The Fountain Of Youth.

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There are two things that, in general, many women* battle with no matter how young or old they are. (*I’m sure there are also men who battle with this as well.)

Physical Self-Acceptance. Accepting the bodies they were born with; and

Getting older. No big birthday decade is ever easy to stomach whether it’s 30, 40, and I can’t speak for 50 yet but I imagine 50, 60 and beyond are the same. For many of us, or perhaps even all of us women, that number is a mental note, that just kind of hangs there… you know it’s there, you just try not to dwell too much upon it.

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In fact I’ve heard the hems and haws from women close to me as they turned 60 from Iron Body Studios long time client Dori to Eric’s mom, Sheila.

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It’s not that they let the number they are turning hold them back from how they live their lives, in fact Dori and Sheila are perfect examples of the opposite with how active they are and their zest for socializing and travel.

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Dori with her husband Kendall.

To this point, not too long ago while I was teaching 6 a.m. Team Training at Iron Body Studios one morning Tracy, one of our instructors, mentioned that she had wanted to hit a PR in her training for her 29th birthday that was on August 31, 2015. Indeed she hit a PR and pressed 20kg (44lbs) for two consecutive reps; and while we were on the subject of age I responded with,

“Well, I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday and scheduled my next appointment for March 2016 before I left the office and said to the woman scheduling it, ‘I will be 40 then…” Because yes, I thought as I scheduled that appointment, “Holy crap I will be FORTY then!”

To which Dori, who turned 60 this year, responded with (and this is one of the many reasons why we all love Dori, and it clearly demonstrates how she approaches life at any age),

“Listen, when I was 40, I was wearing a thong bikini on the beach at the Jersey Shore. I could, so I did. I don’t feel sorry for you.”

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This is a picture of Dori at age 42 in her thong bikini. She honestly doesn’t look very much different now! Go Dori!

Leave it to Dori to top her 40’s with a thong bikini.

Dori is an inspiration to us all, at any age. Even though I know the number of her age screws with her mind once in a while, she shakes it off and doesn’t let it her hold her back and instead comes into Iron Body Studios and crushes pull-ups, dead-lifts, and swings, and is currently training for her StrongFirst Level I Kettlebell Instructor Certification. The fact that she not only maintains a positive mindset about how she approaches life whether at age 42 or 60, but also she strength trains, swings kettlebells, stays active, and follows the 80/20 rule for her nutrition, keeps her young and defies the facts of aging.

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Dori keeps up with her training on travel!

I guarantee Dori will be living life just like if not better than Jane Fonda (without plastic surgery) who is 77 going on 78 this coming December, when she is in her 70’s.

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Meanwhile I have another client who is 44 approaching 45, and this past summer she was telling me a story about how she went tubing with her children and all the while people warned her that because of her age she shouldn’t go tubing because she might get hurt. She remarked that as she approaches 45, people around her who are the same age have this stereotypical mindset about what is physically acceptable to do at their age and tubing is not one of those things that is physically acceptable. Instead, HER mindset is that she trains to be strong and move well because she WANTS to go tubing at any age. So that she CAN go tubing at any age. So that she CAN keep up with her children at ANY age.

EXACTLY.

For women (and perhaps for some men) this dread of aging starts with turning 30. At age 39 I see it as my younger colleagues, clients, and friends approach and turn 30 and I even experienced it myself as I turned 30.

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When I was about to turn 30 I felt like the oldest person on the planet. At the time I was working full-time as an IT consultant and I was surrounded by fellow co-workers who were ages 23 to 26. I remember when they heard that I was 29 going on 30 they looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You don’t look 30!” meaning, “30 is old, but you don’t look old.” To their defense when I was 25 I thought 30 was old. Heck at 29 I thought 30 was old!

When I turned 30 I spoke with my dad who was 67 at the time and he brought me back to reality. He said, “You think YOU’RE old? I’m old.” He was 37 when I was born.

Starting in my mid twenties he and I had a ritual on my birthday in that he would call me to wish me happy birthday and I would burst into tears crying about the fact that I was getting older, approaching THIRTY – THE HORROR!

When he called me on my thirtieth birthday he asked how I was and I replied, “Well, I haven’t started crying yet so that’s a good sign.”

I stopped crying about my age when I turned 30 and I haven’t shed a tear on my birthday since.

When I turned 30 I was warned that, physically, I should be prepared for a downward spiral, and that after I turned 40 that I could forget about my abs. They would never be the same, and not in a good way.

