If 50 is the new 30 then why do I have to exercise so much?

I miss the ability to eat at will: sweets and nacho chips, macaroni and cheese, and sour cream on just about anything that wasn’t moving. I miss the metabolism that allowed me to burn off the extra calories with almost no effort. But most of all, I miss my natural athleticism: my body’s ability to do anything from walking to gardening, from the balance beam to Step aerobics, from hiking to swimming to bowling, all for hours on end and with nary a creak nor a protest. If 50 is the new 30, then why has no one informed my body?

It turns out that 50 is 50, and that is the sad truth. My body aches and creaks in places I didn’t even know I had, and I now gain weight from reading the labels on fattening foods. My joints, even more displeased about the weight gain than I am, are operating under protest and have served notice that, “Maximum Capacity has been exceeded.” Lately, the temptation to chuck it all in, sit on my couch and eat alternating handfuls of nachos and ibuprofen has been strong. Coming to grips with hormonal changes and the realization that two weeks of walking will no longer drop me a dress size has been difficult, stressful even, and there have been days when only 90% dark chocolate has made it any better.

Fortunately, after a suitable period of denial, anger, and grief, something wonderful kicked in: my body, which really is wise and magnificent, finally said, “Enough is enough – it’s all still there (or most of it is) you just have to work at it now.” Which is not to say that things got easy, it just means I stopped despairing. I learned that I have to stretch in the morning now, every day, but then I barely feel creaky at all. Having driven down my caloric intake to concentration camp levels, and still not lost weight, I realized that I needed professional help and engaged a personal trainer. I learned that I need to do something to move around virtually every day, whether it’s walking, weights, qi gong, the elliptical, or yoga — and that there better not be too many days off or my muscles will go to hell.

The payoff is how wonderfully my body responds to this regimen — if this is a story of “How Cheryl Got her Groove Back” then it’s my body that’s driving the narrative. It’s work. It’s really, really, work, but through the sweat I’m getting glimpses of the future me that give me hope: older, fitter, sexy, and happy. I’m not there yet, but I can see it and feel it and it’s within reach.

by Cheryl Shainmark
Cheryl Shainmark is a writer, editor, and certified hypnotherapist with a private practice in New York. A long time contributor of articles and book reviews, Cheryl is now a senior editor and a regular columnist at Merlian News. When she is not reading, reviewing, or dreaming about books she can be found playing with cats of all stripes at her quiet country retreat.