Embracing all that life offers
Never mind trying to turn the clock back with botox, fillers, the fountain of youth or super serums to make us look gorgeous as the years slide by. What is really inspiring is women (and men) who embrace the advancing years and all that life offers.
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As lovely as it is to look at a youthful face, or oddly fascinating to observe a plumped up, cut up or customised visage – ‘She Looked After Herself’ isn’t going to feature on anyone’s headstone when their number is up.
But those who live life enthusiastically, wildly, happily and meaningfully – probably a combination of all – now that is worth an epitaph! As with the Margaret Thatcher film The Iron Lady – no matter your personal politics – it is a sharp reminder of how much you can fit into a life; day after day of such energy, passion, wit, drive, commitment and endeavour.
My daily routine
I felt like a super woman myself the other day and ‘change the country and world’ wasn’t even on my list of things to do.
In fact there was no list – it was the same old drill. Starting as ever in the dark, walking the dogs through an icy forest, coming back, making family breakfast, dressing Oscar for school, taking him to school, going back to the snowy forest for personal training sessions (in -4c!), then time to collect Oscar, take him back, walk dogs, carry kilos of shopping up the 32 steps to the house.
Then finally an opportunity to engage the brain, write an article, ignore the mail, walk the dogs again (they’re pups with small bladders!), get my son, do laundry and housework, make a healthy meal and ensure every human and animal is happy. Whew!
Now what would go down on my headstone for repeated years like that? Nothing. No one was inspired by, informed or even aware of my typical day’s activity.
These are just daily routines that most people will be unaware of, or even particularly care about.
Be inspired by age
On the contrary, the old lady who runs our corner shop gets everyone’s attention.
Although dithery, slow and a little careless when cutting cheese and meat, she is also very smiley and devoted to her customers while working in her 80’s. Quite rightly she commands our admiration and affection and occasionally frustration when we’re in a hurry!
At a Scottish wedding I met another sparkling character who knocked me sideways. Bright blue eyes sharpened by life, she followed every conversation with interest and input. As a diplomat’s wife she had lived in hostile places, dined with a tyrant such as Mugabe yet kept her charm through all life’s ruffles and spoke four languages fluently. My life was instantly enriched by this 85-year-old’s presence.
These types make you feel young, alive, aware, full of potential and yet all at once somewhat inferior. These people aren’t celebrities, classic beauties or dedicated athletes holding their medals. But they are gritty, shining individuals who touch others daily by just being themselves.
But we can’t possibly cover multi-lingual skills here along with international diplomacy and local commerce, so let’s narrow things down to matters of health, fitness and conditioning.
Accept the physical impact of ageing
Something that triggered me to think this way recently was a spate of kind messages via email and Facebook from people who were nice enough to say I was some kind of motivation to them. It is always a tremendously flattering thing to hear, particularly during those times when you feel you are just treading water!
It caused me to think back to how I pitched ahead a few years, and found people who still looked amazing and seemingly dealt with life with an effortless skill, enjoyment and youthful mind. Living, breathing proof that the coming years don’t have to be about miserable physical decline.
Balancing ‘normal’ life
I once heard double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes make an interesting point.
She alluded to the fact that it’s all very well for full time professional athletes to preach to the general public about getting fit and training hard (when that is what they do for a living), but it is only since retiring and immersing herself in a very busy and new kind of lifestyle that she has come to fully appreciate what it’s like for ‘normal people’ to balance daily work and family commitments with regular workout and physical activity.
Grabbing 15 minutes here and there when she can had given her a real taste of what most of us have experienced for years!
Former GB sprinter Jennifer Stoute stands out for me.
Jenny was one of our leading sprinters for several years and competed against the best in the world on the biggest stages in the world, including the Olympic Games.
After injury finally forced her from the track (with an Olympic bronze medal to her name) she joined the Gladiators team on TV and earned a new generation of fans as ‘Rebel’. But that is all in an increasingly distant past. Jenny is now in her 50’s, has two children and is a hard working mother running a successful management company – Stellar Athletics.
Gym workouts and extended exercise sessions have formed no part of her life for a good number of years now. Her daily 24 hour quota simply does not allow it and push ups, sit ups and stair climbs at home in short sharp bursts are as good as it gets.
And yet this lady could still put on a crop top and running briefs and line up on the blocks at any major international athletics event and, in terms of physical condition, look like she still belongs. She is in fantastic shape.
Invest in an active, healthy lifestyle
Of course genetics have a part to play here and you might want to point out that she was an international track athlete. But more than two decades, two children and a busy working life stand between now and her athletic peak.
Along with her friends Sharron Davies (Olympic silver medal swimmer) and Kate Staples (former GB pole vaulter and Gladiator ‘Zodiac) they prove something that more of us could do well to remember.
And that is that an investment in an active and healthy life places all the key benefits in ‘the bank’ that we can draw on for the rest of our lives. Each of them leads busy working lives, have at least two children and only squeeze training sessions in when they can.
They look fantastic, younger than their years and have the energy they need to raise children and run successful lives and businesses.
Focus on the long-term benefits
Much of the fitness and exercise industry is sharply focused on ‘the now’, how to look great as soon as possible. We fixate on looking our best in a matter of weeks for that beach holiday or squeezing into that new dress. Quick fixes and rapid results are much repeated phrases.
This is all natural, understandable and inevitable, but it is all a bit short-termist. We could all do with reminding ourselves of the long game sometimes and realising that what we are doing now, what we did last year and what we set in motion whenever we first adopted exercise, we are enhancing whatever is to come in the years ahead.
I’ll always appreciate and admire great athletic performance, but more and more my real admiration is reserved for those who have carried great vitality, youthful energy and shape into later life – whatever that life has thrown at them.
Read more from WatchFit Expert Joey Bull