The road to #FitFabForty is full of good intentions (and pain)

So I’ve been joking, since last year, that by the time I hit forty, I’m going to be fit and fabulous. To this end, I’ve been trying to work out more vigorously and more often. I’ve been watching my diet, and limiting my intake of sugar and salt. I try to sleep well, and enough.

For the most part, it’s been pretty good. I’m strong, and I don’t get sick or tired as easily as I used to, though I’m sure staying home and away from crowds has a lot to do with that. I have firm muscles here and there, curves and valleys that were not prominent before.

I decided that in the pursuit of #FitFabForty, I would try to work out every day. I made a chart for February, March and April, so I could list what workouts I did, and so that I could track if I was indeed able to do as I intended. I started doing longer and more intense workouts: kettlebells and weights, core workouts. I was so proud of myself for ticking that off my daily checklist.

That didn’t last, of course. One day, I did an hour-long Zumba session, and the next day my left hip joint ached. My right knee joint started hurting too, and I needed to put my legs up on pillows. I had overdone it, and that wasn’t going to help me get to #FitFabForty.

I was bummed, as I limped around the house and groaned when standing up or sitting down. I remembered that I’m not as young as I used to be, that injuring myself would do nothing for my health or my fitness, that pushing myself harder was not smart. For a whole week afterwards, I stuck to gentle yoga routines, making sure to stretch, warm up and cool down properly. I took long walks and rested when I felt tired or achey. I didn’t force myself to work out, even though I was sorely tempted.

Yesterday, I decided to try Zumba again. I fixed my playlist and added some nice warm-up videos with music I liked. I skipped the videos that I knew tired me out too quickly, and I made sure to cool down. I was sweaty and tired afterwards, but I didn’t hurt, I didn’t ache, and I felt pretty good about myself. I even took a video just so I could see what I looked like when I was dancing (No, I am not uploading that EVER).

I was surprised to see my muscles, and it made me happy to see myself moving. And it was lovely to know that, again, exercise was making me happy, not miserable and pained.

I like what Adriene says, about setting intentions and having integrity, not just in yoga practice, but off the mat as well. I appreciate how she always reminds us that we have options, that we should stop if it hurts, but we should also try to move in the way we feel we need to. I love how she says you can do this, but if you can’t that’s okay, who cares? I love how she always reminds us to listen to our bodies, to trust that we know what we need to do in practice today.

I suppose it’s important to remember all these when we set goals like #FitFabForty. Originally my goal was vanity: to be able to say, I’m forty but I don’t look it; I’m forty and I’ve got flat abs and toned arms; I’m forty but I’m fabulous. But what do I get from the relentless pursuit of such vanity? Injury, pain, regret.

Sure, I still want all those things. But I think it’s important to remember the lessons I’ve learned about health and fitness, mindfulness and managing expectations, kindness and patience. I think it’s important to add footnotes to my original #FitFabForty goals: to be able to say, I’m forty, and I have the energy and strength to carry my child on my back or my shoulders. I want to be able to say, I’m forty, and I love how I look and what I can do, and most importantly, I love how I feel. I want to add fine print to my original #FitFabForty goals: to be able to say, I’m forty, and I love me. I want to be #FitFabForty inside and out.

I think that would be the best birthday gift.

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