALTH EXPERTS

So I went there and was appalled and a little angry. Appalled as the article recommends not offering seniors a seat as standing is way better than sitting. Angry because the article makes no mention of the risk of falls from a lurching bus or tram.

Seniors riding a bus

Image shows seniors riding the The Rapid (the bus system serving Grand Rapids, Michigan

 

The Reader’s Digest version is this: older people need encouragement to keep fit. Sedentary activity, including sitting on public transport, leads to negative health effects. Encourage them to be active, like taking the stairs or walking for ten minutes a day. In fact, the expert quoted in the article says we should “think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.”

For those of us under 60 with a reasonable amount of calcium in our diet, the risk posed by an unexpected lurch or stop on the bus is at most a possible wrench or at least a bark of our shins against someone’s briefcase or shopping bag.

For seniors, it’s a different story. I found a guide encouraging active living habits for seniors on line, and even it warned them about the risks of sudden stops on public transport. To wit,

“It is also important to be alert so that you do not accidentally get injured on public transportation. Busses and taxis are notorious for being rough rides, and during quick turns or stops you may jerk forward in your seat. If you are not paying attention, then you could fall out of your seat and injure yourself. Always hold onto the bottom of your seat or onto a railing in the bus or taxi to keep yourself secured.”

According to Indiana University, the impact of falls is great:

  • Falls are the leading cause of a move to skilled-care facilities, often long term.
  • 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe physical injuries including breaks, cuts, and bruising.
  • Falls often result in long-term pain.
  • Falls involving a hip fracture lead to 10-15% reduction in life expectancy.
  • Older adults who fall are likely to worry about the future and loss of independence.
  • Loss of self-esteem and mobility leads to decreased activity and eventually inability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Because of decreased confidence and physical functioning, patients who fall are likely to fall again.
  • Elderly who fall are less likely to take part in beneficial activities like exercising or socializing because of a fear of getting hurt again and the embarrassment of a fall.

I don’t know about you, but if I were 65 or older, I would rather be seen as someone in need of a seat rather than someone in need of a hike. Mostly it’s simple courtesy as one should never assume that one is either fit or unfit. Maybe they’ve just come back from a rousing afternoon with the grand children; perhaps they’ve just spent time in a gym pushing weights around. Who knows? Sometimes, we just like to sit and watch the passing scene out the window.

Next time I see a senior, I’ll ask them if they want my seat and let them make the choice, not me.

— MarthaFitat55 has been working hard to build strong bones and muscles so she can keep standing for a long, long time.

Choosing to Age Well (an interview)

Kathy (left) and Tracy (right) in Nantucket, August 2017. Photo description: two women both in white sleeveless tops, Kathy in wide black pants, Tracy in grey capris. White fireplace mantel in background.

Kathy (left) and Tracy (right) in Nantucket, August 2017. Photo description: two women both in white sleeveless tops, Kathy in wide black pants, Tracy in grey capris. White fireplace mantel in background.

Sam and I started the blog and our “fittest by 50” challenge back in 2012 because we wanted to be the fittest we’d ever been in our lives by the time we turned 50. We both got there, and we’ve both continued to pursue physical fitness as we approach our 53rd birthdays (and the blog’s 5th birthday).

This week I’m in Nantucket on the boat and visiting some friends who rented a house here for the week. I was chatting with my friend Kathy, who said she just started working with a trainer at age 61, I was searching around for a topic to blog about today and I decided an interview with Kathy would be just the thing.

Tracy: What made you want to start working with a trainer?

Kathy: I wanted the support and encouragement. I had started on my own a few years ago and I couldn’t maintain it because I went all out too fast. I wanted a trainer to have a slower start and stay balanced.

Tracy: Had you ever worked with a trainer before?

Kathy: For a short period when I was in my late-thirties.

Tracy: Can you give me a brief history of your “fitness/exercise” history in adulthood?

Kathy: After I had my daughter, when I was 34, I started working out. I was never an athletic kid. I went to the gym and did fitness classes. I liked the “aerobics” classes and step classes. I did some weights on my own. I did that for 10-15 years and was pretty fit the whole time. I was also white water canoing during that time. Then life got busy.

Tracy: Since then?

Kathy: I’ve done nothing pretty much for ten years.

Tracy: Do you have any specific goals for your work with your trainer?

Kathy: I want to feel strong and not be in pain and to improve my overall fitness. I went to the West Coast last year and we went to the top of Whistler. I had such a tough time walking down. It was hard on my knees and it really shocked me how much it hurt my knees and back.

