Getting old sucks

Well, duh. Nobody except a teenager really wants to get older. A few years ago I turned 40; last year turned 50; yesterday I turned 60. Well, that’s what it feels like, anyway. The truth is that I’ll be 61 in about two months. There for a while I was in a running groove, getting three runs in each week, increasing my weekly miles, losing weight, feeling more and more fit…and then I was injured (the IT band injury I’ve written about here before), and my running had to stop completely while I healed up. I tried to get back to it many times, and when I finally was able to run again without pain, I was so out of shape that I had to basically start over. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have begun the Couch-to-5K program, only to get side-tracked by weather or schedules or work–and now it’s been so long since I’ve run, and I’ve begun to see articles here and there that suggest that running is NOT really a good idea for people my age and older.

And that weight I lost while I was running? I’ve found a bunch of it in unflattering places on my body.

And the truth is that in the months since my injury, I’ve had more and more issues with my feet and my knees, and now I really can’t even imagine a 2-mile run, much less a 13.1-mile run. (I was training for a half-marathon when I was injured.) So I think I’ve begun to believe that maybe running isn’t a good idea for me, at my age.

There are other maladies that may be age-related–my skin has suddenly decided to revolt against me (I’ve just come through 40 days of contact dermatitis and my skin still itches maddeningly), and if I sit for more than 20 minutes at a time, it takes me several minutes to shake of the aches and stiffness that results. It seems like I just have to look closely at a donut and I gain weight. My memory is nowhere near what it used to be. My vision–don’t even get me started on that.

But everybody ages, and I’m not exempt from that. I need to learn to accept it and live with it and make the best of whatever’s left of my life–but I won’t lie: giving up running is a major discouragement.

And really, it shouldn’t be–I have always known that running was probably not going to be a life-long sport for me. Besides, there are a lot of other exercises I can do that aren’t as hard on my joints and bones as running, like cycling, swimming, walking, tennis, and plenty more. The issue is not in picking a suitable activity–the issue is in coming to the understanding that as an aging person, my priorities have to shift, and caring for my physical condition has to be much higher on my priority list. One book I read recently suggests that if you’re over 50, your fitness is your new full-time job. That may be an overstatement (or not), but I understand the sentiment, and I can’t disagree that my health needs to be a very high priority–one that must not yield to many of the other demands on my time.

Now it’s spring–I’ve got no more weather excuses (and now that our city has a free gym, the weather is no longer a good excuse), and it’s as good a time as any to start building a new habit.

Today, for the first time in more than a month, I got back on the bicycle for a short ride to my dad’s house (just a couple of miles, round trip)–to help him set up a blog. He’s 82 years old. He swims multiple times a week. He works in his garden all the time. He works in his wood shop all the time. At 82. He hasn’t let his age slow him down very much at all.

Yes, ageing sucks, but it’s inevitable, and I need look no further than my own father for an example of a man who is undaunted by his age, and who is living full, enjoyable life in spite of it. I want to be him when I grow up.

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