I don’t necessarily mean this in terms of appearance—there’s no real knowing how I’ll look five, ten, twenty years down the line, and if current compliments are any indication, I should manage to stay looking several years younger than I am, which is always an advantage for a woman.
No, what I am talking about is performance. Up until about a year ago, I thought when people claimed, “I’m old,” as a reason they couldn’t or wouldn’t do something, they were lying. These people were obviously just lazy or didn’t have strong enough mental discipline. Of course they could walk/run/swim/bike/lift/etc.—they were just using their age as an excuse.
Suddenly, however, after suffering two running injuries and undergoing multiple bouts of physical therapy, I am starting to become aware of every twinge, ache, cramp, and throb that occurs in my body. I am starting to notice that touching my toes—a feat I achieved only near the end of high school as a result of stretching for the sports I played—is getting more and more difficult, and that after a workout, I no longer recover by the next morning.
I am starting to worry about what sitting slumped in an office chair, squinting at a screen, and typing on a keyboard for eight hours-a-day, five days-a-week is going to do to my shoulders and back and eyes and wrists. (And, of course, this is ignoring the evening and weekend hours I spend at home on my laptop.) I am suddenly more afraid to do anything remotely risky with my body, for fear of getting hurt. And a whole new category of words has started to scare me: carpal tunnel, arthritis, tendonitis, osteoporosis.
This being said, I now admire people like my parents even more: they never complain about their bodies or their age. Growing up, I barely knew they were human, they complained so little. I see parents zooming around Central Park with jogging strollers and shake my head in admiration—I can only hope to be that fit and motivated by the time I have kids (if I have kids). And while I would say that I was impressed when I first heard about Dara Torres, a 41-year-old five-time Olympian who won the 100m freestyle at the U.S. Nationals fifteen months after giving birth to her first child, I would now say that I am in awe.