"Wait Until You're My Age"
She pushed with power, sprung off the floor, and landed with control. I wanted to do the same insanely cool exercises. And I knew I could—if it wasn’t for my darn wrists.
At the time, I felt so much pressure in my wrists that I was having difficulty even doing kneeling push-ups.
The longer I watched her video, the more my thoughts turned from whoa to whiny until I felt sorry for myself.
I cringed at what came out of my mouth: "Oh yeah, easy for a 20-year-old."
Wait until you’re my age is what I meant.
"Not fair, Tami," I said, swatting my words out of the air.
I hated people telling me this. Why would I do it to someone else? Had it been subconsciously drilled into me?
I started noticing this common response in my twenties whenever I brought up an ailment around certain elders. It was as if mentioning any discomfort to them ignited this defensive game of one-upping where they treated pain like a trophy that no one could touch.
Like the stranger who stopped me during my run. “You’ll get hip bursitis if you keep doing that,” she said, wagging her finger at me. “I know. It happened to me.”
She didn’t know anything about me, but it didn't matter because whoever was oldest and most injured won.
To me, "Wait until you're my age" meant things like, “I can't do that. Why do you think you'll be able to?” And when you age, you lessen. You weaken. You hurt.
It’s not that I don’t expect to age or feel my body from time to time. Since I was six, my joints have cracked so loudly that my mom took me to the doctor when I was a kid to make sure I was “normal.” I never stopped cracking. It's not painful, but now that I’m 40, does it make me a granny just because I crack?
The world tells me to settle for "I'm just getting older" whenever I feel a symptom, but I question that.
Why do I have to wait until I’m a certain age to experience something?
Do I have to experience it at all?
How am I living differently and similarly to people who say this?
What can I learn from them?
Why should I let people who don’t know me or treat their bodies like crap tell me how I should feel and when I should feel it?
How can I expect them to understand my injuries when they don't understand their own?
Do certain things really happen at certain ages? Is there some unwritten chart that determines your back will go out after you turn 35?
Why do I know 16-year-olds who are in worse shape than my grandma? Why is it that I’ve met 70 year-olds hiking mountains and 60 year-olds who bench press more than all of the other 60 year-olds?
At my fitness studio, a 63-year-old set our men's plank record at 12 minutes. His record stands after four years. A 62 year-old set our women’s plank record at seven minutes. And another member, a 74-year-old woman, can hold a four-minute plank without injuring herself.
What makes them different? Good genetics? Did God give them more grit? More gifts? A higher pain tolerance? Is it because they didn’t beat their bodies down playing youth sports? Or do they have different mindsets?
If we believe it sucks getting old, then it’s going to suck getting old. What happens in our minds can age us more than what happens in our bodies.
I get that the more time we're alive, the more opportunities we have to do more of the things that we don't even know how we did. But why is age our primary marker for aches, pains, and discomforts? What if our issues aren't a result of age as much as poor nutrition, stress, inactivity, or inefficient movements?
What if physical ailments aren't issues of aging as much as dysfunction? What if those dysfunctions are correctable?
What if we can turn our issues around before they become arthritis or a knee replacement?
If you have irreversible issues, I’m not trying to pour salt into a wound. If only we knew now what we knew then, right? You may not have known how to reverse the issue at that time. Maybe there wasn't another solution at the time. Maybe it snuck up on you so fast, immediate action was necessary, and you did the best thing you knew how to do.
My point: what can we learn and apply now to live optimally in the future?
Ten years ago, I couldn’t run more than a mile. My hip tightened until I limped. I developed sciatica, and my back hurt like crazy. I sought treatment through a traditional physical therapist who told me to ice and stretch more. Months later, I hadn't found relief.
Fed up with this limitation, I prayed over this injury and talked to more people about it, despite encountering “Wait until you’re my age” over and over. That’s when an acquaintance recommended her unconventional physical therapist, who combined traditional physical therapy with Muscle Activation Technique and respiratory breathing patterns.
I needed new eyes on my problems, and this was my solution.
His team had me out of orthotics in five visits. I had worn them since I was 13. People told me if I stopped wearing them, I’d break my ankles. But I learned that the orthotics were only Band-Aids for a deeper issue and that my sciatic pain resulted from years of dysfunction in my feet (and a lot of other stuff).
My physical therapist addressed my dysfunctions, made sure my nerves properly communicated with my muscles, corrected my deep-rooted instabilities, and assigned the proper rehabilitative and breathing exercises to reinforce the corrections.
After ten years, I still don’t need orthotics, and I no longer have sciatic pain. Through physical therapy, I’ve learned so much, like the pain in my wrists wasn't a wrist issue—the problem came from my neck. Addressing this is why I can now perform full push-ups again.
The pain in my neck correlated with the pain in my back, which correlated with stiffness in my ankles, which affected my squat and caused that zippy pain I occasionally felt when I bent over to pick up the laundry basket.
The raking that sometimes occurred in my knee wasn’t a knee issue but the misalignment of my pelvis.
The stiff neck I occasionally woke up with resulted from shallow breathing.
My chronically tight hip. Well, that’s my current nemesis. We’ve fixed it before, and we’re working on fixing it again, this time for good. Some problems require more treatment than others.
Understanding these issues is why I can ask questions that help me correct the root problem. Like when I feel stiffness in my hip, do I need to change the way I'm sitting?
Is how I’m sitting or sleeping throwing off the positioning of my pelvis and contributing to what I feel in my hip?
What repetitive movements am I doing to worsen my problem?
How am I breathing when I feel that symptom? Is my respiratory pattern shallow? What happens if I flatten my rib cage and deepen my breathing?
What exercise can I perform to reset my body when something throws me off?
I can’t always fix my problems on my own, but that’s why I hire someone to help me. Every problem I’ve experienced has been fixable. That doesn’t mean I’m always symptom-free or that a previous problem never needs readdressing. That’s why I go to physical therapy once every six weeks.
Because I want to do everything I can to hike mountains pain-free when I’m 70 years old.
Maybe you’re not interested in hiking a mountain when you’re 70, but what is of value to you now and for the rest of your life?
Playing with your grandchildren?
Walking your dog?
Avoiding a hip replacement?
Walking up and down stairs without pain?
Less dependency on others to help you with household chores or getting in and out of a bathtub?
We all have something that we’d love to keep doing and feel good while doing it. The good news is you can.
You don’t have to settle for “that’s just the way it is.” You don’t even have to think about movement to the extent that I do. You just need to think about it differently than most people, and it helps to team with someone whose job is to do just that.
So, when you see others doing things you want to do but you may not currently be able to do, flip discouragement on its head. Do like I did after I watched the girl in the video. Swat away negativity. Take ownership of where you are. Pray, and start looking for alternative solutions.
As we learn more about taking care of our bodies, we can age with grace like never before until “Wait until you’re my age” becomes something future generations look forward to.
Tami McCandlish is a writer and speaker who brings hope and healing in the name of Jesus. She is currently writing a memoir about how being bullied in school impacted her as an adult.
Since 2004, she has worked alongside her husband coaching thousands of people in exercise and wellness.
Tami is an National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, Behavior Change Specialist, and Fitness Nutritional Specialist, a Precision Nutrition - Level 1 Coach, and she holds a B.A. in English and Journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University.
For more on fitness, faith, friendship, freedom, and felines, join her email list at www.tamimccandlish.com.