COLUMN: Not yet time to cut myself too much slack

One of the nice things about reaching “a certain age” is that I tend to cut myself a lot more slack than I used to.

Small problems that once took on Shakespearean proportions in my mind, today often elicit little more than a shrug. Unless some action is required, and then it’s a matter of “just get to it and get it done.”

It’s a good place to be and one of the aspects of turning 50 that I’ve genuinely enjoyed.

So when the bathroom scale began giving off little warning signs – and then not-so-little warning signs – that all the effort I’d put into shedding 30 excess pounds was, slowly but surely, being eaten away, I didn’t panic (I don’t do that anymore).

And when the waistbands of the new clothes I’d purchased in celebration of my achievement began offering more resistance than I’m comfortable with, I remained philosophical.

At 50, do these things really matter so much? There’s even a name for it, I reasoned – middle-age spread – so I’m obviously not alone. Until I was.

Recently, I travelled to Comox to help celebrate the milestone birthday of a friend I’ve known since our first year of college. Part of that celebration included a morning spent snowshoeing on Mount Washington.

Joining us were another college friend, also 50, and a longtime friend from Alberta, who is 52.

Three lovelier – and more physically fit – women you will likely never meet.

Flanked by this athletic trio, I began to panic (turns out, I still do that when the occasion warrants). While I was filled with admiration, I was also weighed down by a deep sense of dread – fear that I was going drag along behind, slowing them down.

At 50 (and 52) they remained philosophical. This was meant to be a pleasant winter outing, not a contest, they assured me.

As we walked, I found myself puffing along, focused more on the grade of the slope in front of me than on the picturesque mountain vistas all around us.

Climbing a particularly challenging hill, I must have been lengthening my strides in an effort to just get it over with, when the friend behind me offered a bit of advice to help me conserve some energy for the long, grinding climb ahead.

“Just take small steps,” she said.

I adjusted my stride and carried on. At the top, we stopped for a rest and took some time to appreciate the dazzling view.

Standing there, I began looking inward, too, and realized (not for the first time) that I’d basically given myself permission to be out of shape, based on nothing more than the year of my birth.

Here were three women my age or older who have made a point of eating well and being active on a regular basis, rather than in fits and starts, as I’ve long been guilty of doing. And the results spoke for themselves. They weren’t breathing hard, their faces were flushed from the crisp mountain air, not from exertion.

Theirs is not the type of physical fitness that develops with a few trips to the gym and a nod to the latest diet trend. It’s a result of habits developed over a lifetime. The two college friends met on the school’s cross-country ski team and continued to hike, run, swim and ski ever since.

Standing at the trail’s apex, reflecting as I waited to catch my breath, it became clear that some sort of action on my part would be required.

Don’t misunderstand, I have no aspirations to be a size 2 or to run a marathon. I’m middle aged now, after all.

But when it comes to my physical health, there is plenty of room for improvement (as compared to most of my waistbands, where there is no room to speak of).

All of which means it’s time once again to just get to it and get it done.

The key, I imagine, as with most things in life, will be simple.

“Just take small steps,” and conserve some energy for the long, grinding climb ahead.

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