You’re never too old to get high on endorphins

by Jennifer Stevenson

Welcome to Book View Café!  I’m Jennifer Stevenson, the person responsible for Trash Sex Magic, The Brass Bed, The Velvet Chair, and The Bearskin Rug, all of which have been banned by right-thinking anti-sex groups everywhere.  My heroines have no shame.  You can get a taste of them at


But I say that on all my blogs.


What I want to talk about today is the wonderfulness of endorphins, especially for women of a certain age.


Almost all the authors I know have trouble getting exercise.  Most of the moms I know can’t find the time for that morning walk, jog, or bike ride.  Senior women struggle to break that bone-saving, weight-bearing sweat without breaking something else in the process.


I’ve had my own excuses all my life.   I was a couch potato to age forty, and no stranger to size eighteen pants.  I’ve always had a little behind in my work—or a lot of behind.


Then I found the secret.


The secret was, do something I love.


My mother-in-law gets the credit for kicking off my personal fitness crusade.  Thirteen years ago she invited me to join her at her hotel pool when she was visiting Chicago.  This was an Olympics summer.  The pool was huge and full of senior citizens who were twice my speed in the water.  I learned that most of them lived in the neighborhood and paid to use the hotel health club.  The women’s locker room was so luxurious, it had huge TVs everywhere, all of them showing the US women’s swim team beating the pants off everybody else.  My mother-in-law also beat the pants off me in the water, by the way.  That aroused my competitive streak.


I realized that if this hotel had a health club, there must be a hotel near me that did, too.  I found one close to home.  It isn’t fancy, but the members are also mostly senior women.   At first, they swam rings around me, too.  After sixty years of babies and MRIs and hip replacements, they’re not body-shy and gruff in the locker room, like those perfect young size-fives at the Y.  They’re friendly and generous and they’ve taught me how to swim.  They’re terrific role models, too.  After thirteen years, they’re my friends.


Since the day I joined, I’ve missed thirteen days of swimming.


Swimming is perfect for me.  I can do it lying down—always a plus!  If I sweat, I never know.  Plus, swimming underwater is a lot like flying and dreaming, and I’ve always loved flying dreams. 


And it’s versatile.  If the pool is full of kids squealing “MARCO! POLO!” I simply dive underwater and do my workout holding my breath, down in the sweet, silent depths.  If I’m dead beat, I float around and talk to my friends.  If I’m feeling butch, I’ll swim a mile.  But at least I show up.


Swimming taught me that I can have fun with my body, and that old doesn’t count, fat doesn’t matter, weak is temporary, and endorphins … ah, endorphins … are a lovely drug, recommended by 100% of AMA physicians.


I’ve added two more sports, less easy on the joints but more crazy fun, two or three days a week.  But I always, always swim.  Maybe I don’t do a hard workout if I’m already tired, but at least I show up.


A thirteen-year daily habit has become an addiction, an addiction, to the pleasure of moving my body around.


Soon I’ll talk about my lifelong love of horses, and how that led to more late-blooming exercise—and more joy.


Are you finding joy in working your body, late in life?  Or have you always been a natural athlete?  I want to hear your stories.



You’re never too old to get high on endorphins — 2 Comments

  1. This year I took up bicycling again, after more or less fading out during college. I admit I was driven by the crazy gasoline prices; biking to work once a week cuts your commuting costs by a cool 20%. But it is great fun! The only problem is I can’t do it at this time of the year, because it gets too dark too early.

  2. I didn’t learn to enjoy exercise until after college, which was kind of a problem as I was a cadet in school! But after I graduated, I finally got into running and weight lifting and eventually took up karate in my late twenties.

    Now as I rapidly approach 40, things have changed. I had to start swimming after I gave birth to my second child two years ago. Between injuries (from karate) and pregnancy hormones, my knees are pretty much shot. They still work, but they can’t take the pounding of running like they used to. And juggling writing with house work and taking care of two kids means I can’t always get to the gym or dojo as often as I would like. So I’ve learned to give myself PLENTY of options for exercise. We have an exercise bike in the living room, so I can ride while the kids watch Sesame Street. Or I can pop my youngest in a jog stroller and power walk to the local tennis court where I can practice some karate. On a good day, I hit the Y and swim 20 laps. On a tight day, I can throw in a 20 minute DVD and get my work out that way. And I always try to spend a little time playing with the kids each day. Chasing after two shrieking little girls is a great way to work up a sweat!

    I love doing the exercise, and I love knowing that I’m still in pretty good shape in spite of my knees! And best of all, if I’m struggling with writer’s block, a good walk or swim or bike will usually free up my mind enough to let a story come through!