Fit After 50: Why It’s Important to Me

by Alison McIrvin

As I was nearing the end of my 40s, naturally I found myself contemplating what my life would look like in my 50s, where I saw myself at that point at age 48, and where I wanted to be in terms of my overall health and fitness and the rich life I envisioned for myself.

Photo courtesy Alison McIrvin.

Photo courtesy Alison McIrvin.

Fitness had always been a part of my life starting with competitive sports in high school and college. I always knew an active lifestyle was important to me. However, as I hit my late 20s and was having babies, it became more and more difficult to guard my workout routine and do a good job of meal planning for not only my little ones, but my changing nutritional needs. It was too easy to push my workout to “tomorrow” when someone else’s needs or calendar was calling.

I made it through my 30s and 40s with reasonably decent fitness, but I always felt the perfectionist pressure I had on myself to maintain the same level of competitive fitness in my college years. I tended toward an all or nothing approach and would be hard on myself if I was unable to workout for 2 hrs 4 days a week with a perfect balance of cardio and weight training.  It not only was not realistic with 5 little ones and a home to care for, but that expectation held me back from attaining more realistic goals.

A family camping vacation made me realize that I was not able to challenge myself physically as I had been able to just a few years prior. It dawned on me that by my 50th birthday, I could likely see a continued decline. My kids at that time were pre-teens and teens and I wanted to be able to join in with them in activities rather than hang on the “mom sidelines”. I was also aware of the coming years as more of my kids would be leaving the nest and an active, healthy life in my 50s and beyond was important to me.

Once I told myself that it was ok to just workout 2-3 times a week even if for just a power walk, then things got better. My personal mantra at that time was “It’s not about having the butt of a 20-year-old, but instead protecting my bone density”. Once I backed off on the pressure of my past and focused instead on how I wanted my future to look, I actually found freedom and was working out more frequently than 2-3 times a week because it had once again become a pleasure.

Since my open times for working out was limited with my home demands, I allowed myself only 20-30 minutes of cardio and stepped up the weight training interspersed with plyometrics for an interval-type or workout that not only built muscle, but challenged my heart as well. I also discovered Pilates and yoga classes twice a week to improve my core, balance, and flexibility. In a shorter time frame, I was actually becoming more fit with a more efficient workout.

The result? My 50th birthday came and friends were telling me that I was more fit and energetic than most 40 year olds! I was able to play sports and activities with my kids, took up power hiking, and snowboarding was a new sport to me and it felt wonderful to be able to challenge myself to do it.

Keeping the pressure off, my goals reasonable, and my future fitness in sight were the keys to my success. I wish you the same!


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