I told my trainer I want to be “the most improved” at my gym. That’s my goal for the next year.

Tracy: How often do you go?

Kathy: I go three times a week with my trainer. And then I try to go 2-3 more times a week to yoga or other classes. I committed and paid in advance for 8 months of three times a week training.

Tracy: How long have you been going to your trainer? And have you been consistent?

Kathy: I’ve been going for seven weeks. Even when my trainer left and I had to wait a week for my new one, I went on my own.

Tracy: Have you felt any noticeable changes so far?

Kathy: Absolutely. My body aches are gone completely. I’ve got more energy sometimes. I’m not really sleeping better yet, but I think it’s too much “screen time.” I’m a lot stronger. For example, I can do so much more in my workouts now. I couldn’t do a single squat at the beginning. Now I can do three sets of 20 goblet squats.

Tracy: For your “most improved” goal, what are noticeable measures?

Kathy: They’re big on functional mobility at my gym and they ask you to do that test where you have to get up from the floor without using your hands. I can’t do that. I want to be able to. I see people doing things that I want to be able do. For example, kettlebell Turkish get-ups.

Tracy: Do you have any words of wisdom for other women, especially women in their sixties, who want to start a new fitness program?

Kathy: It’s amazing how fast you start seeing results. I was absolutely amazed.

Tracy: Thank you so much for talking to me and good luck with your new fitness program.

Today I Ran (Guest Post)

Today I ran.

I didn’t run far but for me this is a milestone nonetheless. It’s not that I have been entirely inactive. Although I broke my foot (a stress fracture) a year and a half ago, and it did take most of a year to heal, since the break occurred while I was running I figured that even if it healed I wouldn’t run again. 

Running hadn’t been my main form of exercise for about 5 years and so I felt I could deal with that. I do CrossFit (see my earlier post on this), bike, and hike and so I thought I could let running go. I mean, I’m 66 and so I figured that there are some things that maybe I have to admit I can’t do any more. But apparently running isn’t one of them (yet).

This is what that means to me. 

First, I can still come all the way back from a pretty distressing injury even if not that serious injury. I was in a boot and on crutches for 6 weeks but struggling long after that. Resilience is a good thing and so that’s reassuring. 

Second, I discovered that even when injured it is worth continuing to exercise. The trainer I work with (the wonderful Brandy) figured I could still row even with my foot is a clumsy hard boot (the stationary bike and running were clearly out – oh, and no burpies either). I am grateful that she was inventive. I put the booted foot on a skateboard and rowed away. Third, feeling strong is a good way to feel – and I am not saying this just because I saw Wonder Woman yesterday. 

Finally, I learned that I shouldn’t prejudge what I can and cannot do based on some idea about how old I am. Yes, I’m getting up there but it isn’t clear what that means about my capabilities and I am finding that it means different things for different people. Finding where you are in that spectrum of experiences is a process and not some pre-determined or static fact. What the limits are is something to be discovered – not told by yourself or others.

I’ve made a note to myself to watch out for mental shadows that prematurely limit my willingness to experiment. I was out riding for the first time in over a month this past weekend and I felt a little shaky. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn’t be out there giving that I was so old! 

I told a friend on the phone and she said, “I know! The paper would say elderly women killed while cycling. How awful!” I laughed even though I was less worried about what the report would say after the fact then the possibility of it becoming a reality (one difference in our personalities). This is not to say that one shouldn’t be careful. I am a very careful cyclist but I am careful precisely because I want to be riding for as long as possible. And while even careful people have accidents and get injured it is not only those over 60 that have that worry.

I may not be running a lot, but that’s okay. At least I know I can run again. Watch out! Elderly runner/biker/hiker coming through!

Picture of three “sheep ladies” hiking from a shop in Sardinia.

Sharon Crasnow is a retired philosophy professor who writes on feminist philosophy of science and lives in San Diego.

Competitor or Coach? (Guest Post)

by Claudia Murphy

I’ve been struggling lately with my exercise routine. In the last couple of years belonging to a fitness group has helped me to avoid a pit of depression, so I have been feeling perplexed that what seemed like a lifeline has now become quite a challenge. Even if I can get myself to show up, I don’t enjoy it or even enjoy having done it.

I am 65 and have been working out with a group of long distance runners for a couple of years. They are a great group of people. They have been very kind and accepting– downright encouraging. Even at my bluest, there is something amazing about high intensity workouts at 5:30 am with positive and affirming people.

But in the last few months, I have been facing motivation issues. There could be several reasons.

