We are always being bombarded with reasons to exercise. But why should women in their forties, and beyond, get fit?
There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t see a magazine feature on improving muscle tone, an instagram reel that will rid you of your flabby arms or an online feature that promises you’ll have a better life if you are 40 and fit!
To date, I have ignored all of it. Full-on denial; I don’t need to get fit – I haven’t got the time – my kids keep me moving – I hate exercise – I’ve done 10,500 steps today. I’ve said all of these things, but a few months ago, it hit home that I was making excuses.
I have given birth to three children, my body has changed a lot over the last 12-years and my god it’s done some incredible things – I mean, I’ve grown three children inside of me and pushed them out! I read somewhere that giving birth is like being a in a car crash, in terms of the trauma that the body experiences. A car crash! I don’t know about you, but after giving birth I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, all three times. My births were all very different, ranging from super-speedy and out of hospital in 3.5-hours to incredibly long, traumatic and worrying. No matter how you give birth, the body goes through an enormous life-changing thing which changes you forever.
In the last year, I noticed that I was feeling weaker, my left arm had the strength of a newborn kitten and my body felt less, stable. I am sure it had a bit to do with the recent peri-menopause journey I’ve found myself on, but I don’t want to harp on about the menopause, that’s not what this is about. I don’t want to make this about body image either.
It is about feeling fit.
Six months ago, I was sitting in the dentist chair and after having routine x-rays, you know the ones when the dentist wedges a huge piece of card into your mouth, runs out the room for 3-seconds and comes back in again, yes that – well after studying the resulting image on a screen, my dentist said he could see the bone in my upper and lower jaw was receding. RECEDING! He asked me to confirm my age and my immediate comment was that it was bone-thinning due to me being 46. He agreed that it could be. My poor jaw.
I’ve read numerous articles that push low-impact weight-bearing exercises as the go-to when you are the wrong side of forty, and 6-months ago I wasn’t doing any of them.
Now I go to the gym 3-times a week. Today is Friday and so far this week I have done 2-hours in the gym and a boxercise class, which I nearly cancelled 20-mins before it was due to start! I have conditioned myself into thinking it is too hard, easier if I didn’t do it, too much faff. As I sit here an type I am thankful I didn’t press the cancel class button on my app. The class made me feel like I had stamina, and for once, I wasn’t out of breath! It was hard, with boxing routines (pow pow), jumping jacks, squats, shuttle runs and lots of fast punchy stuff – I’ve really got the lingo sorted haven’t I? All of the crazy stuff I did today makes me feel stronger – and that is why I do it. Deep down, I want to know that I am looking after my 46-years old bones whilst feeling the benefit of stronger muscles and toned limbs.
I met a school friend for breakfast this week and she shared how she’d got the gym bug, too. We both laughed about the new wobbly wave that comes with being 46, aka having bingo wings. I was definitely an owner of my own pair of bingo wings, but not a proud one at that. I was starting to hate them. I think my BWs started to make an appearance the day I stopped shoving my third child’s pram – embellished with clothing, biscuit crumbs, backpacks and footballs – around the streets. Once I parked the pram for good, my wings started to appear. Ugh. Not for me.
I asked on my geriatric_mum instagram about attitudes to exercise and I had some interesting responses. Here are a couple:
Sarah, 48 – I’m not a lover unless it involves a country walk with a roast and a vino in a pub after.
Kim, 41 – Just finished week-1 of Couch to 5K… hate running! I am getting married in March and feeling fat and old.
Lisa, 49 – I just wish I could find something I liked, the idea of awkwardly using a treadmill next to someone who is good at it fills me with horror
Before the bone thing, I was pretty much all of the above. In addition to the awkwardness that Lisa described, I was starting to feel a bit squashy, a bit unlike me. In past I’ve struggled with body image. At the tender age of 16 I was riddled with an eating disorder that almost took over my life. Up until 21-years old, it was my life. It consumed me. Anyone who has been through an ED will know what that feels like. These days I know that my decision to exercise can’t be linked to the size of my clothes, or by what I see in the mirror – and it isn’t. I’m way past those awful days, they are nearly 30-years in the past. The reason I chose to start exercising properly was because I wanted to feel stronger, both physically and mentally. I don’t stand on the scales and I haven’t done a ‘before’ pic, my body image is not why I am doing this. I am doing this for stamina and a good level of fitness to see me through my forties and into my fifties, and onwards. And, to tone up my bingo wingos!
A typical exercise week:
Outdoor boxercise class; 45-mins with partner – pad work, jumping jacks, squats, hard work!
Indoor gym session; 2 x 1-hour sessions – treadmill, bike, leg-weights, cable multi-gym, hand-weights and lots of stretching.
This level of exercise seems to be working for me at the mo, I am pushing myself and noticing a difference, without it being too much. I used to tell myself I didn’t have the time, but now I find nearly 3-hours each week just for me. I am proud of that.
I hit 46 and that was my crunch point. It was time. The health we take for granted in our twenties and thirties starts to wobble a bit in midlife – I am now on daily reflux meds, daily antihistamines, HRT patches, progesterone tabs which is a strak contrast to the fact I’d barely popped a single pill in my twenties and thirties, unless it was the party kind! 😉
Everyone approaches exercise differently and if I could give one piece of advice, I’d say mix it up. Don’t stick to one thing. Try local classes where you will meet people who are just like you. Exercise at home if you like it. Go for a run if you enjoy running! But most of all, stay as consistent as you can and vary what you do so that your body gets a good mix. Oh, and this might be helpful – before I started this fitness malarkey, I had a deep tissue massage to relax my tense neck, shoulders and back and I went to see a physio who gave me some key exercises to do that suited me. I went into the gym feeling confident that I was not going to do any damage.
So why should women in their forties get fit?
Lots of reasons – some I have experienced are:
It can be fun
Better food choices
Less aches and pains
Sense of achievement
Meeting new people
and the best one…
Goodbye bingo wings!
Lucy aka Geriatric Mum x
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