Sometimes we need to be a certain place and time to appreciate a good book.
En route from Houston, I finished an inspiring book about a 94 year-old track star. “What Makes Olga Run,” a gift from Ironcelloman. Although I had started it this summer on another road trip, my mind was far too preoccupied with Ballet Boy leaving to enjoy it. In short, I was very stressed out this summer and let that override any fascination I’ve had with exercise and its effects on my own well-being.
Bruce Grierson’s book delves into all the complex aspects of what make elderly athletes capable of competing while others get glued to their walkers or wheel chairs. Is it environment (upbringing, hardships, careers), physiological make up (certain blood capacity or superior cell repair) or mental (ability to focus, stick to a goal, etc)?
There is also a chicken and egg aspect to the studies he surveys–do these elderly athletes have younger brains because they exercise or because they are wired differently?
It’s a great read, and it’s fun to see Olga break world records over and over again. Of course, there are sometimes no competitors in her age group. Read it even if you aren’t athletic, because it explores a lot of the facets of what keeps us ticking and happy.
The book made me think a lot about my own goals. One of the main conclusions was that all of the athletes competing well in the older age brackets started late. Like in their 70’s! Their bodies were not worn down by repeated movement and physical stress. They have time to train as their kids age or they are retired. Olga didn’t start until she was 77. She was bored and decided to try track events like shot put, javelin throwing and high jump.
The studies cited in the book do all point to the idea that ANY exercise, but especially continual, short bouts of taxing exercise (more than marathon or endurance sports), have the amazing to not only slow aging in our brain, but to reverse aging.
Imagine the day when they can put that in a bottle and charge us for it.
However, the mental make up of Olga also was important. She was very nonchalant. She did not worry about the outcome, even though she enjoyed winning. She did not worry about events around her, but just was basically a pretty happy person. Olga’s easy going personality trait let her release control over events or problems that she couldn’t solve, and focus on her own training, which she could control.
I sometimes feel the opposite of this. I worry WAY too much. I wonder if Ballet Boy is doing his homework and I worry about the new cyst my dog has on her butt. I wake up at night worrying about finances. I worry about an interaction I’ve had with someone that day and stew about how to make it better.
Yoga has helped me recenter my thoughts. Every yoga practice I strive to stay in the moment and accept where I am that day, and that every day doesn’t quite feel the same.
I need to apply that practice to the rest of my life.
Reading Olga’s story, I realized on my plane trip home that I don’t need to worry about Ballet Boy. He is incredibly happy doing what he is gifted at, in a place full of people qualified to help him on his path in life. We saw a wonderful, varied program by the Houston Ballet of contemporary dance. Ballet Boy is surrounded by inspiration, motivation and creation. His brain must be exploding as it stretches and grows with knowledge and creativity. Of course he needs someone to make sure he is on track with his academic work, but he also needs to know that I trust him to take care of that on his own.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook that in his 40s, he was no longer worried about fixing himself. He is centering on loving himself. I think a lot of us shift our focus beyond looking like a fashion model or being perfect at this point in our lives.
For the first time in months, I feel peaceful. It’s like a piece of my mind cleared and a fog lifted. I felt honestly happy that I had the Brewmaster to come home to, that I can perform and teach cello to a pretty great group of students, and that I am doing lots of wonderful things to take care of my health.
For the first time in months, I feel healthy mentally. My body might not be healed, but I am respecting it by not giving it sugar or other foods that increase my inflammation and stir up my Hashimoto’s. I’m okay with the changes I’ve made and no longer see them as a punishment.
I’ve decided to approach running differently. I will stop comparing myself to where I was a few years ago, I will enjoy the moment and even turn off my timer. I think I few runs a week I will leave my Runkeeping app off and just enjoy the run and listen to my body.
And although I will continue to miss Ballet Boy, I will embrace this new stage. A huge silver lining has been more sleep since I don’t have to drive him to school early in the morning!
Yeah, I’ve done it. I’ve found the road to Peace of Mind. I’ll keep on it.