Weeks eight and nine have come and gone. So did Mother’s Day and my 55th birthday. My daughter encouraged me to host a Zoom birthday party which I did. It was fun. About 30 of my friends popped in over the course of the 90-minute party representing many areas of my life, nine states, and some relationships dating back fifty years. A party like that would never have happened without this pandemic…those people would never have been in the same “room” under “normal” conditions.
Getting through the last 66 days has require us to make our own sunshine – the proverbial “lemonade from lemons.” I managed to make the most of my birthday. I even summoned the courage to post a picture of myself in a bikini with the statement, “This is 55.” It wasn’t meant as anything more than an attempt to motivate or inspire – coming from someone who would never have done anything like that at 25.
Aging isn’t something that should be feared. Although I do think there is something to be said for working at it and staying on top of it. That’s why I’ve never kept my real age a secret. I want people to know that hard work really does pay dividends – in the form of better physical and mental health.
My mom kept herself in exceptional shape until the last few years of her life when medications hampered her physical activity and becoming so sedentary ultimately led to her rapid physical decline. Before that she walked 3 to 6 miles a day.
The spring after my dad died, I brought my mom and my daughter (only 7 at the time) to a 5k I was running. Mom’s job was to watch her granddaughter while I was running, but I had an ulterior motive.
When I realized how far my mother’s daily morning and evening walks where taking her, I thought maybe she could start “competing” in 5ks and earning some age-group medals would certainly be a real boost for her, no? After all once you turn 80, simply showing up put you in a good position for a podium finish. However, I forgot something very important about my mom.
She was very old fashioned and believed a woman should never share her age. The conversation at the finish line of that 5k went something like this:
Me: So Mom, this is the back of the pack coming in now. Look at those people finishing! You could beat them just walking your regular distance and pace.
Mom: I probably could!
Me: That would be so much fun! And since you just turned 80, you wouldn’t have any trouble placing in your age-group. How awesome would that be??
Mom: I’d have to tell them how old I am?
Me: (kicking myself for ever mentioning the age thing) Well yeah, we all put our age on the application so we can complete in the age-group competition.
Mom: I don’t want to do that.
And there you have it, the quick demise of my mother’s running career. In all fairness to my mom though, she did enter a race long before I did. I may have shared this before. When I was in college, home on summer break, I witnessed her training for the Corporate Challenge. That memory provided me with the motivation I needed to enter the Corporate Challenge myself about 10 years later.
I only wish I had been able to motivate my mom the way she motivated me. Almost a year to the day of that conversation, my mom moved into assisted living and a year after that, because of the rapid deterioration of her mental capabilities, she was moved to another more restrictive residence. That’s where her physical activity diminished and she declined further and further. While she lived for another three years, she was confined to a wheel-chair for the final two.
The lesson I take from my mother’s story and even my own experience over the last two months is that being sedentary will take its toll on the best of us. We all need to keep moving! Coming off a marathon in early February, I justifiably cut way down on my mileage. Just as I was beginning to ramp back up to a respectable 20 miles a weeks in mid-March, the sudden and tragic death of my daughter’s friend derailed me a bit. On top of many back-to-back weeks of managing only 10 miles, I was also working from home – sitting way too much!
While I followed my own advice (read about coming back from time-off here) and have been very gradually adding miles as well as strength training, I haven’t done enough core work to off set all the sitting. After an 8 mile run on Saturday morning, I’m in pain. Still. So I’m trying to get out for some regular long walks and setting an alarm so I get up to move during my work day. I’d like to be moving for another 55 years! And taking my daughter up on any challenge she may offer to run a 5k when I’m 80!