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! 🙂