Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Being Over 50

People like to say that 50 is the new 30. I must admit that I feel 51 years young instead of 51 years old. It's funny when other women talk about how they feel so old because they're going to be turning 30. My response is, "Been there, done that, lived to tell about it and the same thing for 40 and 50." I feel that life gets better as you get older.

When I turned 50 last year, I was so different from my image of what a 50-year-old woman should be. That image was formed when I was younger from observing my mother and other women her age. My image of a 50-year-old woman was someone with the following characteristics: Big beehive hairdo (with a dye job), polyester pantsuits, gravelly voice from too much alcohol and cigarettes, slightly overweight, takes various prescription drugs, and doesn't exercise.

Let's go over these things one by one...

Beehive hairdo: Let's just say that the women of the B-52s don't need to worry about any competition from me. I have a fairly short haircut and my hair is my natural brown with a touch of grey. I haven't bothered to cover up the grey because there isn't that much. Also, I view each grey hair as a life lesson learned.

Polyester pantsuits: OK, I do admit to wearing polyester because my work uniform is made with lots of it. But when I'm at home, I'm in jeans and cotton shirts or wool sweaters. My technical running gear is made with polyester, but at least it has a nice feel and doesn't look like traditional polyester.

Gravelly voice from too much alcohol and cigarettes: Nope! I definitely don't have a gravelly voice. My mother smokes and I always hated her cigarette smoke. I tried to smoke when I was in junior high but hated it. I did my share of drinking when I was in college, but now I hardly drink. I'll have a glass of wine with dinner once in a while. I don't like to drink much because it affects my running.

Slightly overweight: I'm at the low end of the normal weight range for my height and age and have never been overweight. In fact, as a child I was underweight.

Takes various prescription drugs: I just read a book which said that the average 50-year-old American takes between 7 and 11 prescription drugs. The only drugs which I take daily are a multivitamin and a calcium supplement. The last prescription medicine that I had was for a skin problem on my hands last year.

Doesn't exercise: Regular exercise is part of my life. I can't imagine my life without exercise. In the winter I do a mix of running and downhill skiing. When it isn't ski season, I run, hike, and ride my bike. If I'm going someplace in town, I either walk or ride my bike. I haven't started slowing down yet and finished in the top 20% overall among the women and in my age group during my most recent half-marathon in October. When I do an on-base race, I'm one of the oldest, if not the oldest, woman in the field. It's a fun feeling to be older and still be among the top women in the race. A couple of years ago I was the 4th place woman in an on-base race at age 49. It was the first time in a long time that I finished "off the podium" on base. One of the top three women, who was in her 20s, said that she hoped to still be running when she was my age. At first I was a little offended because it felt like she was implying that I was ready for the rocking chair instead of the race course. Then I decided to take it as a, "You go, girl!" At that moment I realized that I was a role model for what an older athlete can do.

One of my wishes is to be like the senior citizens that I see on the running/hiking/biking trails and ski slopes. I think it's wonderful that those folks are defying the stereotype of how an older person should be. They're probably not anything like how they imagined a person their age would be. I also want to be different than my image of someone my age.

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