Have you decided you’re too old for certain activities regardless of your age? Do you look in the mirror and criticise your body, not for the shape but your age? In the past five years, strong has become the new skinny but we’ve lost our ability to accept ageing. We’re surrounded by youth, leaving us to wonder where our bodies fit into the world of wellness now that we’re no longer 18 or 25. While most of us understand the importance of body acceptance when it comes to weight, why can’t we realise we’re still strong past the age of 30?
No, 30 isn’t old
In the modern Western world, 30-year-olds are now complaining of sore lower backs and not being able to do certain activities because they’re “too old”. People as young as 27 are accepting low back pain and general fatigue as a part of daily life. Sadly, this acceptance leads to further apathy when it comes to body conditioning.
In an article for the ABC, Professor Alan Hayes, a muscle and exercise physiologist at Victoria University said there is no reason to attribute niggling pain to your age until you’re in your 70’s.
Hayes told the ABC,
“If you're that age [your 30’s to 40’s] and just blaming your body, that's a bit of a cop-out."
Many new mums think, “I’m a mum now, I will never be very fit and strong again”. While your pelvic floor may require some rehabilitation to regain its strength, there’s no reason why you can’t continue your journey towards your strongest body yet. Whether it’s a gym class, app workout or even a quick routine in your living room while your little one sleeps, don’t throw in the towel because your body has gone through the changes of motherhood. Many of the muscular changes related to motherhood can be recovered with specific training.
If you’re a healthy woman of any age with no chronic illnesses, you’re strong! You’re made up of a complex web of solid bone and powerful muscles and tissues that power you through the day. When you’re feeling tired and fragile, remind yourself of what your body is made of.
Muscle tissue generates about 10kg of force for each square centimetre of cross-sectional area in your muscle. That’s a lot of power in your muscles when you add each square centimetre together! You’re not fragile, you’re powerful and strong!
Misunderstanding your own body’s anatomy can lead to negative thoughts around your abilities. For example, many physiotherapy patients believe after they have had a bulging disc in their lower back that they will have it forever and that their spine is very fragile. This isn’t true. Similarly, many people think once their joints start to hurt, they will only worsen and there’s nothing they can do. Again, this isn’t true.
The cervical spine (neck) can withstand around 25 kg of compressive force! That’s just the little vertebrae of the neck - your vertebrae get larger the further down the spine you go!
The same goes for flexibility, joint mobility and many other aspects of your strength and ability. There are exceptions to this rule but ask a knowledgeable professional like a physiotherapist or myotherapist if you have any concerns about your joints. They will be able to help explain the anatomical reasons behind a loss of strength or ability and how to regain it.
Instagram, Facebook, TV, billboards, Netflix; images of youth are everywhere and have confused our perception of what is normal. You may not be able to do “the wheel” back bend in yoga like Beyonce on Instagram but that’s OK. Constantly looking at images of complex poses and exceptionally difficult physical challenges can leave you feeling deflated and flat. You may end up saying to yourself: “I’ll never be able to do that”, which helps cement the negative body image we have of ourselves. Suddenly we have a feeling we are less able than everyone else and that blows.
Let these images inspire you! Find people who at your level in yoga or who are just starting to train for their first fun run. Find accounts of real mums returning to exercise after having their first baby. If you’re reaching older age, follow brands encouraging movement and motivation rather than those brands who praise youth and hyper flexibility. Find your tribe and ignore the rest. You’ll feel stronger and more motivated to get moving!
Even 90-year-old women can put on muscle with weight training!
Research and clinical findings show that when negative self-talk is changed into positive messaging, patients with lower back pain experience less pain and disability, and a higher quality of life. This can work for every aspect of your body!
Negative self-talk: “I used to be able to do headstands and all sorts of things in yoga, but I can’t anymore because I’m out of practice and so I’ve given it up. I’m scared I’ll hurt myself.”
Swap it for this: “I haven’t done yoga in a while so I’m going to do a slow flow Hatha class for a few months and re-learn how to do the basics. Then who knows! I might go back to my advanced class if I feel ready!”
Negative self-talk: “I’m not very fit, never have been. My friends are doing a hike up north this weekend. I’m scared I won’t be able to keep up so I’m just going to stay at home.”
Swap it for this: “I’ve decided to change my lifestyle and try to get fit! My friends are doing a hike up north this weekend, and I know I’m not quite ready for that yet as I’ve just started walking for exercise. But I got a fitness app and I’m going to build up my distances so I can join them next time they go.”
Negative self-talk: “I can’t go up and down stairs too much because I have bad knees.”
Swap it for this: “I have some joint soreness, but I know the stronger I am, the less pressure I’ll put on my knees. I’m going to keep exercising to help alleviate that pain in the long run.”
Negative self-talk: “I can’t lift the washing basket anymore, it’s just too heavy.”
Swap it for this: “I can lift a half-filled washing basket easy-peasy!”
Our brains listen extremely carefully to the messages we tell ourselves and subconsciously, we remember them. Give your brain the message you want to receive that create positive body image ideas around strength and ability!
Your body has incredible abilities so why not think about all the things you can do? If you had to do the plank for 2 minutes for a core class but only lasted for 30 seconds - good for you! You made it to 30! For 30 whole seconds, your body was holding you up off the ground thanks to your core strength and shoulder strength! The more you focus on what you are able to do, the more motivation you will have to improve. That core class that saw you unable to do half the exercises becomes the core class where you managed to do half the exercises. Good for you and you can only improve from there.
Sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us so here you go: we believe in you! We know you’re strong, and your body is far more able than you realise. Look at all the incredible abilities you have and build on them. Ignore images or settings that make you feel less-than and choose social media and groups that build you up. If more women could ignore the pervasive idea that 30 is the beginning of the end of our wellbeing, we would be happier and healthier than ever before.
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