There’s more than a few shit things about getting old.
I knew it was becoming a problem when fretting over crow’s feet, crack-creeping lipstick, tuckshop arms and saggy boobs gave way to agonising over a droopy bum, floppy flaps (sorry!) and knees that look, in some positions, more like a scrotum than a leg. Seriously, downward dog in shorts should have an age limit.
It happens gradually, so slowly you don’t even notice it, until one day you realise that almost everybody you know looks fresh faced, wrinkle free and fabulously flawless. I’m sure some of it is “Brought to you by BOTOX®”, but still.
As you reminisce about what it was like to scamper, run, jump, leap, frolick and bounce around the bush without pain, you realise why they say: “Youth is wasted on the young.”
At 61, I am officially a senior, and not in a good way.
Recently, I got the devastating news from my surgeon that I’m too old for hiking, but too young for a knee replacement. I mean, seriously.
It tipped me over the edge.
I was already feeling not enough, invisible, like I had passed my use-by-date a long time ago. I was okay with no longer being ogled at, replacing my skimpy shorts with long leggings, and wearing sleeves to my daughter’s wedding. I have had a lifetime of wisdom, experience, and resilience to keep me thriving through it all – especially the superficial stuff.
But the surgeon’s comments were the straw that broke the camel’s back – and my heart. Honestly, it felt like a death sentence.
After 61 years of helping me do fun things – spinning somersaults on a balance beam, dancing Moulin Rouge style in stilettos, doing the world’s highest handstand, skiing, mountain climbing and canyoning – my knees were now officially too old to do the thing I loved most.
So I wallowed for a while. Seriously, I promise you I did. I even cried, quite a few times.
And then, I put my big-girl, knee-sack-covering pants on, and toughened the f**k up. I started thinking about what I could still do.
I could still go upside down on clifftops.
I could still climb tall trees, scamper onto rooftops and scramble through the bathroom window to unlock the front door.
I could still love my kids, lead my team and outclimb my partner…. hehehe.
I could still go mountain biking and rock climbing.
I could still practice yoga.
I could still find and cultivate joy, every single day.
And I realised an important lesson. While my fifties were for ageing disgracefully and defying societies expectations of middle-aged women, my sixties are about ageing sustainably, defying my own expectations of myself.
But the bridge and knitting will still have to wait.
I’ve shifted my focus to style over strength, prowess over power. I have to train smarter, not harder.
On doctor’s orders I’ve stopped hiking for a couple of years. Instead, I’m alternating climbing with yoga, having regular remedial massages and I’m trialling photobiomodulation (PBM) laser therapy. It hasn’t fixed my scrotum knees but the rest of my body doesn’t hurt as much.
And the most important lesson of all? Prevention is better than cure.
While I don’t regret my twenty years of wonderful hiking adventures, I do wish I had known more about the damage that carrying a 25-kilo pack up so many mountains and tens of thousands of stairs was having on my knees.
And I do have a few words of advice:
- Listen to your body and if something really hurts, get it checked out by a healthcare professional before it’s too late. There’s a lot that can be done to fix things when you’re still young.
- Maintain a healthy weight, use trekking poles with heavy backpacks and monitor the impact of this on your body.
- Train hard and rest hard. Always keep a balance between the yin and yang activities in your life. The yin is the calming relaxing activities, such as yoga, forest bathing and meditation, while the yang are the endorphin-producing activities such as running, canyoning and mountain climbing. To age sustainably you need to give your body both in equal measure.
- Don’t neglect your stretching. Oooooohhhh the importance of stretching.