So what else happens when we have that revelation of our true age? Like Al Bundy reminiscing about his high school football days, many of us still remember all too well our glory days. Football, baseball, wrestling, hockey, cheerleading… or just walking from the car to the front door.
My husband played the Big 33 in high school – a crowning achievement – as only 33 senior boys across the state of Pennsylvania are chosen each year to play against the top 33 boys from Ohio. He’s still very proud of this. He has always thought of himself as an athletic powerhouse, coaching youth league soccer and t-ball, but his wake up call would come. Last summer he joined his company’s softball team, where he promptly tore his hamstring at the first practice and continued to have his ego beaten to a pulp every time one of the 20-something guys overachieved on the field. I wanted to laugh, but he was there the day I attempted to impress my kids on the playground.
I don’t think of myself as sporty. I didn’t play sports. I’m not competitive. I was – however – a short-term gymnast. When I was 6, I tumbled at the Y. When I was 9 I joined a different group, where I quickly moved up levels until I was no longer with the girls I knew but with older girls who seemed to want nothing to do with me. In retrospect, I think it wasn’t because they were unfriendly, they were just determined, driven, competitive. All the things I wasn’t. The coaches told my mom what she wanted to hear –she’s built like a gymnast, she could go to the Olympics, blah, blah, blah.
So I got the coach who never quite did, but was determined to push me – either to the Olympics, or right back out the door. So the day I fell off the balance beam onto my head, and after she told me to get back up there and try again, I went out the door and never looked back.
Nevertheless, I loved the uneven bars. I might have even excelled at those. Light as a feather, I could easily move from the upper to the lower bar and back again. So, when I got the chance to show the kids – thankfully on an empty playground – how I used to swing on the bars, my 40-year-old body gracefully whipped around like a sack of cement as I felt the tearing of shoulder tissue… and I landed a perfect dismount on my ass. My proud husband said, wow. What the HELL are you doing??
So, I’m not quite as flexible as I used to be. Ava wanted to know how to do a split the other night. Do I decline to demonstrate? No, of course not. I braced myself on the dresser (for I, too, have torn a hamstring many years ago) and slowly lowered my legs into a “v.” I explained what it should look like, when it’s done right. And my ego, whether too dumb or too proud to know better, is now thinking, “hey – with a little stretching I bet I can do it again.” I’ll keep you posted.
It’s hard to remember my youthful self – particularly when she feels like a total stranger sometimes – the physical things I was once able to accomplish are now part of that mystical world of the impossible dream. The years spent at the gym, circuit training, stairclimbing, rowing, jogging the indoor track…… what happened to the stamina?
Well, folks, it’s back. There’s a new addiction. I have recently learned, through a very good friend of mine who ought to get paid to recruit followers (and keep them motivated, for that matter) – that there’s a rather large contingency of women over 35 who are running. Running for health, running for fun………………..Running for their lives??
So I finally jumped. After several failed attempts through the spring and summer, I am now on a 30-minute run three days a week. The goal? To run for health, for fitness, for FUN and …. my first 5k. I’ve hated running since high school, where the phys ed teachers put us ordinary kids through a sort of mandatory hell – running cross country for a specific distance in a limited time frame – up and down monstrous hills. I barely made it. So, as I told my friend the fitness pusher, “I don’t run.” She insisted I would love it. I balked, but decided to accept the challenge anyway.
The first few runs began with enthusiasm, followed by searing pain in my calves that – if I didn’t focus past it – would’ve sidelined me after the first five minutes. But determined I was; I would be damned if I gave up that easily, especially after my Big 33 husband told me, “you can’t do that.” So I ran through the burn… and it disappeared! Miraculously replaced by this euphoric rush that took over and kept me going until an “emergency” call from home forced me to stop. (Note to self: leave cell phone at home.) This amazing newfound euphoria is better than any drug – why all those crazy lonely mothers out there would rather have Meth is a mystery to me. When life gets tough – run for your life! It is liberating and exhilarating… out there, there’s no diabetes, fighting children, clogged toilets or bored dog chewing up carpets….. the moments are all mine.