What’s My Age Again?

I phoned my bank recently and one of the security questions asked was ‘How old were you on your last birthday?’. I had to pause, as I very nearly gave the wrong answer!

When I was 39, I was absolutely dreading the big 4-0, it felt like my life (as a young person) was coming to an end and it was probably one of the few times in my adult life that I was quite unhappy with me, myself.

However, after turning 40, age just became a number and I think I loved being in my 40s. Perhaps this was the time when I really ‘grew up’ as it were – I became a lot more confident, dare I say a little wiser, calmer and content. Other people seemed to make a bigger deal of me turning 50 than I did.

I’ve never really been one for birthdays – anyone else think that age is just a number?

One thing about the pandemic is that it feels like I’ve ‘lost’ a couple of years, like they didn’t really happen – that might be why I sometimes forget how old I am!

Still, now that I’m in my early 50s, I don’t think I feel too different from how I was in my 40s, except that I am a lot more aware of my own physical limitations.

Although my friends would agree that I am closer to the picture on the right than I am to the one on the left, I was recently reminded that my body isn’t getting any younger – I’m a woman of a certain age, going through some inevitable changes that I can’t prevent.

I first wrote about the menopause being a reason to FIRE in 2020.

Among the many symptoms of the menopause/peri-menopause are migraines and I’ve been hit twice with them this month. Badly.

Prior to that, I had (fortunately) very very rarely suffered from headaches or migraines.

I couldn’t think of anything which could have triggered these migraines. There have been no changes to my diet or lifestyle so I can only put the migraines down to me being peri-menopausal.

The migraines had me feeling like my head was about to explode, the spinning sensation made me feel sick and any sort of light was just painful. I was unable to even glance at my phone without it hurting my eyes.

I ended up spending the entire day lying on my bed in the dark, barely eating and only sipping water as I felt too nauseous.

Felt mostly fine the following day but not quite right, like I was off balance and still having to shy away from bright light.

Hopefully, these migraines won’t occur too frequently and may even (please, please!) go away at some point.

Let’s Get Physical

Aside from the migraines, I am well and generally feel physically good.

I was tempted to add ‘for my age’ at the end of that but I think I feel as good as I have ever been at any age.

Perhaps it helps that I make time to exercise.

Exercise has always just been part of my life, from being sporty at school, to getting in with a crowd of girls at uni who were into their sport and fitness and continuing thus into adulthood.

Over the years, I tried my hand at various sports/activities, the usual badminton and table tennis but also league ten-pin bowling, fencing (not the garden variety but with foils and sabres), but the hardest training I ever did was when I was doing my martial arts (karate), during my late 20s, early 30s.

When I look back, some of that training was punishing, yet I pushed myself through it and found it exhilarating, revelling in how strong I felt, how hard I could push my body and the limits it could endure. Ultimately, the semi-contact sparring took its toll and injury put an end to that (some of those injuries might come back to haunt me when I’m older), and so began my long-standing love/hate relationship with the gym.

It’s life in the Gym, but not as we know it…

For a long time, going to the gym for me was a healthy social event as I had a close group of friends who attended the same classes. However, over the years, we slowly drifted to other gyms, although we continue to meet up for social outings and maintain an active Whatsapp group.

My gym sessions are now solitary affairs and I’m fine with that – I’m self-motivated and currently go 2 or 3 times a week.

From previously loving and enjoying exercising, I have to say that these days, I’m often just enduring it, just waiting for the endorphins to do their thing afterwards! I exercise because I know it’s good for me and because I’ve spent the day on my backside, be that work or in front of the tv/pc.

One thing which does motivate me is that I can’t let those gym membership fees go to waste!

Use It, Don’t Lose It

I’m really mindful of age-related muscle loss, which happens to both men and women as we get older, so my routines have moved from doing a lot of cardio to a lot of weight/strength training.

For women, weight training has apparently been shown to help delay the onset of osteoporosis, help with certain types of arthritis, boost metabolism, improve posture and strengthen pelvic floor muscles (which will help with preventing ‘little accidents’  sometimes experienced by the elderly).

I’m not lifting big weights, they range from 14% up to 80% of my body weight, so just heavy enough to make me feel tired/struggle a bit after several sets of reps – 22kg barbell (for standing overhead press and front row), 20kg kettlebell (for squats), 7kg dumbbell (for bicep curls), 12kg kettlebell (for walking lunges) and 2 x 15kg, or 2 x 20kg over a shorter distance (for farmer’s walk).

I guess I could probably push myself harder but don’t feel inclined to do so as 1) I’m not as strong as I used to be, and 2) for fear of injury because injuries just take so long for me to recover from.

