The first warning sign was a change in my jeans size. I had basically been around the same size for the last fifteen years, sometimes up a little as well as down. What had changed was not around the butt or the legs but around the waist. And despite my usual tricks that I played with my body this new addition to my waistline was not budging. If this continued I wouldn’t be able to flippantly tell my jokes about my life on the couch.
For me, I knew that there was no escaping the fact that menopause was going to change my shape, thickening me up in my middle and making it harder for me to lose weight. It was the conversation that many of my friends were having and we were all visually changing much to our collective chagrin.
A year previous I had also made the step to give up smoking. Despite being an extremely light smoker, I knew that any cigarettes would be poisoning my body and one every once in a while, was still not acceptable. And yes, the ritual extra kilos hit my hips as my metabolism said goodbye to this noxious stimulant.
Throughout my life I’ve divided women into two categories; those who don’t have a problem managing their weight and what they put into their cakehole and those who do. Being in the ‘those who do’ category I have basically always accepted my body the way it is, that I would never be a bikini model and I could fall back on having a stocky somewhat sporty type of build.
I’d been able to hide all the wobbly bits thanks to strategic dressing. Wide shoulders and a good-sized bust on a semi-athletic albeit slightly overweight body helped. I had also experienced the devastating impacts of eating disorders thanks to three step-aunts (yes, you read right) and wasn’t keen on becoming food obsessed or radically changing what I ate just to drop some weight. I wanted longer term healthy results not just starvation for a photoshoot, if you know what I mean.
But the shift towards healthier was really about being able to contribute to enjoying life for a longer period. Watching my young 73-year-old mother choose a lift over a flight of stairs because of a dodgy knee was my first wake-up call. The disappearance of my waist and the continual evidence of my tummy pouch stayed with me as an issue that needed to be dealt with. My ability to continue to do the things I needed in life like keep up with kids, my partner, garden, take walks, swim in the ocean and not roll out of bed because my back was so sore added up to change.
I bought a gym membership. My first ever. Stepping into the gym for my evaluation was like moving into another world. I started my first gym program. After the first time I felt like I had been not only hit by a bus but had also contracted flu and been rolled on by a hippopotamus. It was truly awful. It was then I knew how far I was from that super fit, sporty 18-year-old who could put her body and mind to anything and be able to do it quite well.
My initial program started out as gruelling but quickly became something that I got better at. Quelle surprise, I know! My body soon adjusted and I found myself taking on longer durations and slightly heavier weights. Subsequent programs were sometimes too hard making my gym time less enjoyable. It was my desire to ‘meet in the middle’; the gentle bringing together of these sessions and this body. Push the body just enough to feel a difference but not enough to choose anything else including basket weaving because the experience was not enjoyable.
I got a personal trainer who listens to me, laughs with me and shows me what I am capable of. He has even helped me with my nutrition, showing me the woes of not having breakfast and healthy snacks throughout the day. Together we set goals and find new ways to bend, stretch, lift, flex and run. Ryan is the constant motivator telling me I have more in the tank as I tell him my stories of my love affair with the couch.
If all that wasn’t enough I decided to start a basketball team within the local women’ league and asked my friends to get onboard, which they did. We have the oldest median age of all the players. About a third of the team have already retired due to injury or fear of it so I went and recruited some more women. I wanted to feel that competitive urge again but I couldn’t get that in a solo sport. I needed a team. It had been absolute decades. I wanted to feel how it felt to run, jump and move throughout a game. I wanted to experience the spontaneity of sport while also seeing what my body could still do. To this point it is serving me well (touch wood). It flexes my muscles, my mind and my psyche.
The internet is full of transformational stories of before and after and ‘look at my newly found abs’. This type of stuff can really get you down while also consuming your life. I don’t have time to work out every single day nor am I interested or motivated to completely change my diet to sculpt some type of whisper of a body that gets the paparazzi or the media to photograph my butt on a beach. I just wanted my body to know I cared for it and that I would do better with it as it dutifully carried me forth into my later years.
Words like boot camp, shred and cross training will not probably ever be written onto my calendar. While I have ventured into the thing call a gym such visitations remain on my own terms. Listening to my body I know when to push it and when to let it rest. Maybe a day, maybe a week away from a training session or a workout, just to remind it that it’s in good hands. Instead I make sure I get up and move each hour, take a walk instead of drive and indulge my body so it sweats and aches a little every occasionally.
And here I am feeling great. Fit and 47. Tone where there used to be flab. Strength where there used to be struggle. Stamina where once there was can’t be bothered and I think I’ll take a quick nap. My body and I are now friends and as I become a little old lady it will be one of the most blessed friendships I could have made.