One of the challenging things about aging is reaching that point between pushing yourself to keep up and resigning yourself to backing off. Its’ a strange phenomenon when your reach that place where you begin to feel too old to compete. But just before you get ready to let go there is a challenge that comes along. It inspires you and you gladly agree to do something that in hind sight seems foolish.
I’m sixty-two years old. I’ve run many races and battled many a boardroom. I really have nothing to prove to anyone and least of all to myself. I’ve proven I can more than survive. I’ve lived through defeat and risen back to success. I’ve raised two children to be fine and respectful adults who are also excellent parents. But something in me made me say yes when the team from my fitness club asked me to join the Thousand Stair Climb.
Challenge is not something new. I’ve always prided myself in being able to meet a challenge. Life after all is full of them. They motivate us. But at some point in your life you begin to feel the need to leave the challenges up to the next generation. Like creating apps and social media- I’m just not up for the competition. But somehow this climb was different for me.
Three things made me want to do the climb. I wanted to support the team. Raising money for the American Lung Association was a good cause. Several years ago when I was recovering from cancer surgery I could not climb stairs for many months. In fact it was close to a year before I could climb stairs without a little pain. I vowed that if I recovered I would never complain or avoid a set of stairs again. This was my challenge. I beat cancer, so I know I can beat the stairs.
I needed to train. I’m in pretty good shape for a woman my age. I teach yoga and Spin six days a week. But still stair climbing is a different animal. So I know I have the cardio strength and I know my muscles are both strong and flexible, but still it takes training to undertake a new venture such as climbing stairs.
So for six weeks, three days a week, right after teaching a Spin class I would go home and climb the twenty-two floors of my high rise building twice. That’s 800 steps. I counted every one of them. But remember this is 400 up and 400 down and 400 up and 400 down. The Thousand Stair Climb is a straight 1000 up!
About two weeks before the climb I began to secretly hope my team would cancel or somehow I would get out of this climb in a gracious way. It didn’t happen. The day of the climb I met my team mates. All four members were averaging 32 years old. Suddenly I felt like an old woman. But the kids were great and supported my efforts.
At the climb I looked around and the average age was again about 32 years old. What the hell was I doing here? It was too late to turn back. No choice, but to start the climb and finish. I took a deep breath and decide I would give it my best. I wasn’t here to win the race. I wasn’t here to beat anyone’s’ time. I was here to meet a challenge, support a good cause and make it to the top.
The climb is done in downtown Los Angles. It’s called the AON building. The firemen train in the stair well, so as a start to the climb, several young firemen in full gear are the first to make the climb. After that we go in teams.
As I began the climb I stopped thinking about the stairs and kept my mind focused on reaching the top. One foot in front of the other I just kept moving stopping only half way for a quick fifteen second breather. Once at the top I stepped off into the crowd and broke into a smile. I did it! My lungs were on fire and my head was spinning, but I made it to the top. I have pictures to prove it.
Two of my team members beat me to the top, but not by much. After a little time spent cooling down on the roof overlooking LA we all piled into an elevator and descended to the ground where water and energy bars were waiting for us.
My team mates and I left the event soon after our climb. We piled back into the car. On the ride home everyone was rather quiet and exhausted, but so proud of us for doing the climb. I didn’t ask about anyone’s time nor did I bother to look at my time. I was just glad I did it.
Once at home curiosity got the better of me so I went on line to find my time. First I looked at the firemen who ranged between 11 minutes and 15 minutes. Now remember they are carrying a full load of gear. Next I looked at my time. I did it in 16 minutes! I’m right up there with the firemen! Now granted they are carrying in excess of fifty pounds, but I am carrying in excess of 35 years. That’s got to count? Do I need to tell you how proud I am of myself and what a boost that did to any thoughts I might be having about aging?
Age is a number, but it is also a reality. At 32 years old you have energy and a strength that is only too willing to take on most any challenge. At 60 plus years old it takes a little thought and a lot more reflection. I took the challenge and pushed myself a little harder, but not so hard that I would hurt myself. That I have learned would be stupid.
What I have learned over the years is just like the stair climb, it is always best to climb the middle of the stair, grab support from the rail when you can and keep flying up the stairs until you reach the top, because at the top there is a most magnificent view.
Now that I’ve caught my breath and had a few days to reflect I can tell you I would do it again. My students are all so proud of me for doing what I did at my age. So my Proactive Anti-aging tip - Keep moving and take a challenge; do something new or take up an old interest. You’ll be surprised how much younger you’ll feel the moment you realize; I still can do it!