First, I have been dealing with a chronic and persistent pain in my left hip. I have pursued multiple diagnosis and treatment options, including orthopedics (MRI, cortisone shot), physical therapy, massage, chiropractic therapy and acupuncture. The consensus seems to be that my left hip and adjacent areas need strengthening. But in the meantime, running, walking, and yoga, and even sitting all hurt. It is easy to feel discouraged.

Second, internalized ageism has become a significant force in my mind. I am one of the oldest in my fitness group. Still quite competitive, I often feel as if I’m losing. I can’t run as fast as I used to run. I can’t run as fast as most of the younger people in the group. I haven’t yet figured out the antidote to this aspect of aging.

Third, I’ve been fighting a giant battle against oppression in the workplace. Here, I’ve had to be very deliberate in guarding against internalized sexism and ageism. I have had to consciously remember my own significance and value. I have had to repeatedly decide to quash the oppressive thinking. My vigilance has been focused on this fight.

In the middle of all of this, without awareness, negative self-talk crept into my exercise time. I found myself thinking “you are too old, you look ridiculous, you are embarrassingly slow.” And these thoughts seemed true at the time, even justified. I looked for evidence to support them. Is it any wonder that my routines became less fun, less satisfying?

I’ve had to become more vigilant about this self-talk. I can be my own coach. I can replace my own negative feedback with something more positive. I find it helps to aim for messages that are somewhat neutral while still being encouraging. My mind revolts against “you are the best” But “go Claudia” or “you can do it!” work pretty well.

I recently tried this strategy in a 10K race, with some mixed results to be honest. I had signed up to run as a member of a relay team in the 2017 Fargo Marathon. About a month before the race, we discovered that the legs of the relay were not very even. One team member would have been required to run 8.5 miles. None of the team members wanted to run that far. So we decided to switch our registrations to the 10K. Even this decision felt like a bit of cop out. Last year I had run a half-marathon at this time. While it is true that I had only been able to do so with the help of a cortisone shot, I still struggled to feel OK about running a 10K.

The night before the race I was still struggling with feeling positive about running. My husband held out the perspective for me by reminding me that not that many women my age could run a 10K. He also agreed to drive me to the race and to cheer me on. The day of the race the weather was perfect. It was cool and clear. We arrived early enough to witness the start of the race for both the marathon runners and the half marathon runners.

I had a good start and ran well. I kept my mantra forefront in my mind—“go Claudia.” Since we shared the route with either the marathon runners or the half marathon runners, there were people out cheering us on for most of the route. There was music blasting or bands playing, even though it was quite early morning. I had two young women tap me on the back as they passed me by telling me that I was doing well for someone so old. (BTW this is not a very helpful way to support an older runner.)

I finished in 1:12:09, 8th in my age group of women 65-69, 37 of us running the race. I was staffing a women’s leadership development conference that weekend and decided to wear my hoodie and medal throughout the day to force myself to celebrate my achievement.

Ageism is nasty. But it helps if I do not participate in my own oppression. This is an ongoing battle for me. I would like to be able to be my own best supporter. What strategies work for you?

Claudia Murphy is a philosopher who is semi retired but still teaching part time at Minnesota Technical and Community Colleges.  She is also likes to run, bike, garden, cook and knit.

When tools help

by MarthaFitat55

Last month, I invested in a pair of knee sleeves after trying a borrowed pair for several training sessions. I said I would comment on the results of any changes that I observed.

First the qualitative results: I noticed right away that when I wore the knee sleeves, I felt more comfortable squatting more deeply. My trainer noticed this too. Goal of ass to grass is well underway!

What I didn’t expect was how I would feel in between sessions when I didn’t wear knee sleeves. There was an obvious decrease in knee pain from the grumpy left knee, and I also noticed that my hip joints didn’t ache. I don’t know why this is happening but I am thinking that my knees are being retrained in how to support my body.

With my knees feeling better able to support my body, I feel more comfortable in completing certain exercises, so much so, my trainer has added a few variations in the split squat department. I have been doing more cage squats and heavier weight goblet squats and my ability to get closer to the ground and feel more comfortable there has increased too.

In the last week of May, I recorded the following records in my notebook:

Bench 42 kg/ Squat 186 lbs/Deadlift 101 kg

By June 5, with almost three weeks of training using the sleeves complete, I achieved the following PRs:

Bench 48.5 kg / Squat 200 lbs/Deadlift 105 kg.

The squat is particularly pleasing as it represents a 14 lb jump. The bench represents an unofficial provincial record too.

If you have been thinking about incorporating some of these tools, like the sleeves or belts to increase your core stability and to support your (possibly aging) joints, then perhaps my experience may give you the extra push you need.

