I was talking with a friend this weekend about strength. Body strengthening work in particular. Being a PT, I guess he assumed that I knew all about this stuff. Being a pediatric therapist, my knowledge is out of date at best. Still, I get the basics. I understand how important core strength is to allow strength and flexibility away from the core. I understand that a basic fitness regime allows me to participate in the activities I love without fear of significant injury. I understand that fitness after 50 is really all about just showing up. Show up for swim, wake up early for those runs, fit in a yoga class on the side or a routine in the living room. I must be doing something right, our relay team now holds the masters swim record for the 4X100 relay for ages 45+. My friend has decided that the strengthening work he was doing was not helping his yoga practice. He has changed his routine. No more weights. No more muscle imbalance. He’s choosing to only work on those aspects of fitness that assist with “functional strength.”
I had little work on Monday that required me to be in town, so I worked from Oaksdale and spent a couple of evenings with Greg and the horses. I got up super early this morning and drove into town with the sun to meet my running partners at 5:45 am. As I was driving, I thought of taking a yoga class tonight, or perhaps checking out the evening swim practice as I missed Monday. As I edged my garden that will grow basil for pesto this summer, I realized that neither of these were going to happen. All my functional strength today went into hand tools for weeding, stoop and pluck of clods of sod, and transferring compost. I thought of the generations that came before mine, and how clearing the land, growing crops, and hunting for protein required a kind of strength I can only dream of. I’m pretty sure their concept of functional strength had little to do with yoga or winning a swim meet relay.
As I weeded on my knees, dug in the dirt, and determined that the compost was too wet yet to sift, I thought about the concept of strength in general. When Jim was sick, when he was dying, right after he died, I had to be strong. Sometimes, just being married to the guy, I had to be strong. I needed strength to keep up with him on all his adventures, strength to take care of home and hearth when he was away without me, strength to help him navigate the last months of his life with less than full brain power. I needed strength to deal with my grief, with all the crap that goes along with death, and strength to finish raising Jasper and providing support to Emerald when she chose to ask for it. I had to make a plan for my life and remain sane and strong as I figured out what I wanted that to look like. Strength and resilience got me through the last 3+ years of my life, and yet I am questioning how functional that strength is.
Functional strength. “I can do it, I don’t need anyone, I am feisty and independent, GROOOAAARR.” It is much harder to admit that there are limits to my physical capabilities, I get tired or scared, I need help, support, and guidance. I need to see my friends, I need to have lunch with my mom, I need to see my fuzzy headed son on Skype and chat with my daughter when she should be working. I need a warm set of arms to hold me at night, I need to know I will not have to spend the rest of my life alone. The strength I have developed over the earlier 1/2 of my life is within me. It is core strength. It allows me to be strong and flexible away from my core. I hope it is functional. I will just keep showing up.