Inspired to be strong

I’ve been working really hard on trying to be healthy lately: it’s summer, I’m going to be a bridesmaid in about six weeks, and I don’t want to die before I’ve seen what this body can do. I get discouraged because I’m 33, almost 34, and I feel too old to be really trying to build a strong body, but there are enough inspiring stories online that feeling too sorry for myself because I am too “old” to start something new feels more ridiculous than pretending I am young, so I persist.

Some stories that motivate me:

  • Kathy Martin started running in her 30s and now is an internationally competitive runner in her 60s. I reread this article about her whenever I need a pick-me-up.
  • Fauja Singh started running marathons in his 90s. He retired at 101. Everyone stop complaining about everything.
  • I noticed during the last Olympics that a lot of the American female runners were in their 30s. I’m sure they’ve been training nearly their whole lives and have a dedication to purpose that is incomprehensible to mere mortals like me, but the fact remains that they weren’t past their prime in their early 30s and 40s. Here’s a chart of the ages of American Olympic athletes that can put things in perspective.

More than ever before, my focus is on becoming strong instead of worry about what size pants I can fit into. My mom was a bodybuilder growing up and she had me convinced that not only was I genetically predisposed to bulk up easily, but that getting a ripped body like hers was the result of lifting weights. I didn’t want her bulging biceps for myself, so I shied away from the weight room whenever I got it in my head to start exercising. But I realized recently that the kind of body I do want comes from being strong, from lifting weights and doing bodyweight exercises. I also realized that my mom was not just up in that gym doing some squats and lunges: she had a strictly controlled diet and was working her ass off in the gym for hours every day. I no longer think I am danger of accidentally getting a bodybuilder’s physique.

So I’m doing planks and trying to do push-ups, lifting weights to strengthen my arms and chest, trying to get to that first pull-up. Doing cardio to lose weight, eating a long list of “superfoods” and clean meals every day to cleanse and strengthen my body from the inside out. I’ve been working out once a week in a small group with a trainer who’s really focused on form, and he’s been able to help me with the shin splints and joint pain I am experiencing as I try to get my body out of the desk chair and into the sunshine.

I find that focusing on being strong is a lot more motivating that focusing on losing weight so I can look good. I assume it’s because being strong is a personal goal that doesn’t have anything to do with what anyone else thinks about me. Fact: the attention I would get for losing weight and being able to fit back into a size 4 is less delicious than chicken wings (Kate Moss is missing out). But doing tabata routines and bicep curls until I feel kind of dizzy and being able to do more each time IS motivating.

I love this quote from Kathy Martin: “I hope I do this until the day I die. I want to be all used up, just a wisp of dust left.” It’s reminiscent of that lovely quote I see attributed to Socrates, “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”

Any stories to share about getting stronger? I’m a noob and could use the inspiration. I love the videos that Frank Medrano posts on Facebook.

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