Falling flat at aging gracefully

ML HSIn college, my nickname was PB (aka “perfect boobs”). When you take a C cup in high school and add the Freshman 25, you get a D cup. And without the years of gravity to take its toll, you get PB. Given my proficiency in Math, I would describe it as follows:

C + 25 = D or (possibly PB if under the age of 22)

We didn’t realize how good we had it in high school. This photo, taken in 1980, is a perfect example.

Though I do notice the smooth skin I wish I still had (and my big hair, which I am glad I don’t), mostly, I look at my chest and think to myself, “Where the heck did it go?” My friends who knew me then and see me now always asked if I have had surgery. To this, I say, “Are you kidding? Why would I deliberately get rid of my PBs?” A problem in losing the 25 is losing the D cup, too.

In addition to the side affects of weight loss, my nature-giving breast reduction is but a cruel gesture age has played upon me. In fact, as the years creep by, I seem to continue my journey to flatness. For men, there are obvious age indicators – such as hair loss. For women – it seems like there’s a never-ending list. There’s cellulite (which I seem to accumulate no matter how much I run or leg weights I lift), wrinkles, laugh lines, sagging skin (my personal favorite), gray hair (thank goodness for hair color) and many others.

And as if these delightful changes weren’t enough, there are some less obvious transformations occurring as we approach and embrace our forties.

#1 Our muscles grow more short and tight. “So what does that mean?” you might ask. You move more slowly, stand up less straight, have a harder time keeping your shoulders pulled back, and get stiff more easily. At the wise, young age of 46, I get tight from sitting down on the floor or even in a chair for a while (and remember when we could actually sit on our legs without intense pain after 1 minute?). I’d like to blame it on the marathons I’ve run, but running isn’t the only culprit. There’s a reason elderly persons are often hunched over when walking.

Another downside? With tight muscles, we are more prone to muscle, joint and tendon injuries. For example, if your muscles are as stiff as a rock and you go out and ski bumps without a warm-up, you are much more likely to hurt your back or knee than if you start with some groomers. Likewise, Rob has not yet figured out that starting out a run in his usual sprint (without stretches, of course) is not exactly the doctor’s order for healing his chronic calf injury.

What helps? Stretch! Not only does stretching increase your flexibility, but it improves circulation, relieves stress, improves the range of motion in your joints and helps alleviate lower back pain. I go into more detail in Finding Life’s Secret Sauce, but that incentive should get you started.

If you’re bad at making yourself stretch, then take a yoga or stretch class and have someone guide you through the movements. There’s a good chance the movements will be safer with assistance. I do a lot of stretching at night after dinner if I’m watching TV or even reading a book or newspaper. Luke (and often the dogs, too, as an added challenge) usually joins me in the ritual. His favorite pose is the downward dog, where he conveniently fits underneath me somehow (this isn’t likely to work if he grows much taller). It’s actually quite humorous to watch, though passersby might wonder if we’ve gone nuts.

The list doesn’t end there, I’m sad to say. Stay tuned for more.

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