Now that I’m three years into my 40’s (man, that’s hard to say out loud), I will admit, it’s not so bad. But here’s the PSA: the gravitational pull on certain, um, body parts after 40 is no myth. My current fight is against the concave mom butt, which runs in my family. I have to do squats and hip thrusts until my lower body is quivering to fight that genetic gem. It's no joke.
The year I turned 40 I trained for and ran my first marathon (the Marine Corps Marathon, which I highly recommend), and spent a lot of time out on the road thinking about (and hand wringing, and whining to my husband) turning 40 and wondering if I could actually finish a marathon at 40 years old, especially after having three knee surgeries. I talked to a lot of marathoners that year to gather advice, and let me tell you, it’s like asking for advice when you’re pregnant—everyone has an opinion and a nightmare story. Most people looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I wanted to run 26 miles on bad knees, but there was one person’s advice that I will never forget.
Since we’re all still getting to know each other here, I’ll tell you a secret about me: when someone tells me that I won’t be able to do something, I usually want to do it. Badly. And yes, you should feel bad for my mom, because yes, I was that kid growing up.
Back to the advice. It was 2009, and I was still living in NYC. My husband and I were at a get together hosted by the parents of a classmate of my son James. I was talking to the host—I will call him Joe, for the sake of this story—and he was telling me about his personal training business. At the time, being a personal trainer was still a faraway pipe dream for me, so I always sought out the opportunity to talk to any trainers about their career and how they got in to it.
Joe was telling me that he trained a lot of runners, most of them women. When I told him that it was my dream to run the NYC marathon but was worried about my knees holding up during training, he looked at me with a snarky smile and said, “Stick to the 5ks – there’s NO WAY you can run a full marathon after having three knee surgeries.” I thanked him for his advice, and went off to refill my drink.
I’m happy to report that I’ve trained and ran three marathons since that conversation (including NYC in 2014) and at every finish line, I think about Joe, usually to the tune of, “See, Joe? HA. I get the last laugh.” Well, actually there are usually a few more expletives in there, but you get the idea.
I tell you this story because I have had so many conversations with people recently about their fitness efforts in their 40s and how much harder it is to stay in shape, find the time, and fit in weight training around their racing plans. It’s true that life in your 40s is definitely filled with commitments, and making the time for fitness is not easy. But for me, making the time is completely worth it. Thanks to discovering Pilates and committing to weight lifting, I am stronger than I was in my 20s and 30s, and can do a whole lot more push-ups. And if you’re reading this and thinking, “well, good for her, but I just can’t work out like I used to when I was younger”—STOP. It’s simply not true. I find we underestimate ourselves a lot, especially my fellow moms in their 40s. I have a few rugby friends back in New York who have recently gotten in to CrossFit, and let me tell you, they are crazy strong now, with abs and shoulders that will make you jealous. It's awesome.
So here's the moral of this story, which I know is cliché, but it bears repeating: it’s never too late to find a sport or fitness medium that you love and makes you feel alive. For one of my cousins, it’s Jazzercize. For some of my friends, it’s CrossFit. For my running friends, it’s marathon training. For my 75-year-old dad, it’s still doing a bit of running after a new hip curtailed his endurance running. (He was still doing half marathons in his early 70s!) For another one of my cousins, it’s biking, even when she was recovering from cancer. (You can read her story HERE on my Everyday Rudys blog.) It's just never too late.
So if you’re reading this and you’re over 40, I want to hear from you. How did turning 40 change your fitness goals?
Just your average stopwatch-toting suburban mom, looking to make some locals sweat and curse my name.