Go ahead. Ask Unsplash for photos of bodybuilders and see what you get
The only thing that was even close to what I wanted was the top photo, an older White male.
That's fine, but as with all things Unsplash you only get what the photogs recognize as valid. The second (overused, sorry) photo is of me at 64 or thereabouts. I am not seen. Nor are many of the other amazing, extraordinary and capable athletes well past fifty which Unsplash, and many others, simply don't acknowledge.
We're here. One of my Saga supporters shared this, a 70-ish skier out making sure she was ready for her next fun run, with braces.
Oh, can we relate.
Speaking of skiing, I was inspired to add this to my story volume. This is yet another wonderful comment which I had to post which truly underscores the point about sharing our journeys. It's also why it is SO important to let us all know the challenges you're facing and how you are dealing. Someone is always going to come up with a cool answer.
Nancy Knight popped me a note in response to my thanks to another writer whose story was very moving. It also was so good I had to share, she said I could, so here it is in its entirety with some soft edits to make it more readable on this format:
I turned 69 this past Dec so 70 is just around the corner which is mind-boggling to me! I've been reading your articles for probably the past 18 mos trying to figure out why after being adventurous & athletic for most my life, I'd kind of given up.
A little history: I started lifting weights in my early 30s and loved it! My body responded in ways it never had doing all those aerobics classes. I worked my way up to squatting 185lbs, pressing 125lbs etc. Though I never got to your level with pushups! I went skydiving. I also started scuba diving, becoming a dive master & underwater photographer.
At 48, I started running marathons, often winning grand master in my 50s. I qualified and ran the Boston marathon. At 61, I had to care-give my elderly parents until they passed. That slowed me down as it was very difficult emotionally. I moved from Florida to Colorado in 2017 at age 63.
Then in Feb 2018, I was slammed into by an out-of-control skier. (That was) my first major injury. After surgery, the doctor told me I shouldn't run anymore. I had actual joint pain which I (luckily) had never had before. Anyway, I'm still in way better shape than most my age, but I'm in the worst shape for me.
I was again injured by a skier- tore a tendon in my medial shoulder. I've been riding horses the last two years but not really doing a formal workout plan. I've been struggling to get in touch with that kick-ass part of me. You have motivated me to join a boot camp and get started.
At first I couldn't even support myself on that arm but I'm now able to do knee pushups, so that shoulder is getting stronger. Anyway long story short, lol, thank you for your motivation & for being a kick-ass woman- it's sad that so many do give up or never even start, eat terribly, do nothing- I can't imaging how anyone could be bored in this amazing world! Nancy Knight (author bolded)
With heartfelt thanks to Nancy for allowing me permission. I know from reading others' comments that many of you are dealing with much the same thing. Honestly, for a few months there during this past year I damned near gave up myself; it seemed so frustrating to make attempts to get back in shape when some part of me was always injured and hurting.
Reading her story- and those of others who share them- is so critical to perspective and healing. You and I are hardly alone. Everyone goes through this in some way. When we share our journey it is immensely healing to others. And it is also deeply inspiring.
I didn't realize it in full at the time- and this is where good friends are so priceless- that I was dealing full-on with a low-level depression from having left my home of fifty years (Denver area) and immediately having a truly devastating car accident, and then all the injuries and surgeries which have been legion.
I would try this, that or the other, from aerial silks to a personal trainer, from hiking new routes to installing a full gym in my basement which just didn't get the attention it deserved. I couldn't find my kick-ass either. It lasted for a while then it petered out like a popped balloon.
Honestly, nothing stuck. I'd been so disciplined, so good at this for so long. I didn't stop but I sure kept getting stymied.
I have bolded those statements above in Nancy's comment which got me where I live. The last two years I've been in the "worst shape for me." Gone for the short term is the uber-sculpted body in the photo above, although by god those muscles are coming back.
In the last several weeks once even after surgery I was back at the gym, even with a boot and hand down, doing what I could. I felt different. I WAS different. I could feel it, all the joy of listening to my body whisper (WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?)
The other day I was doing some kind of stretching exercise for my newly-repaired foot and I saw my arms in the mirror and wanted to scream YES YES YES!!!!
I'd like to see my belly back, but you know what? The muscles are there, which for now is all that matters. I have another major surgery and I am better off having a bit extra fat than being that lean. So I will wait to train in full when the last boot gets booted off.
