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Aging, Gratefully

As my birthday weekend draws near, I can’t help but feel a little fatalistic nostalgic.  What was once party hats and streamers has somehow turned into a yearly existential crisis.  I blame this on J, who has a history of fervently assessing his life the month week before his birthday.  Always the chill one in the relationship, when he freaks out over something you know it’s time to worry.  Watching him, my nervous Nelly brain is like “Oh my, guess we should be worrying about this too!”

On a recent trip to Chicago, we stayed at the hotel where I got my first full time fitness gig.  This hotel once housed a combination spa/fitness center that was so swanky all staff received a complimentary spa treatment once a month (spoiler alert…the company eventually went bankrupt….).

Upon inquiring about personal training, each potential new client was given an assessment by a very expensive machine that gave them a “body age” reading (in case their actual age wasn’t stressing them out enough…).

Now, almost a decade later and no longer outsourced, the once fancy gym is a run of the mill hotel fitness center.  The setup is almost completely identical, yet lacks all its previous panache.  Decidedly less exclusive, I entered automatically with a swipe of my room card.  No extra charge.  No front desk person pushing over-priced personal training.  Just a simple little click of the door and I was in.

After a stint in the weight room, I wandered into the studio.  There I was, almost a decade later, reflected in the same mirror under the same bad fluorescent lighting.  A once upon a time fitness ingenue turned wizened wellness professional (ever notice how all “fitness” professionals have magically morphed into “wellness” professionals over the past few years?  Guess I’m on trend….).

Back then I embarked on a career in the fitness industry with confidence I would crack the code.  Looking back, it’s laughable that I believed there was a code to crack.  Just within the past year a new organ has been named and there is talk of a previously undiscovered bone in the knee!  It seems we still know very little about this vehicle we traverse the world in.

Similar to how we now know good nutrition isn’t simply a matter of calories in vs. calories out (and I say this after spending a significant amount of my time in college using and abusing Splenda….) the human body is incredibly nuanced.  The diet+exercise equation I once fell prey to now has a myriad of other components.  Hormones?  Environment?  Sense of community?  Weather? (ok I made up that last one but you must admit there could be something there….).

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that no one is an expert on the body.  Some of us (ahem) are more interested than others in its goings on, but how can anyone be an expert when we are still discovering new organs and bones for pete’s sake???

One cool thing is, the more I live, the gap between who I am and who I want to be begins to narrow.  This can be attributed roughly 20% to self improvement and 80% to self acceptance.  I’ve learned am learning how to best support my body rather than constantly attempt to control it.  I’ve learned that trying to make the healthiest choice at any given time is much better than being a stressed out perfectionist (except on that last trip to Chicago, when I tread the length of O’Hare airport certain I could find a healthier option and ended up barely making boarding call with an overpriced banana…which I could have gotten in the American Eagle lounge for free….).

I’ve also learned that you may get teary eyed when your 9 year old dog starts to limp and you find your first gray hair and your son starts talking about driving you around in his Jeep all in the same day (ok, he is under four and it’s imaginary, but the day is coming….).

So this weekend, as I take a walk while listening to The Blue Zones audiobook, I’ll do my best to do so with an air of celebration rather than trepidation.  These centenarians I am learning about know where it’s at, and I hope to know that one day too.  For now, I’ll be scaring the s%*# out of J as I sit next to him on the couch googling “mid-life crisis”.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!


I am the one on the far left, as happy-go-lucky then as I am now……

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