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Friday, January 29, 2010

Admitting a Difficult Truth

Well, it finally happened. I am officially old. I didn't have a birthday. I didn't wake up one morning to a head of totally gray hair.

I try to take good care of myself, control my weight and exercise a lot. People tell me I look a lot younger than I really am. But this week I decided it was time to give up running, something I have done for more than 30 years. It wasn't the grinding sound in one knee (x-rays showed no structural problems), and it wasn't the bursitis in my hips (clear x-rays there, too). It was something far more insidious, to my way of thinking. I have run out of energy. To me, that's a sure sign of old age creeping up on me. Actually, old age didn't creep up on me. It ambushed me.

I typically run at 5:30 a.m., after feeding and walking my dogs. But lately, not only have I not had the energy to run, I haven't had the energy to resist going back to bed for an hour or so. Even running after work one day found me with no energy. So very reluctantly, I decided to hang up my running shoes. A friend told me that it's probably a good thing to quit now, before my knees and hips wear out. He may be right, but that doesn't make this decision any easier.

Now I'm going through withdrawal. I miss the heart-pounding rush of running, and the way it helps control my weight. I like being able to get in some good exercise in less than 30 minutes. I miss being able to run off my stress.

Yes, I walk about 4 miles a day, but it isn't the same. It isn't aerobic. It's boring. And when I walk my dogs, they want to stop and sniff every light pole and tree along the route. And at age 11, Mila doesn't move too quickly anyway.

So now I feel that I have officially entered old age. With less exercise, I'll probably have even less energy and gain weight. Where does it end? In nicer weather, I'll try to do more bike riding. I hope I will have the energy for that. I find myself wanting to spend more time sleeping, enjoying my very comfortable mattress. What's next? Granny shoes? Blue hair? Dentures?

Realizing that I'm now old is a hard fact to accept. In many ways, I still feel like a much younger person, rather than someone who will be old enough to collect Social Security in less than 2 years. Another friend told me recently that I have a young mind and a young body. My mind does still feel young, but I'm not so sure about my body any more.

Giving up something I've done, and done well (I have several medals and trophies from winning my age group in various races), is a real challenge. Admitting that time and gravity are winning the battle is sobering. I think it's going to take a while to come to terms with this latest realization.