Setbacks and Comebacks
Starting a fitness journey at fifty, sixty, or seventy is very different from the journey we would be taking if we were younger.
Maybe you're strong and fit with perfect health. If so, that's awesome! But, it's much more likely you've had a few medical setbacks along the way. And as we age there will be more surprises before we get to the end of the road.
I thought I was bulletproof until the summer of 2021 when I got to experience two surgeries and 4 weeks of radiation for Stage I breast cancer. Here I was, just finishing up a book promoting three hours per week of exercise. By the end of radiation therapy, I had just enough energy to work part-time, write a bit and go to bed. Now, as far as cancer goes, I was very, very lucky but it was a setback. And it was one of the most valuable lessons of my life.
What did I learn? It's not about the setbacks. I didn't die. My life wasn't over. Cancer is scary but it's just one of many things that try to kick your butt as you age. And there are things a lot worse than Stage 1 breast cancer. This journey is about being willing to pick yourself up and keep moving forward for as long as you can. It's about not giving up. It's about believing a comeback is possible.
The bad news is if you are an active ager, you will have setbacks. Covid made working out difficult but not impossible. Between illness, family challenges, and normal aging it's tough to keep up a fitness practice. It's hard work. The good news is if you've reached retirement age, you will already have lots of experience dealing with setbacks. The truth is working on strength, power, stability, mobility, and endurance will very effective in helping to minimize the impact of physical setbacks on your life.
There is even more good news so bear with me. It took me many years to get to a 225# deadlift. I realize that's probably not your goal but you will have your own personal goals. Although I felt like I had been hit by a truck by the time radiation was over, it only took me 3 months to get back to that deadlift. After a summer of setbacks, I am back on the road to building strength. I'm not 100% back but I am on my way there.
If you have had a setback, simply start where you are and move forward. If all you feel up to is taking a walk, then take a walk. Add small pieces of your program back in until you're ready to get back to your normal schedule. What matters isn't how fast your comeback is. What matters is that you don't give up and you keep moving forward.
We all know there will be challenges as we age and many will be physical. Knowing this makes starting a training program or keeping up with one even more important. You are not done yet! Work on building a body that will carry you through the tough times so you can get back to the retirement you've been planning for years!
As I finish this post I will add that I twisted my back this weekend after I signed up for a 50 kettlebell swing-a-day fundraiser for the month of February. For each setback, there is the possibility of a comeback. You have to just keep telling yourself that and keep moving forward.