When I mentioned my age on my Facebook page the other day, people’s reactions reminded me of something pretty significant: I have never talked about my age since creating Workout Nirvana back in 2010. This was actually the first time.
Rejecting age talk hasn’t been an oversight on my part. It’s been a conscious decision, a mindset, evolved from experiences in my early twenties, when ironically, I felt that I was always the oldest person in the room.
My perception of always being the oldest person began when I returned to college at the ripe old age of 23. I remember feeling overwhelmingly self-conscious that I was older than the traditional college student, even though I attended a college that had a large non-traditional population.
I had my share of challenges in my twenties. I was insecure, frightened, and lost.
Being divorced by the time I was 24 was certainly a symptom ﹘ and cause ﹘ of my issues. And going bankrupt at the age of 28 was a hefty load of shame to carry, too.
While other 20-something’s were finding themselves, I felt like I had a lot to hide. Wasn’t there shame in being divorced, bankrupt, and late to college? I thought so.
So it was: From the time I re-entered college at 23, I felt I was on a trajectory to always be the oldest person wherever I was. I was the oldest student in my journalism internship at the Rocky Mountain News. I was the oldest newbie when I started any writing and editing job. And at the age of 39, I was the oldest new mom I knew. I was perpetually self-conscious, out of place, out of time.
For years, I felt older than everyone else, if not in age, then in life experiences. I felt like an old soul in my youth.
But by the time I entered the fitness field in my forties, I had developed an entirely different perspective about age. Having a child helped me become more centered about who I was. Even though the fitness industry is saturated with youthful images, coaches, and messages, I was finally at ease.
I had found a perspective I truly believed in:
Age is just a number. It’s meaningless.
I made a conscious decision never to identify myself as “old,” use age as an excuse, or complain about my age. I wouldn’t even mention my age, because why did it matter? There were many things more important about me than my age. In my mind, I became ageless. I looked at other people the same way.
Unexpectedly, this attitude freed my inner rebel and let me be the youthful self I never allowed myself to be.
And then, in my mid-forties, Workout Nirvana was born ﹘ a blog that doesn’t give a fuck about hiding. I let my inner rebel out to play on Twitter, too, and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Earlier in my life, I’d discovered that lifting weights helped me feel free. But it wasn’t until I created this blog that I really found my true workout nirvana, both in the gym and in mindset.
Screw partying ﹘ I cut loose in the gym.
The Journey to Now
Fast forward to today.
I’m 51 now, and my attitude about aging has evolved again.
When you get to a certain point in life, avoiding age talk becomes a burden.
In fact, being ageless can be a bad decision as you age.
When it comes to training, your body, and your goals, age does matter.
I found that I needed more recovery between sessions or I’d feel run down all the time. I’ve also got 20 years of weightlifting wear and tear to consider. And of course, I coach women in their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond to build muscle, so I know intellectually that we need to adjust variables as we age.
That doesn’t mean women over 45, 50, or 60 can’t fucking crush it in the gym. We can still be badasses with the iron.
As well, women over a certain age have a calm sense of themselves that many younger women don’t have yet. As I commented in that Facebook post, “It’s possible to get much mo’ smarter, hotter, and happier as age happens. Just sayin’.”
So somehow, I’ve naturally and gradually become more comfortable in my own 51-year-old skin.
I’ve also met plenty of women over 45 or 50 who aren’t a bit hesitant to own it. Just look at Jody Goldenfield (@truthtobeingfit), a 58-year-old blogger friend who’s been lifting weights for 35 years. She’s an endless inspiration!
Hell, I’ve got clients that age who inspire me just as much. They lift heavy, push hard, and have the tough mental fortitude that many younger women haven’t needed yet.
Owning the Whole Package
Perceiving age as meaningless worked well for me for 10 years. It gave me freedom I never felt when I was younger.
But being ageless has also made me faceless in some ways. Age is part of who I am. I have 51 years of experiences, relationships, and feelings that have sculpted my body and mind.
I’m still not ready to put too much meaning on age. I’m not going to tell you how great you look “for your age.” What the fuck does that even mean, anyway? What does 50 look like? Or 60? Or 20, for that matter? It looks like vastly different people with vastly different life experiences, genetics, and lifestyles, that’s what. Age doesn’t have to stop anyone.
Age is a complicated and sometimes sensitive subject. The way I see it now, owning my age – that is, who I am – helps me to be an advocate for women over 45 or 50. Discounting the effects of aging isn’t productive… menopause is real and a big deal to some women. Aging and ageism are real. We need to support every part of each other, not just the socially acceptable parts.
So instead of ignoring my age, I choose to celebrate it without letting it define me. I’m not the oldest person in the room anymore ﹘ I’m among friends.
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.