At 46, our columnist is learning to train smarter, not harder, for a healthier, longer life
When I was young, my elders often sermonised that ‘youth is wasted on the young’. I remember rolling my eyes at the time as I never really understood that phrase. Of course, the irony of life is that by the time we do understand the value of the gift we are given it is already being taken away… I guess that realisation now makes me an elder!
The ‘D’ word
I regrettably did more than just take the gift for granted; I abused it in ways that I shudder to recall nowadays. However, my vice was not drinks or drugs, but the other ‘D’ word that dominates so much of our modern lives: ‘dieting’. I yo-yo dieted constantly in my teens, 20s and 30s. The repercussions of my unhealthy obsession with food and fitness were years of frustration, mood swings, low self-esteem and missing out on life’s lovely little moments. It took a lot of self discovery along a wobbly road to arrive at a place of happiness, health and wellbeing.
Out of balance
However, my final realisation was that, as well as the damaging dieting, the way I exercised for years was also causing me issues. Firstly, it was excessive and I know now that it is better to train smart, rather than to train too hard. Again, as a youngster I was able to throw myself into workouts without any fear of consequence. I was ‘able for anything’, with bundles of energy, flexibility and could bounce back from minor injuries with a wink and a smile. However, my years of pounding, unbalanced exercise and neglecting the details has left me with a bad back, bad knees, bunions, imbalances everywhere and a crippling labral tear (a rip in my hip socket).
If I had been kinder to my body in my youth, or even if I had done the same exercises with a greater focus on technique, then actually, training could have supported my body, not damaged it.
The low down
Now at 46, I have finally embraced a philosophy of working with my body instead of fighting against it. I no longer have to feel that, unless I’m drenched in sweat, I haven’t had a ‘proper’ workout, and I know that the tiny muscles we don’t see are just as, if not more, important than the ones on display. I have taken to lowimpact sports, such as spinning and stairmaster for cardio, instead of pounding the beaches in LA or the streets of London. I am an avid Pilates fan, having been taught to realign my unbalanced skeleton by the team at Absolute Pilates, (absolute-studios.co.uk) – my miracle workers.
I have found that taking everything more slowly does not mean I am getting older, it means I am getting wiser. I refuse to step into my 50s and 60s with joint pain, so I am doing everything in my power to be stronger now than I ever was in my 20s. I have the right amount of bone degeneration for ‘someone my age’, according to my GP, but that’s not good enough. I come from a school of thought where I believe we do not have to settle like our grandparents or forefathers did. We can grow older and yet stay younger in body; we can have a fit, active, sprightly body even though our years defy us. So I also take my health much more seriously than I did in my caffeine-fuelled 20s. I take a plethora of antioxidants and try to avoid alcohol, sugar, toxins and sun exposure. Why? Because it has been proven that we will be able to not just live longer, but healthier.
And that’s my goal!