I’m happy I made the investment. They have made a difference for me in a short time, and I am looking forward to seeing what this summer’s training will produce in both qualitative and quantitative results.

— Martha is a writer getting her fit on through powerlifting.

On gaining eight pounds and hating it: A rant in two voices

TW: This is a rant in two voices. It began when Cate and I started commiserating at spin class about our unexpected winter weight gain. We don’t do much other than complain. There’s no weight loss tips here. But if complaining about weight gain makes you sad, frustrated, angry, then please look away. We’ll be back to our regular body positive programming when the sun comes out, it stops raining, and we can stop being so grumpy.



Cate and I have lots of things in common. We both have PhDs. We’re both 52 years old. We do things together, like the bike rally, canoe trips, and the Music for Lesbians concert. We have friends in common, some who blog here and others too. We share a fitness activity that’s central to both of our lives, cycling. We both ride with a sense of adventure, though Cate’s more independent and ridden in more countries. I’ve raced and ridden faster I think though I know she’s ridden further. Oh, and on the bike rally we joked about being the “old ladies.’ No parties on our camp site. We were in our tents lights out by 10.

We’re both women menopause seems to have forgotten. But perimenopause, it’s here and making us grumpy.

This year we have one more thing in common. We both gained 8 lbs over the winter doing pretty much the same things we’ve always done. We both hate it. And we both hate that we hate it. We’re grumpy.

That about get it right, Cate?

I’m blaming Trump. You?

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Cate: LOL — I so want to blame Trump. And I did read that that is a thing. Even Barbra Streisand apparently blamed Trump for her weight gain.

And I think there is some truth to the sense that this winter has been kind of bruising and disorienting on a political front — and that does make me curl up on my couch and make my own blizzards with fancy ice cream and girl guide cookies, or invite people over for comfort food.

But I have had a tendency to comfort food for a long time, and I’m not eating that differently than I have been for the last 10 years. And people have been warning me forever — “your metabolism will change when you’re over 50” — and I didn’t want it to be true. And bam, almost overnight, true. I run way more slowly, and the scale has just crept up in sneaky ways to a number that I haven’t seen since before I quit smoking and took up fitness when I was 29. And it makes me feel like my body has betrayed me. And add a dose of the raging PMS I now get and I’m just ANGRY. You got an earful of that when we went spinning together on Tuesday.

************************************

Sam: It’s not just the weight gain though that’s the visible thing you can see. For me it’s also needing more sleep, taking longer to get well after I’ve been sick, heartburn (that’s new and awful), not responding well to stress, and crying. It’s like everything has slowed down and gotten sad. And yes my metabolism is part of that.

Like you I haven’t been eating differently. I’ve been working out. Those things haven’t changed but my bodies response has. It kind of looks at the good food and the workouts and goes “meh.” I’m at a loss for what to change really. In a way, eight pounds, who cares? But a) it’s a trend I’m worried about and b) I’m already over the recommended weight for the race wheels for my bike.

I broke a spoke the other day and the bike mechanic helpfully suggested sturdier, heavier wheels. I didn’t swear in the shop but I did in the car. He’s right of course. I swapped wheels. But I’m not happy about it.

************************************

Cate: It’s all tangled up for me with the invisibility thing we’ve been talking about.  I’m very short; even 5 lbs is a significant difference to me and I have a fear of looking like this high school teacher I had who was quite round and short and tottered around on high heels to try to offset it.  I don’t want to look like Mrs G!  I want to look strong and athletic and *vital*.  And even when I know I can Do Things, it all makes me feel Not Vital.  And that’s what I’m trying to make sense of.

We were talking about how the dominant advice is always “eat less, move more.”  We both move a LOT now, especially for people whose jobs are about conversations and sharing what’s in our heads.  It feels like I have to undertake a massive revolution in how I eat, and I don’t want to be that person — I want to be the person who can eat fries if I feel like it.  I RESENT IT!

What are we going to do?

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Sam: I agree with you. We can’t be people who never eat fries!

But the visibility thing is tough. For both of us, it’s being seen as who we are, athletic women. I had someone offer me their seat on the subway the other day and I thought, “Really! Do I look like I need your seat? I am the oldest person on this train? What?”

I realized he was likely just being polite in a gendered, chivalrous way (I was wearing a skirt) and so I thanked him and took his seat.

And some of the time I’m happy to be the person who blows other peoples’ stereotypes out of the water. I love passing people on my bike. Moving the weight up rather than down on the lat pull down machine at the Y.

But I also want people to see me, to recognize who I am.