My joints no longer feel like I can push them to their limits – I don’t have aching joints as such, but I definitely would if I wasn’t careful! I no longer have the bravado or confidence of youth to just give the heavier weights a try.

I do like the weight training, it’s the cardio I’m not too fond of. I do a bit of running on the treadmill, just 2km or sometimes 15-20 mins power walking. I don’t feel like I need to do much more than that, plus my Fitbit tells me that I have ‘excellent’ cardio fitness for a woman my age.

Although I do a bit of stretching at the end of my gym sessions, I probably don’t do enough and I feel like I’ve somewhat neglected this part of my exercising over the years. I’ve recently started making time to do some stretching, not every day but most days, practising some yoga poses, hip openers etc. I have no interest in joining actual yoga classes – have tried them in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy them although I felt the benefits of some of the poses/stances.

Wait or Weight?

I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life and I’m finally (sort of) resigned to the fact that I can’t ever get back to the weight I had been maintaining for over 20 years of my adult life.

As long as my body shape and dress size remain mostly the same, I think I will try to ignore the scales and just focus on fitting into my clothes.

More of the Same

When I finally FIRE, I can see myself continuing with the regular exercise (as a habit/routine) – perhaps even be a bit more active.

More activity will be necessary as I think some of my other hobbies and interests will involve a lot of sitting around (unless I binge-watch boxed sets standing up!), so I’ll need to get the balance right!

I’ll be able to go to the gym in the day so I don’t have to battle through the late rush hour traffic to get there – get the exercising out of the way so I can get on with my day to do whatever it is that early retirees do, ie anything they want! 🙂


22 thoughts on “What’s My Age Again?

  1. Sorry about the migraines.Dancing is probably the best form of exercise even if like me one has 2 left feet. Bought shares in xl media who have a number of online publications that might interest the Fire audience:’greedy rates’ ‘young and thrifty’ ‘investor junkie’ ‘dough roller’ ‘money under 30′.’freebets’

    • Hi Simon
      The mad bit of dancing I do sometimes in the kitchen when a song I like comes on the radio probably doesn’t count but hear what you’re saying – never tried learning any kind of formal dance so something to consider.
      Thanks for the heads up on those publications, I shall check them out.

  2. I know i’ve mentioned it before, but jump rope is an exercise that i would recommend. If you’re looking for a bit of variety, and a challenge, it’s a great all round exercise, especially if you incorporate weighted ropes (my favs are the 1/2lb and 1lb). And it is fun!
    It took me 5 months to get to a reasonable level (very frustrating early on, but i know you relish a challenge), and a year into it now and i am pretty much addicted to it. In the early learning stage, because of poorer technique and therefore extra energy expended, fat loss should be more rapid, and whilst i haven’t tried them on recently, i reckon i could easily get into a pair of old jeans from my teen years (yes, i still have a few pairs in the cupboard!).
    Give it a try if you fancy a change from the regular workout.

    • Hey KC

      Thanks for reminding me – last time you mentioned it, I looked out for the rope that’s in the gym but it was always in use and then I forgot all about it. I will therefore buy myself one and will let you know how I get on!

  3. I hate to tell you this as someone in their mid sixties but in your fifties you should be almost as fast and strong as any time in your life. I know I ran my fastest ever 5K and full marathon in my fifties. However in your sixties that no longer is the case. I’m vastly slower now, and in fact have almost given up running to save my knees for tennis and pickle ball and hiking. My wife is better off, she ran and won a full marathon last year at the age of 66 but she’s abnormally beastly. But both of us, way fitter than most people since our thirties, would say the difference between 50 and 60 is much more significant in terms of physical capability decline than the difference between 20 and 50. I can only imagine what 70’s will be like!

    • Hi Steve

      Bravo to your missus running (and winning) the marathon at 66 – I’ll pass that story onto one of my friends who ran her first marathon the year she turned 50. I applaud anyone who runs long distances but it’s not something I do or aspire to do – have only ever run 5km twice in my life and I think that’s enough! Walking it however might be a different matter, I would probably prefer that.

      I don’t like to compare myself to others, only to myself but I can categorically say that compared to my 20s and 30s, I am nowhere as fast or as strong as I once was. I’m built for short bursts of speed and while I do still occasionally sprint (to catch the bus!), I am nowhere near clocking the times I used to be able to achieve. I can still do 30+ push ups but that’s rubbish compared to the near 100 I used to be able to do during my martial arts days. I may have been a tad dramatic about my physical decline but I’m only comparing myself to how I used to be.

