“Adam and Eve had their midlife crisis when they realized they were older than sin.”
–Jonathan Edward Caldwell
Black balloons. Signs printed with “Over the Hill!” An outdated picture in the newspaper with the caption, “Lordy, Lordy, look who’s 40!!” This is the way our parents passed the 40th birthday milestone. Just a few decades ago, turning 40 meant it was time to hit the early-bird special, let the gray hair shine, and wait for the grandbabies.
No more, friends. Now, 40 is FABULOUS and the beginning of a fierce fight against aging. Even the mid-life crisis is getting a facelift. Maybe it’s because we’re all in denial that 40 could actually be the middle of our lives? But, as Karen Carpenter sang, “we’ve only just beguuuuuuun…to LIVE!” How else to explain that the former idea of a mid-life crisis: a man buying a ridiculous sports car and taking up with a woman half his age, has been replaced with something entirely different: extreme fitness. Also important to note: it wasn’t that long ago that women simply weren’t allowed the luxury of a mid-life crisis. Ladies just had to down a Prozac and a martini and push past it. Just look how far we’ve come, ladies.
Isn’t it ironic? So many of us spent our 20’s, the physical prime of our lives, systematically destroying our bodies with beer and pizza and late nights and bad decisions. And now that things are starting to fall apart, we expect our bodies to rise up and give the performance of a lifetime. It only took us half our lives, and likely a medical scare or two to realize that all that crazy talk about vegetables and daily exercise was actually really good advice.
But for some people, the pendulum has swung WAY over to the other side. It’s not enough to just add daily exercise and healthy eating into the mix. Extreme fitness is becoming the new addiction for the nearing- and crossing-40 set. So, why are so many people trading their Porsches for protein shakes? What about all the training for months on end to go to a perfectly lovely vacation spot for the sole purpose of running? ALL DAY? Why are soccer moms hefting tractor tires across an abandoned warehouse when they should be planning their next spa trip to Arizona?
I’ve taken a very scientific poll of exactly myself, and here are the answers to these burning questions:
- Bob from Accounting is a schmuck.
But you know what? He’s also got an IronMan tattoo on his calf and all these different numbered stickers on the back of his car. WHA??? Bob did an IronMan?? But he’s such a schmuck! And this gets you to thinking… If Bob the Schmuck is an IronMan, Ican surely run a marathon, right? Right. And so now you’re dropping $15K to take your family to Disney for a week where you will wear mouse ears and RUN ALL DAY.
Who’s the schmuck now?
- You’re trying to cheat death.
Your body is hard-wired to outrun the Grim Reaper. If we were cavemen, we would be dead and forgotten by now. Further proof? The Western Expansion was not that long ago. How many 40-year-olds do you think made it on the Oregon Trail? It was nothing in those days for your heartless, pragmatic grandkids to leave your ass on the trail because you’re slowing them down. And by “your ass,” I mean the one attached to your legs. If you had an actual ass of the animal kind, they would still leave you, and take your ass to pull the wagon. Honestly, that animal was probably the only reason they brought you along anyway. Really, it only makes sense to train your body to be able to run all day or carry wagon wheels (tractor tires). Those are skills that might have saved your life, if only to later lose it dysentery.
- You’re Cheating on Your Spouse.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Woman gets married and has a few kids. Woman decides it’s time to get her life and body back on track. Woman goes to gym and gets a trainer. A young, male, fit trainer. Woman and young, male, fit trainer are found in a very compromising position in the sauna. Hey, it only becomes a cliché when it happens over and over.
- You’re NOT Cheating on Your Spouse.
But you don’t want to go home. It’s the end of a long, hard day at work, but there’s still plenty of long, hard day left at home. How can you get out of going back there and having to pitch in during the “witching hour?” Wait! What if you had to do something that’s on your “bucket list,” something that’s healthy, self-affirming and life-changing and makes you a better person overall? No one could argue with that, right?
Stay-at-home parents and caregivers, take heart. Your care partners recognize how hard your day is and they’d rather run until their feet bleed or throw heavy ropes around until they throw up than come home and do your job. Carry on, warrior.
- You’re Cheating on Your Diet
Remember that bit about how if you were a caveman you’d be dead by now? That’s partly because your tribe would have started denying you food about the time you turned 25. Thank evolution for streamlining your system to run off nothing but bird bones and partially digested nuts and seeds. Sure, it’s efficient, but it also means that if you take your meals anywhere other than beneath your bird feeder, you’re going to end up with some excess jiggle. And the jiggle has signed a long-term lease. Incidentally, do you remember what a good friend your metabolism was back in your 20’s? Kinda makes you wish you hadn’t been such a jerk to it, and maybe it wouldn’t be holding such a grudge. Back in those days, toning up for Spring Break started in February and involved a couple of workout videos a week along with a few food trade-offs. Now, if I just give a somewhat meaningful glance to a Pop Tart, my jeans won’t button for a solid month. Your metabolism has slowed to a crawl, so now you literally have to run to make up for it. You had one job, metabolism, ONE JOB. Do I have to do everything around here??
- You need something to post on social media.
Seriously? Map My Run? OK, first of all, it would be much more mannerly for you to send an engraved invitation to predators to kidnap you on your run route. The Digital Age is destroying our manners. Secondly, no. Just no. Your fitness should speak for itself; it doesn’t need its own hashtag.
- It’s Now or Never.
You might be on to something here. As much as we’re all laughing about our new aches and pains and various deficiencies, that’s just it: we’re laughing. Soon, it’s not going to be so funny. If you’ve made it this far, you know that chances to do great things don’t just keep presenting themselves. However, chances to do boring stuff come up all the time. Why is that? Anyway, the clock is ticking and the knees are creaking. Even the fittest among us are feeling it. Anyone here ever contemplate seeing a chiropractor because a sneeze went awry? Or had a sore neck for two days because you “slept funny?” Et tu, pillow??
I recently turned 40, but I haven’t been bitten by the marathon bug…YET. As it stands right now, I’m putting all my stock in my mad lunging skills and ballet-inspired stretches to help me beat the odds set by my ancestors. Oh, and speed walking. If I should ever find myself in a life-threatening situation that would be best avoided by walking away quickly, I’ve got that on lockdown.
I mean, as long as it’s not too far. Or too hot. Or too cold. Or uphill. And it would be best if I could watch some TV while I’m doing it. Basically, when it comes to marathons, I do best in the cheering section, with a Bloody Mary in hand. See you at the finish line, friend!