It’s 6:00 a.m. and I am at an exercise class. The young, gorgeous instructor smiles and says “let’s warm-up!” She immediately begins with a high impact, high knees run. The other twenty-something participants join her.
Um .. hold up. I’m over here like, it’s six o’clock in the morning ya’ll. This body is going to need a little bit more time before we go right into all that high-impact jazz.
The experience reminded me of what it was like when I was in my 20s. I am pretty sure I would have been fine with jumping up and down at 6:00 a.m. without so much as a light jog first. When I was more than ten years younger than I am now, I was jumping and kicking and hopping in group classes on the daily.
But I’m not 24 anymore. I’m 36. My body is different.
When you’re 45, or 55, or 65 … your body is different too.
At each stage of life our physical abilities and needs change. Coming to terms with that can be hard.
Do I wish I was able to kick it into gear like those 20-some-year-olds in that class? I do. However I have to recognize there are changes with age. Some of those changes are good, some not so good. But they are inevitable.
It got me thinking about where I am now and how far I have come. Although my body is not that same at 36 that it was at 24, it is not all bad.
Here are 5 ways fitness is different in my 30s.
1. It’s not all about sweat and calories.
When I was in my 20s I could not stand yoga. I felt like if I wasn’t sweating my butt off and feeling like I was about to die then clearly it wasn’t hard enough and wasn’t worth it. Now I know better. In my 30s I understand more about fitness and how important it is to practice both strength and mobility/flexibility exercises as well as cardiovascular activity.
2. I make more time for warm-up and recovery.
The older you get, the more you need to take time to warm your body up and practice good recovery habits like stretching, foam rolling and proper sleep. When you’re younger you don’t feel the need for it so you don’t do it. When you get older your body insists on it or you pay the (painful) price.
3. I listen to my body better.
There have always been times when I was sick or maybe worn out that I felt I should skip the gym. When I was in my 20s I usually went anyway. “Gotta push through!!” It was as if one day off of working out would be the end of the world. Now that I am in my 30s and I know fitness is a part of my life, I can take a day off without panicking that I might never go back. I listen to my body and when I have days that it says “not today” I take a nap or go for a walk instead.
4. My focus is on progress not perfection.
In the early years of my fitness journey I wanted to be perfect all the time. Each workout had to be equally challenging and I always had to go super hard. After many years of fitness, I know focus on the process without feeling like I have to know how to do everything and nail it all the first time. What I didn’t know used to intimidate me; now it excites me because it is just another thing for me to learn and expand my knowledge and skills.
5. I find value beyond the scale or aesthetics.
When I was young I was so concerned with what I weighed and how I looked. Doing fitness competitions didn’t help. The older I get the more I appreciate how working out makes me feel and the excitement of taking on a new challenge or getting stronger. I have become more comfortable in my body and feel less of a need to live up to some standard or ideal.
Getting older isn’t easy and there are certainly days I do not embrace it. However it will happen whether I like it or not. Rather than fight it, why not work with what you have now and let go of what used to be. Focus on being the best version of you at your current age, no matter what it is.
Fitness isn’t just for 20-somethings or 30-somethings. The older we get the more important it is to be strong and care for our bodies. I might not move the way I did when I was 25 but I move pretty well for 35 and I can only hope to continue moving when I am 85.
It is ok if we need a little more time to warm-up than a 25-year-old does. With age comes knowledge and experience. We might not be older but we are wiser, and that’s a pretty good feeling, too.