Not time to slow up…

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So it’s happened, today I am 50 I’ve just come back from an early morning run in my favourite place to mark the day and reflect on the big event.

It’s hard to remember what my younger self would have thought of being 50 – probably that it was old.  Yet I don’t feel ‘old’, I feel fit and still kind of young.  I’m a runner, having discovered running in my early 40’s as a way of life and this feeling of physical fitness is definitely helping me to stay the young side of 50.

When I was an impressionable teenager I don’t remember any role models that showed me my reality of 50 today.  If I think of my mum, my boyfriend’s mums, other females in my life at the time that would have been around 50 – I don’t remember any of them being what I am, feel and see around me today.  I may be mis-remembering, but 50 seemed old and sedate back then, I don’t remember anyone middle aged that I knew who ran, or hiked or pushed their bodies in any given sport, that was the remit of the young, not the middle aged.  History backs this up to an extent.  It wasn’t until 1984 was there a women’s marathon at the Olympic Games.  So I was 20 years old before women could run in a marathon at the Olympics…. at 20 I became lost to beer and boys….

Yet now I am a keen runner, I particularly like trail running, being out in the countryside and being immersed in the beauty of the scenery.  I run a few times a week, and in between try to fit in spinning, racketball, body pump and yoga.  This year I have discovered the joys of sea swimming and Bikram yoga.  Doing exercise is not something I do to keep weight off (although of course it helps); it’s something that is such a core of who I am that it almost defines me.  It’s what I love and it feels very normal to be doing this amount of exercise.  At 50, I am fitter than I was at 30, even possibly than I was at 40.

I understand that the body won’t be doing this forever, that one day I will need to slow down, but I don’t believe that time is now, not at 50. I may have good genes that allow me to do this, or maybe this is quite normal for 50 – why be defined by our ages?  I am surrounded by like minded women in their 50’s and beyond, doing the same, running faster and longer than me, running marathons, doing 100k cycle rides, lifting heavier weights and doing way better Bikram postures than me.  How wonderful is that – 50 is not about slowing up yet.

Of course I ache after long runs and hard sessions – but I expect my 30 year old self would have ached as well – unfortunately she was too busy doing other things to find out, so I have no comparison. But aching is not confined to the old.  At 50 I understand my body better, I recognise when I need to slow down, stretch or lower my miles, or just lounge on the sofa.  But stop – no, not yet, not at 50.

I hope this big body of ordinary 50+ sports people are a role model to the next generations and show that slowing up (or growing up) does not have to happen in middle age.  I hope that I can at least be part of this set of role models – because that really might be a worthy legacy to consider…

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Welcome to Middle Muddlings….

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Welcome Middle Muddlers

Carol's Hosta

I’m a cliché – I’m almost 50 and wondering what it’s all about –and writing about it.  Welcome to my muddlings.

I know most people probably freak a bit when it comes up to their 50th – it seems such a defining time.   People talk about life begins at 50 (or is it 30 or 40 or 60), and of a calmer less stressful middle age.  But this image of middle age is based on a different era, when jobs were for life, pensions fat, lifestyles sedate and retirement looming as a long round of golf. But that isn’t true in 2014, it’s not the world I live in, where retirement age is increasing, pensions aren’t fat and thankfully many middle-aged lifestyles are the opposite of sedate. So what does it mean to be 50, middle aged today – what do we fear, question or strive towards?

I am often kept awake at night by an overwhelming fear of running out of time. Although I have no idea for what – It’s not like I had planned to be an Olympic gymnast and suddenly realised I’m too old, it’s just this underlining feeling that I should have been someone (and so could anyone) and ‘done’ something by now.   What impact have I had, should I have done more? (of what??). What about all those things I was meant to do – I don’t mean just the big stuff, the change the world sort of stuff, but just the small things, you know the sort of things you keep saying ‘ oh I must do that sometime’ – but when is that sometime?  When do you get A Round Tuit? Why haven’t I got one of those yet?

Round Tuit(As an aside did you know the first appearance of the ‘Round Tuit’ was at the 1964 World’s Fair at Queens, New York – 1964 – see I’ve had 50 years to get a Round Tuit…my point exactly.)

I look around at others of my age and wonder if they are all feeling the fear and not doing anything anyway?  Are you?  What ‘should’ you be doing? Have we already done it and not realised? Does it matter in the great scheme of life and family?

I wonder too about the impact of being the generation that supposedly had it all – we benefitted from Women’s lib didn’t we?  We had choices our mum’s didn’t.  Is this part of the fear of letting the side down, of having these opportunities and still living an ordinary life?    I don’t think you can underestimate the heritage  this can have on women of a certain age today.  I never really believed we could have it all – but there is a legacy of being able to have quite a lot.

So is an ordinary life OK? Well of course it is, most of us have one – so why the fear that there needs to be more? Suddenly I’m heading towards an age where my impact will diminish, but perhaps that’s also an assumption that needs to be explored.  How do ordinary women find direction and peace in these middle years?  What we do now will be setting us up for our proper older age – so not much time to waste and so much to explore.

How have we been shaped by our politics, society and where do we go now?  What new things should we be trying? What are our limitations? Are there any limitations? How do we make an impact in our lives, with our families, friends and peers? How can we be role models for the younger generations?  How can we start doing the things we said we might like to do but haven’t got around to? How can we defy the stereotype of middle age that was set in an era that is not our own?

I want to explore these ideas – this blog may go all over the place, from politics, social history, new fitness trends to try, health, nature, cake….. maybe it’s just a record of my exploration of middle age, or my fight against it – but I think it’s time to start exploring  the impact of the past, the reality of the present and making the most of that future.

PS – Hostas are my favourite plants – they are real survivors, despite the snail and slug attacks, they come back and try again every year.  I once forgot I had planted one and put a big paving slab over the earth, forgot about it for a year, then when I removed the slab the Hosta had grown, completely flat to the earth, but it had grown and survived, how amazing.