I’m a big believer in personal velocity; the idea that we all reach our true peak at a time unique to us. The world may tell us that our physical peak is in our youth, while the sexual peak for women is apparently 45. The latter is good news for me as I’m heading that way, but the former is something that causes me a bit of anxiety.
I feel as though I’m just gearing up, you see. Just getting going with my life. I think it’s a consequence of relationships ending, huge life changes and a fresh start. It’s not really a surprise. And yet, the world – and, every time I’m tired, my mother – keeps telling me that now is the time my life will start to slow down. The change might be upon me, mum whispers. But it’s not. I’m not ready. Someone in my ace online running network mentioned the peri-menopause the other day. She is my age; a mere forty. Nope. Not having that. Not my time yet. I have a new level of running fitness to achieve. Weights to lift, long distance walks to tackle, indoor climbing walls to scale and a road bike that really, really wants to be ridden all the way to the seaside. Not to mention I need to find a house to move into at some point and at least one bit of career development to try for. There’s stuff to do.
I’m not convinced of the peri-menopause anyway. I’m sure that I’m wrong, but in my head the years leading up to the menopause will be just the same as all the other years. Maybe a touch wrinklier. But that’s it. And, even if I might, just might be slowing down a bit, I’m fitter than I’ve been for twenty years, eating better, drinking less booze, getting more sleep. And not to mention having all the lovely benefits of a still-rather-new relationship. (Not that. You’re so rude, you lot. Although now you mention it…) Surely all that will counter-act any slowing down? I’d like to think so.
All of this angst is, of course, exacerbated by the success of a generation of fitness ‘gurus’. Of Instagram transformation posts, health bloggers, media superstars. Generally in their twenties, with seemingly few other commitments in life (like kids or day jobs) to get in the way of avocado-toast photos and workout regimes to sell, there is a whole industry out there waiting to take your money and perhaps make you feel less-than-great about yourself along the way.
Of course, I’m exaggerating somewhat for effect. It’s not all bad. There are some incredible, talented and lovely fitness bloggers out there. My own favourites are Veggie Runners, a mother and daughter duo who prove that you can work hard, keep a balanced life, be super-fit and bloody lovely with it. I’m very proud to call Jayne a friend too. The ace thing about Veggie Runners is that they’re sane. (Their love of a ridiculously hard challenge notwithstanding!) They give good, balanced advice. We’ve started to see the backlash against ‘clean eating’ emerge, as properly qualified nutritionists take some of our gurus to task. Not before time, I think. Time for me to find some good old-fashioned common sense in amongst all the hype.
So, I’ve been seeking out the sanity. The good stuff that is trustworthy. The people to really admire – who, for me at this time in my life, need to be people like me. People in their thirties upwards. People who juggle getting fitter and healthier and marathon training or whatever, with work and kids and other responsibilities and commitments. People who understand that done is better than perfect, that sometimes you have to squash a workout in between the school-run and getting to work on time and that you have to make endless compromises and choices every damn day just to keep it all – roughly – on track. Those are my people. And, honestly, they’re usually the best kind of people to have in your team, because the levels of empathy run deep…
This week, the depths of my age-related fitness angst, I came across ‘Finding Traction’, a documentary on Netflix about the ultra-runner, Nikki Kimball. It was exactly what I needed to see. This remarkable woman, older than me, breaking records for long distance running. Showing me that age wasn’t the barrier that the world wants it to be. Being a complete badass and wanting to share that with other women. She was just the inspiration that I was looking for. And I know there are more women like this out there, sharing their stories. I just need to keep looking for them and build my fitness network.