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You can actually get more fit with age

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Contrary to popular belief, fitness isn't a realm that only belongs to youth.

In January, my oldest daughter joined her school’s cheerleading squad. This was a milestone for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I was a cheerleader in high school — in fact, for junior and senior year I was co-captain of my school’s cheerleading squad.

The day she got her uniform and pom-poms, she asked if she could show me her toe-touch. I agreed enthusiastically and watched as she wound up and gave me her very best toe-touch effort.

Shockingly, for a first try, it was pretty good. It was certainly a far cry from how I remember my first toe-touches. But when I (foolishly) tried to give her some pointers, she got defensive, clammed up, and then turned the tables on me.

“Fine, if you know so much about toe touches why don’t you just SHOW ME!” she said, walking that delicate border between slightly passive and highly aggressive.

At first I was tempted to demur … after all, who did I think I was, doing toe touches at the ripe old age of 33 after giving birth to 5 whole children? But then I thought … nuts to that. Game on, eldest.

So I unrolled my trusty CG mat, took a few deep breaths, and … threw out the absolute best toe touch I have ever done in my entire life. And I mean, evah.

“Wow, Mom,” Sienna said, sounding a bit dazed. “That was a really good toe-touch.”

“That was SO MUCH BETTER than the toe-touches she did in high school,” my mom (a.k.a. spoiler alert) announced. “Don’t you worry, Sienna, you’ll be better than her in no time.”

I was tempted to agree with my mom at first, but upon reflection, I’m not so sure. After all, my oldest is a lot like me — and I didn’t get into fitness until I was way, way past my prime … like way past, y’all. Ten years past, at least. Which is why this article in Shape magazine resonated with me so strongly — much like the author, I’m far fitter at 34 than I was at 24:

Amy Jackson, 44, admits that she never considered herself athletic when she was younger. “When I was 20, I ate anything,” she says. …“My son turned three when I was 38, and I wanted to get the baby weight off,” she says. “I knew that running was something I could easily do.” To help accomplish her goals, Jackson signed up for a 10K, and would wake up before the rest of the family three to five days a week to train. “It didn’t take away from my family time, and I discovered it was my ‘alone time.’”

Not only did Jackson start to feel better physically, but she also noticed a change in her mental state, now that she was devoting the time to taking care of herself — and she wanted more. “After the 10K I decided to try a half marathon,” she says. “I ran my first half marathon at 39. I’ve now done 10, and I’m signed up for three more. I also ran a full marathon at 41. This accomplishment has been huge for me. Now I feel like I can say I’m an athlete!”

Before I started kickboxing and taekwondo, I used to throw major shade at people who said that going running was their “alone time.” I was sure they were insane or delusional, and possibly both.

Lo and behold, a few years later I have joined their ranks so vehemently that the saddest day for me is the day when I don’t work out. I completely understand why people talk about it as “me time” or “alone time” … it’s the only time in the day where you get to focus on true self-care — not bonbons in the shower in your bathrobe or whatever, but actual self care. The kind that involves keeping yourself healthy, challenged, stimulated, and inspired. The kind that leaves you feeling awesome and wanting nothing more than another day like this one.

That, my friends, is the joy of discovering fitness in your middle age. It’s only slightly more awesome than the joy of showing up your 12-year-old’s cheerleading skillz, but lucky for you, it’s a 2-for-1 deal. So stop hesitating and get after it — I can’t quite express how much you will thank yourself later!

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