      Since I hadn’t done any weight training before until recently, I’m lifting the heaviest weights I ever have. Had I done such training in my 20s, I would have probably continued to aim for even heavier (just to see what I could do) but I have no yearning to do so now. That said, I am lifting double what I was when I first started so I’m happy with just that progress.

      I want to carry on exercising for as long as possible and in order to avoid knackering joints or muscles unnecessarily, I try to reduce repetitive impact and straining.

  4. My wife and I are both in our mid 60’s and enjoying a healthy retirement. My wife walks 5-8km twice weekly and I’m lucky enough to be able to run 3-4 times weekly, and cycle 3-4 times weekly as well.
    We both do parkrun each saturday as well, either as a run/walk or volunteering. parkrun is a free, 5km timed run or walk held at the same time each week. in UK there are over 200 parkruns scattered round the country. Check the website parkrun.com. Give it a try. Non threatening, all ages and abilities.
    Enough of that. When we met my wife used suffer from regular migraines, having 3 kids fixed that. An extreme solution.
    Most important thing is to enjoy yourself whatever you are doing.
    Peter, in NZ

    • Hi Peter

      Great to hear that you and the wife are enjoying a healthy retirement.

      Funny you should mention Parkrun – a colleague mentioned that she wanted to do it but didn’t want to run it and I had said ‘if only you could just walk it’ and apparently with certain ones, you can. I’d just have to check that the one local to me accommodated that as I’d be fine walking (fast) for 5km.

      Yes, that is an extreme solutions for the migraines!

      Absolutely agree, I have to enjoy and like what I am doing as long as I am doing something!

  5. Turned 50 this year, and while I’m slower in some respects – I’m stronger than probably any other point in my life and comfortably still getting into jeans I’ve had since my 20s. Running 10km 3 times a week, mountain biking at least once a week and teaching classes/training at my local gym for at least 6 hours a week.

    Post-covid infection, I struggled a bit with energy, but have found a number of supplements have helped overcome the fatigue.

    • Hi G

      Hear you on the jeans – my jeans are decades old and I’m only reluctantly now looking to get new ones because there are holes in them and I don’t feel like I’m at an age where I should be wearing ripped jeans!

      Great to hear of your active life – so tempting to have a lazy bank holiday but I will be going to the gym later today!

      By the way, what supplements did you take to overcome your post-Covid fatigue?

  6. From my perspective keeping fit and being a member of the local gym is a big part of my retirement structure, to the point that the added benefits of exercise become secondary. It’s a change of scene from being in the house, I’ve met lots of people through attending classes and while some of my visits are routine, it’s nice to be able to head for a swim and sauna when the mood takes me. Plus the cafe is always good to visit! I’ve begun to incorporate stretching into my sessions – I do go to some yoga classes but I have to say I’m one of the few blokes who do. Staying fit is one of the big plusses of retirement so I think that the more you can do before you get there, the better it will be when you do!

    • Hey Jim

      When lockdown was lifted, I nearly wept when I was able to return to the gym, so I understand the change of scenery thing you mention. It’s possible that when I’m able to vary the times of my gym outings, I may take up doing classes again as you do get to meet lots of people, compared to when you are just working out on weights and machines.

    • Thanks AMM.

      I guess my Fitbit provides a bit of gamification to my training as it tracks what I’m doing, so kind of motivates me to try to beat what I did last week etc. I think I’ve seen a The Gym Group gym on my travels, so I guess that could be a gym to consider if I had to leave mine for some reason.

  7. I’ve always been very sympathetic to people who suffer from migraines seeing my friend suffer from them very regularly. It annoys me now (having learnt through him) hearing people bemoan having a migraine when it’s just a headache as they continue about their day – when he gets them, like yourself, he just needs a dark room to lie down in and hide from the world.
    I hope these get better for you 🙂

    As for the gym, I’ve always been physically active too but lost motivation over lockdown. I joined The Gym Group 3 years ago and have really enjoyed the ‘gamified’ way that they log all your attendances and times spent there then compare to the last month. Maybe it’s just my obsession with graphs and stats but it kinda helps me stay motivated oddly.

  8. Hey Weenie! I have to admit, I’m waaay fitter and healthier now than I ever was when working pre-FIRE. Back then, getting up at 4:30am and not home until at least 7 or 8 pm left little time for exercise beyond a walk at lunch time when able!

    Now that time’s my own, if it helps, I can totally confirm that being able to exercise in the morning & “get it out of the way with” works really well for me for sure. Some exercise I love, like when we’re out and about on our bikes or away hiking. But otherwise, yeah, it can feel a slog at times – my motivation is purely the calories it earns me

    Having seen many people lose their fitness & mobility as they’ve gotten older I am likewise determined to slow it down as much as possible. It will all help I hope.

