Stronger Next Year

I celebrated the New Year overlooking the mountains in Vail, Colorado. This is my mother in law’s happiest place on earth. My in laws have welcomed the New Year in these mountains for the last 28 years.

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The last time Orlando and I joined them was 11 years ago as we rung in 2006. We could not have dreamed that 11 years would pass before we traveled these mountains again but sometimes life just happens. Suddenly we were in a whirlwind of getting pregnant and having infants year after year. Each year, around July, we would discuss Vail and agree that we needed to wait another year. This past July, we looked around and realized our kids would be 3 going on 4, 6 and 8 in December. The baby cycle had finished and we were ready to come back.

I confess that as we prepared for our trip, I was nervous.  The last time I skied I was a 26 year old young woman. That had been my first time and I’d only taken a couple of lessons. What if I forgot everything I learned? What if I’m terrified? What if I fall and hurt myself?  

I comforted myself by relying on skiing being like riding a bike. When I put those skis on, I will remember.

The day finally came and I woke up at 5am (I was still on Miami time). The house was quiet as my family slept. I laid in my bed with my eyes closed and envisioned myself skiing successfully. Later that morning I strapped on my boots with confidence. I had signed up for a ski lesson but skipped it because I wanted to be able to check in on my kids. Instead I headed up the mountain with my husband and mother in law to ski some “greens.” My mother in law felt confident that I could ski those slopes because they were the easier ones.

As it turns out, I did forget most of what I learned; I was terrified;  and I fell constantly. There were moments that I would look down the mountain and felt completely paralyzed with fear. I did not have full control of my skis and sometimes would go faster than I intended. However, despite all these hiccups, something magical happened to me on that mountain. I realized that even though I was afraid – I was strong. Stronger, in fact, than I was 11 years ago. As most people age, they find that they can’t do things that they could do before. They gain weight over the years, even though sometimes its a subtle progression. As women have babies, their bodies change. There is a big difference between pushing 30 and pushing 40, 50, or 60. But in my case, it was the opposite. The lifestyle change that I implemented in my life 6 years ago has stalled the aging process for me. As a result of my dietary changes, I am thinner now than I was when I was in my twenties. And thankfully I found running. Running has forced me to push my body to become stronger. In the last couple of years, I have exercised regularly. I do light weight training and incorporate different exercises to supplement my running.  I am consciously and actively preparing to enter my forties in good physical condition. I witnessed the benefits of my choices on that mountain as my body hit the snow and my skis popped off.  

Falling wasn’t the point. The point was getting back up.

I got back up on the slopes because my arms and legs were strong. I had the endurance to ski down the full mountain, despite the falls. I needed practice and some instruction, but I had the CAPACITY to do it. This got me thinking about the New Year. So many people have the New Year’s resolution to lose weight. We all want to lose a few pounds before summer season starts and we are forced into our bathing suits. But sometimes our short term goals seem unattainable. We don’t feel we can lose all the weight we have to lose in a few short months. Or when it gets tough, summer doesn’t feel like enough pull to keep us going. But what if we were to change our goal. What if our goal wasn’t just to lose a few pounds in a couple of months. What if your goal was to be thinner and stronger in 10 years than you are right now?  Is that enough time? If from this moment on, you never gain another pound. And regardless of the speed with which you lose, every day you work on being a little stronger than you were the day before, how would you feel a year from now, or 5 or 10?

My point is to think of entering the next decade of your life in better physical condition than you were this decade. Imagine being 50 and feeling stronger than you did at 40. What a wonderful thing that would be. If you don’t eat the marshmallow now, what will your life look like in 10 years?

Granted,  you will age. You will slow down at some point. But the goal is not to slow down before you HAVE to. The goal is to work with what is within your control. I run with a 67 year old man that I admire greatly. He claims he is not as fast now as he was in his younger years. And yet, I still can’t keep up with him. He is FAST. He is STRONG. And he continues to set new goals for himself. He is in better physical condition than most men in their 40s. His dedication and commitment to exercise and health is allowing him to maximize his age and really enjoy himself.

Take a look at where you are now and think of where you want to be. If you are in excellent physical shape, then your goal may be to maintain that condition. Maintenance takes a lot of work. But if you are not in the shape you wish to be. If you have to lose weight, or you have high cholesterol or you don’t exercise, your time is NOW. Start making changes. Don’t worry about how long it’ll take. The goal is not to be 20 forever. It is to be the best you can be at 30, at 40, at 50 and at 90. 

As long as you’re alive, you have time. If every year, you are stronger than you were the year before, imagine how you will feel in 10 years. My wish for you is not to let aging be your limiting factor. Don’t just chalk up limitations to being older. Think you can. Know you can. Work towards being able to. As long as you do your part, the rest is up to the universe.

I can tell you that 3 babies and 11 years later, I feel privileged to have the strength to ski down this mountain. I am reaping the benefits of the choices I have made over the last 6 years and that feels amazing. As for my goal 10 years from now? To ski with my teenage sons down this very mountain – just next time I won’t skip the lessons.

img_8259*For those of you who are in your 40s or above and take this post seriously, I highly recommend reading Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge.

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