You’re never too old to get high on endorphins

I want to talk about 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 40, 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 to do something I love.

My mother-in-law gets the credit for kicking off my personal fitness crusade. When I was 40 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 one day of swimming per year.

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.

No matter how crappy I feel, I always, always swim. Maybe I don’t do a hard workout if I’m already tired, but at least I show up.

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

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.
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Jennifer Stevenson is responsible for Trash Sex Magic, the Hinky Chicago series, the Slacker Demons series, and the Coed Demon Sluts series, 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 www.jenniferstevenson. com.

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You’re never too old to get high on endorphins — 3 Comments

  1. I grew up in a ballet studio. I dominated my life from age 7 to well into my 30s.

    A broken ankle, dislocated ninety degrees and 3 months in casts and PT sidelined me from dance. I taught ballet for a few months after regaining my feet, but I still hurt and was exhausted from pain. So I quit. And gained 20 pounds.

    For the next 20 years I hiked with my husband and biked when I needed to go somewhere local and didn’t have a car, but nothing regular. I took up fencing for 4 years and loved that. I went to every class twice a week. But it was an 80 mile round trip. Then I had to have back surgery. End of my sword fighting.

    Then I wrote and had published a short story about a dancer facing the end of her career before she’s 30 without experimental surgery that really messed with her mind. I realized that losing dance was akin to losing a loved one. I’d been grieving for close to 20 years. The week that anthology published a new dance studio opened 1/2 mile from my house. I jumped in, joined the free Sacred Dance group, quickly started teaching ballet again and added tap and jazz to my repertoire. I was alive again.

    The dance studio closed after 3 years because of the 2008 recession, but I continued teaching privately and then I found a country line dance class close by. I was not the oldest for a change, nor was I the youngest. But the group welcomed everyone and soon I’d found a home again and I’m proud to define myself as both an author and a DANCER!

    • Thanks for sharing your story! Jennifer talked about swimming which is something that I loved to do when I was young and rarely get to do it anymore, but dancing…oh! That is something that I’ve tried very hard to hang onto in my life. I danced (poorly) as a kid and ended up feeling too self-conscious to continue, no matter how much I liked it. Being stubborn and maybe needing to prove something to myself, I returned to it as an adult and found all the joy still there. All my kids danced and one of them now teaches. It has always been her heart and soul and I’m hoping she hangs onto it as she gets older so she doesn’t struggle as much when she becomes a woman “of a certain age” like we are now. haha Seriously, not only is it good for the body, but for the mind and soul as well. I no longer dance at a studio (though I think about doing it again), I dance for the pure joy of it. It is a form of self-expression and worship. Ironically, I read a fantasy book recently (Hidden Current) that focuses on dance and the concept of what if dance could literally control the turning of the world in which the MC lives. The author is a dancer and her love of the artform comes through in the work. Very inspiring.

  2. I used to swim in a local hotel pool – until they found a body in it (true story). A guy with a full cast on his leg who had been in the bar the day before with a ‘buddy’! Because of the lighting no one spotted him until late the next day. And I had swum there that morning. Kind of put me off swimming in hotel pools.

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