I hate it when someone says I should get off the bus a stop early to you know, add more movement to my life. HAVE YOU LOOKED AT MY GARMIN FILES? Oh nevermind.

So what?

***********************************

Cate:  We keep riding.  And maybe think a bit more about the fries?

Sam: And we’re definitely not getting these for our bikes!

Midlife is a funny time of life, musings on aging from Iceland

Image description: View from inside the car (brrr!). Blue sky, white clouds, snow covered mountains, and yellow beach in Iceland. On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Image description: View from inside the car (brrr!). Blue sky, white clouds, snow covered mountains, and yellow beach in Iceland. On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Cate and I were chatting the other day about the weirdness of 52. It’s a strange time of life. Consider that person who’s looking at you and talking to you and being really nice. Do they think you’re hot or are they smiling at you because you remind them of their mom? It’s often not clear.

You’re not old enough to be out of the flirting game altogether. (When does that occur anyway? Never, I hope.) But you’re really not sure when you’re included.

Mother and potential object of interest. Those aren’t the only roles for women of course but still those possibilities do seem to colour our interactions with people.

I thought about it the other day when a man offered me a seat on the subway. Really? Should I be charmed? Offended? Amused? I wasn’t sure.

My mind went through all the possibilities. Chivalry? Flirtation? Or plain old deference for the elderly? I don’t think I look wobbly on the subway. But I took the seat, smiled, and thanked him. I’m super nice and polite that way. I joked the other day that I always say “please” when asking Google to find me things. I have to work to stop myself saying thank you.

Back to aging: I’ve been thinking lately about all the lies we tell about aging. According to this chart here, female attractiveness to men peaks at 23.

Women are most attractive to men at about 23. And men’s attractiveness to women seems to get better with age.

We sometimes act as if that’s a number that really matters. But why? Lots of us aren’t that interested in what men think about the way we look. I’m not interested in what strangers have to say about me generally. It’s not a thing that ranks high on my list of things to care about. And I suspect women, even women interested in men, care less about what men in general think, as we get older.

After all, that same chart tells us that life satisfaction peaks at 69, liking one’s body which peaks at 74, and well-being peaks at 82. Things get better, not worse, after 50. See Greetings from the happiness trough.

Why do we make getting older out to be such a bad thing if, from the point of view of subjective well-being, things just get better? Rebecca’s rant which I included in my post about menopause picked up on this same theme. There’s this narrative of misery about women’s lives that we all kind of learn along the way.

Aging is supposed to be horrible. Fading beauty, etc. Even those of us who don’t feel the sting of losing attractiveness in the eyes of random male strangers aren’t off the hook because we’re expected to feel bad. But some of us don’t feel bad at all.

Why might you not care?

A. You never had it in the first place. You’re sufficiently outside mainstream beauty norms that being attractive to generic men isn’t a thing for you. In that case, aging can feel liberating. Now no one your age has it. Finally.

B. You don’t much care what men think. They’re not your thing.

C. You care what some specific male persons think but not generic men on the street.

D. The attention of men has been painful rather than pleasurable on balance (think cat calling and street harassment) and you’re happy to have less of it.

There are many reasons not to care.

All of our lives we’ve been told that aging sucks. But most women I know who are older than me say things are pretty terrific. I keep telling friends in their 30 and 40s that the 50s are so far just fine.

I spent this past week at a conference on Feminist Utopias, in Iceland. While there I got to spend time with a couple of my favourite feminist philosophers, both in their 70s. They’re travelling, doing terrific work in feminist philosophy, and leading lives that seem pretty happy.

Friday night I saw a concert in the series “Music for Lesbians.” It was organized and  headlined by Carol Pope. She’s 70 and has a terrific energetic stage presence.

Maybe it’s time we stop telling the sad story about aging and started listening and learning.

Image description: Here’s me opining about feminist epistemology and open access publishing. My arms are widespread, I’m wearing a long grey “introvert” hoodie, I’m wearing sunglasses and standing on a wooden platform in Iceland. Location: Gullfloss Waterfall.

Image description: Sunset at Skálholt. This is the view from our conference bedroom window. The grounds are yellow. The sky is blue. And the clouds are majestic. There are two buildings, on the left a white historic church and on the right a newer conference structure.

Image description: Sunset at Skálholt. This is the view from our conference bedroom window. The grounds are yellow. The sky is blue. And the clouds are majestic. There are two buildings, on the left a white historic church and on the right a newer conference structure. You can read about Skaholt, the site of our conference, here: http://skalholt.is/3905-2/?lang=en