    Now thanks for scaring by describing so vividly some of the changes I’ll apparently face in my fifties when I get there……cheers……?!?

    • Hey Michelle

      Great to hear that you are making up for lost time on the exercise front!

      Agree, I’m all about slowing down the inevitable effects of aging – it’ll get us all in the end but I won’t go down without a fight!

      Sorry, but hopefully you might be able to escape the worst of perimenopause/menopause symptoms!

  9. You have my sympathy! The menopause brought ocular migraines into my life (not painful, I’m grateful to say, but very disconcerting…). I realise that these are probably now a fixture, though they are rare these days.

    I think that as we age (and I am now in my mid-60s) we need to think differently about exercise and what we want it to do for us. I see there as being 4 essential things it needs to address: strength, flexibility, stamina and balance.

    I think a lot of younger people get a bit fixated on the strength and stamina bits, because they are easier to measure and for others to see. But for my money, if you have to pare it down then I would concentrate on doing things that keep up (or improve) flexibility and balance – strength and stamina can be gradually built up again if you lose some ground, but flexibility and balance tend to be far more difficult (if not impossible) to get back if you don’t pay them proper attention.

    Oh, the irritations of getting older! But, as my mother used to say, it’s better than the alternative… 😉

    • Thanks Jane and heartening to hear that you only suffer from the migraines on rare occasions.

      Yes, I’ve scaled down on the stamina (cardio) but still quite fixated on the strength. I hadn’t thought about balance so thanks, I will bear that in mind and add that to my flexibility exercises.

  10. Hi Weenie,
    Wow, I have been fortunate not to get a migraine (yet!). I hope you stop getting them, just hope they are replaced by something less severe. I had one years ago but have been lucky so far. My first menopause issue that affected my ability to function was dizziness. I would wake up with the room spinning and be unable to get out of bed as the whole place was moving, I couldn’t sit upright. I had this happen a few times and twice I was unable to go to work, it wiped me out for the whole day. I have stopped having those now and just seem to be fighting the brain fog and the weight gain.

    Although I did not see menopause as a reason to FI I can see why it could be. It was the fear of redundancy that motivated me to make sure I had the ability to FIRE as I saw others in the workplace be ‘phased out’.

    It has been handy not working over the past few years as I don’t have to worry if I am having a bad health day now.

    I am exercising as much as I was before I stopped working. If anything I am exercising more as I can fit it in my day whenever I wish. Like Jane, my work schedule made it hard to fit any in after a long commute and day of work, too tired. I try to cycle at least twice a week now and fit walking in between. I try to walk everywhere. I have enjoyed going out for a good walk today along the local canal and chatting to some other walkers I met along the way. I am fighting the battle with my body, I did weigh myself the other day and although my weight is the same as a few years ago my body shape has changed and as some menopause groups comment, it seems any body fat you have starts moving around your body. (Not a great thing). I read that weights are good for women, especially to improve bone strength. I now do some weight training in the form of kettlebells at home. Partly to keep costs down I don’t go to a gym, plus I find them uninviting especially the ones near me. I try to find ways of using resistance training to improve muscle tone to counteract the signs of aging and hopefully keep active and fit. It should hopefully help me lose weight too as I try to raise my metabolism to burn some fat- lol. I keep reading and trying new things out to keep on top of my fitness.

    I listen to the ‘Just One Thing’ podcasts on BBC Sounds by Michael Mosley – He has some good little wins that can help improve health/fitness/wellbeing.

    I also try to focus on flexibility and balance as these are the things that will help us all as we age.

    • Thanks Sparklebee.

      It’s quite likely that your dizziness spells were a type of migraine but good to hear that you no longer have these – I have some dizziness with my migraines and it’s just horrible.

      Working from home has made it easier for me to cope with certain peri-menopause symptoms – the pandemic has been good for one thing!

      Great to hear all you are doing fitness-wise – as @Jane says, we’re just trying to slow down the effects of age.

      I’ll check out the Just One Thing podcast, thanks.

  11. Thanks for your post weenie as always. I hope your migraines improve over time which I am sure they will. It’s good you are thinking about fitness and strength training in particular I think along with cardio is key long term. It doesn’t take too much effort to reap 90% of the benefit and that’s what I keep telling myself as I have been lax at maintaining structured schedules that’s for sure..


    • Thanks TFIJ.
      Yes, need to be on top of fitness and strength training. I’ve made it into a habit so it’s harder to break, it’s just part of my life.

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