I thought I was an Athlete…
Have you ever thought of yourself as a particular person (like an athlete), then later in life (like now) realized that maybe you weren’t that person anymore?
I always wanted to be an athlete. I always called myself an athlete. I competed some in high school, some in college, a little as an adult, but when did I stop really being an athlete?
I’m a Baby Boomer. Born in 1956, I’m right smack in the middle of that generation.
When I was growing up there weren’t many female athletic or professional role models. So I kind of made it up as I went along. I grew up in the military, so it felt important to be tough. I wanted to do what guys did, but I liked being a girl. (Woman wasn’t a frequently used designation then.)
Does this sound at all familiar?
The term, “No pain, no gain,” made popular by the 1977 movie Pumping Iron, wasn’t in general use yet but the concept was well entrenched in American Sports. With my background, I ate it up!
Imagine, being proud of your pain!
I suspect you might have been there. In fact, even if you weren’t an athlete, by the time you reach 50 (that magic number for Baby Boomers) you probably have some physical pain or discomfort, and you too may even be proud of “handling it.”
I was fortunate that, in the late 70s, I was in an environment that put me ahead of the holistic health envelope. I moved to New York City (Manhattan) after college and my running buddies introduced me to a weight lifting coach (a real athlete-nerd) that gave me excellent advice about how to get strong without getting injured. He guided me towards writings and research that encouraged me to be suspiciously critical of media-driven fitness fads.
I worked in a health food store with people that were doing actual research on nutrition. One had a popular NYC radio show. Another was a macrobiotic gourmet cook. I learned about organic practices and local food production.
I also encountered a great group of body workers and martial artists. I learned how to take care of and repair my body without doctors or health insurance (which I lacked). I studied martial arts for 15 years, became a personal trainer, and eventually got a license in massage therapy.
The good fortune I experienced in learning about good health did not flow over into my personal life – but those are stories for another time. Suffice it to say that my tough athletic attitude did NOT make me an easy person to be vulnerable with.
In retrospect I see the lesson it took me a long time to learn from these years: support, teamwork and connections are integral to building a successful life.
It was originally my personal training clients who energized and inspired me to push my understanding of how to help bodies work better and longer. The same with my massage clients. Working with them on their issues excited me to research and experiment with different approaches for solutions to problems that affect many of us.
There developed a dynamic cycle of learning, applying concepts to myself, interpreting for others, learning more about myself, and passing it on again.
Eventually I had to stop running because my knees (and sometimes my ankles) just hurt too much. I started Rollerblading, and discovered it was so much easier on the knees than running had been – and I could go faster!
In the mid 1980s I had the opportunity to go to a rowing camp in New England and fell in love with the single scull. Years later, after I moved to Oregon with my husband, we lived on a small river for several years and I owned my own shell.
Along the way I also learned that adapting my attitude makes much of the difference. I had wasted a lot of time in the “poor me” mode. Those stories are pretty humbling… but the realizations were mind-blowing!
I find each day that, regardless of limitations, life is good. My dream is now to buy a house on flat water, get another shell, and have a small organic garden.
Meanwhile I develop exercises and activities that allow me to stay fairly fit without hurting myself… and thrive on helping others to do the same.
I invite you to join me in learning how much fun it can be to be in your body.
My first book, New Joints and Other Mixed Blessings: How to Use Prehab and Rehab to Get the Most From Orthopedic Procedures, is an accessible guide for people who are considering, or preparing for joint surgery, but primarily hip and knee replacement.
Wolfe’s book is clear, well-written, and useful. I am 76 years old with many joints that feel like they have passed their “use by” date. I found that doing the exercises in the book reduced my hip pain and helped improve my balance. If I ever need joint replacement, I think the book will be invaluable.
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