To Nancy I would offer these thoughts which she inspired. I heartily invite ALL my readers and Saga Supporters to weigh in here:
- Every time some non-athlete doctor informs or advises me to "never do that again," whatever "that" is will be THE FIRST thing I aim to master again. The sound of a gauntlet striking the ground at my feet by someone who doesn't live in this body is the most motivating sound I know. You may not be able to do that thing again but close...and sometimes the pivot is the whole point. Now: Saga Supporter Randy Roig, since he has been through some joint replacements, added this with which I agree completely: Although I generally agree with your comments on the "don't do this any more" inspiring you to do just that, I have learned to ask why and other follow-up questions. So, for example, after my knee replacements, I was told not to run or downhill ski. The general reason I ascertained after discussion was that it shortened the life of the replacement joint significantly and increased the consequences in an accident. So, I switched over to elliptical trainers for my running, which are not as hard on your joints, and moved to snowshoeing and cross country skiing which have less speed and thus less consequence for accidents. Learning the context, deciding if it is real, and figuring out how to adapt is key. It also involves risk assessment and determining what risks you are willing to take for what amount of gain. Well said, and thanks to Randy.
- The body needs kindness, so when we have an inevitable down time- and I am now coming out of mine (YAY)- the down time performs a critical purpose. Nancy' skiing stories really got my attention. Look, I am not a skier, but the times I was on the slopes decades ago, it was already terrifying due to the overcrowding and all the assholes who had no clue about other-awareness and safety. I cannot speak for anyone else but my pref would either be to switch to another sport or if affordable, find the out of the way and less-popular areas. I think the Universe tells us when we need to stop doing X, whatever that is. I sure get that regularly. I also get how hard it is to let go of what we love- for me if I had to stop riding horses, OMG.
- One older male Saga Supporter has worked up to 100 pushups. Not everyone cares about this but Nancy's point is well-taken. We do what we can. The fascinating part is to see how the body responds. It IS responding. This is why I think that the "don't run" is bogus. We can test by speed-walking, which when done correctly can be one hell of a workout, and then return to some kind of running. We may never do a Boston again, but then, that's why and how we learn how to pivot which Nancy has already done, as we all get to do, many times.
- There is a universal message here. When we hit our sixties, especially if we're used to having considerable agency in sports as did Nancy, it is damned hard to hit that wall and suddenly, WTF? For me, apparently, it was that godawful car accident combined with the huge move to a new place under Covid and then...it builds up. I honestly didn't realize that I was down until I started to come out of it and could see and feel the difference. Even though I have multiple body parts down and sore, I have twice the energy and I don't feel like I need a "rest day." I take them, but when I've earned them.
- Being a fan of Bill Bridge's work "Transitions," when we hit that wall, in this case a physical one, there is a very real sense of loss. We recognize that something has ended for us; often it's our youth (not youthfulness). There is genuine, terrible, real grief in this realization. That's especially true in our society. While there are a million new options, we need to honor what we believe or know we have lost so that we can grieve. When we do that, and I think I finally did, then there is a period of being hung between the trapezes. That's precisely where I've been since July 2020. There's this muddy middle sense of not really knowing who or what we are anymore as those ways we identify ourselves have shifted. This is of course hugely healthy work, but it's also damned difficult. Look, I teach this stuff and I still didn't realize that I was right in the middle of what Bridges calls The Neutral Zone, that messy period of not knowing.
- When we can let go of what no longer serves, only then can we pivot to what's next with an empty backpack. I realized that this happened when I watched two movies: Top Gun Maverick and The Woman King. While I will address these separately, I was profoundly moved by both for very different reasons. I could feel the energy rise like a brand new dawn. I felt reborn in a way that, well, it's been a minute.
- We get our motivations from whatever and whomever- the truth is that it comes only when WE are ready to receive it. Mine landed right when I had two body parts down and was headed for a final surgery. I don't care. I only care that it's back, and I have a brand new decade ahead of me in which I can remake myself. We have these pivotal moments all our lives. Some of them are VERY big, such as the later-in-life age-related ones that we are all addressing over fifty or sixty. This absolutely normal. The question is, are we patient enough, kind enough to ourselves to allow the change to happen? If so, the next path then becomes clear. As Nancy writes, the kickass part of us is highly likely to show up again when we are ready, and especially if we are willing to consider brand new directions.
- Finally, sadness, confusion, a sense of loss and feeling utterly out of sorts are all part of the payment for transformation. Nothing comes to us for free. So being willing to tolerate this time is proof that indeed, things are working. I know it's frustrating, and it can take years (GAH!!!), but this is the price you and I pay to evolve.
With heartfelt thanks to Nancy Knight for the comment and inspiration for this story.
And just for grins and giggles, a reminder: it ain't over til it's over, as proven by the extraordinary Barbara Hillary:
Dear Walkabout Saga Reader:
Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of your life to read my work. WalkaboutSaga is an act of love and devotion, and I hope that you found value in it.
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Such articles take time, resources, research and effort. Even a small amount of support truly helps me keep this going. In challenging times, I recognize that even a small amount is hard. Those who can give, I appreciate it. Those who cannot, I hope my words are helpful.
My purpose is to Move People's Lives. I can do more of that with your help.
However you decide to partake of my writing, again, thank you.