These irrational fears and tales of aging are fueled by the facts that we have the potential to lose 5 pounds of lean mass per decade starting at age 25 and that as a result we have the potential to experience a 2-4% decline in our Resting Metabolic Rate per decade starting at age 25. (RMR is energy/calories required to sustain the body’s vital functions at rest). This means that by the time that we are 65 we could potentially lose 20lbs of lean mass and experience a decline in the amount of energy/calories we burn to maintain our Resting Metabolic Rate.

HOWEVER, regular strength training, high intensity activities like kettlebell training and other types of interval training, and a healthy diet filled with nutrient dense, unprocessed foods can prevent this from happening.

Therefore, when I turned 30 I put on a tiara and a pink feather boa and embarked on a path to be in the best shape of my life.

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Instead of succumbing to the stereotype of letting my age determine what I was capable of, I let my healthy body and strong determined mindset demonstrate what I was capable of and went on to make a drastic career change from IT Consultant to full-time personal trainer, coach, and fitness professional at age 32, obtained my black belt in kung fu at age 33, discovered kettlebell training, got really serious about lifting HEAVY weights and about being really damn strong, left a commercial gym to open my own training facility at age 35, completed the Iron Maiden Challenge at age 38, and now at age 39 (less than 3 months from turning 40) I’ve started my journey into powerlifting and can confidently report that since turning 30 I continue to build strength, both physical and mental, with each passing year.

Below is a picture of me at present day at age 39 while I was on vacation this past August. I will be 40 in January. According to the aforementioned facts of aging I should be down 7.5lbs of lean mass and burning 50 less calories per day, however I have more muscle than I ever have in my life and as a result my RMR has likely increased, not decreased.

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How is this possible? In MY world strength training comes before traditional cardio, like running my butt off for an hour on the treadmill or climbing the stairway to heaven for 90 minutes, and I avoid processed foods and eat a nutrient dense diet that is optimal for my body type. I am not a big drinker, nor do I have a sweet tooth, but I do not deprive myself and I enjoy a good stout once in a while, as well as some ice cream, salted caramel brownie killers from the Wegmans cookie bar, and apple pie in moderation.

Most of all and most importantly, in this picture, today at age 39 almost 40, I am MENTALLY STRONG, have a positive body image, and a healthy approach to eating and exercise.

This was not always the case and being younger does not guarantee happiness, confidence, balance, or self worth. In fact more often than not having some years under your belt helps you to build this through experiences that make you stronger, tougher, and wiser.

Seeing this picture prompted me to go home and dig out two pictures from my past that represented significant points in my life when I was in my twenties that I was struggling with body image, disordered eating, and overall self-acceptance.

The first was from the summer of 1996 when I was 20 years old. I was about 15-20 pounds heavier than I am now.

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It was the summer before my senior year in college and I was studying abroad in France for two semesters, summer and fall. I was in a phase of self-loathing in that I wasn’t exercising, I was eating horribly, and not only was I not happy about my body on the outside as I kept packing on pounds, but also on the inside I didn’t care. I didn’t care about the fact that I was unhealthy, that I wasn’t treating myself right mentally or physically. I didn’t care to do anything about it except buy bigger more comfortable clothes that might hide all of my physical and mental unhappiness.

As the fall approached that year 1996 something in me snapped, like a virtual slap in the face, that woke me up to realize that this is not who I am. This is so unlike me, I am stronger than this. I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and to start taking care of myself.

For the fall semester that I was studying abroad in France I started eating better, I got back to ballet, and started going to yoga and walking more. The bonus was being completely immersed and learning the French language via dance and yoga classes taught in French.

I cleaned up my act for a little while. But then I fell back into a cycle of self-loathing, however this time it manifested itself as me not eating, exercising excessively, and weighing myself daily.

From the age of 15 until I was 28 years old I danced this dance of self-loathing. As I wrote about in my post Just Eat, most of the time I would starve myself, exercise excessively, and weigh myself daily. I engaged in this disordered behavior in an attempt to regain control of my life during times of extreme stress by obsessively controlling my diet and exercise or in less frequent instances, by just not controlling it at all.

The last time that I danced this dance of obsessive behavior was in 2004 when I was 28 years old. This was the second picture that I dug out of the archives this summer after I returned from vacation.

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In this picture I was about 15 to 20lbs lighter than I am now. I was in the final phase in my life of starving myself, exercising excessively to burn off any and every calorie I ate, and weighing myself after each workout to make sure I was staying under 105lbs.

I was in a phase of exhibiting self-loathing by starving myself. The less I weighed the more control I had over my life, right??

WRONG.

Finally I snapped out of it and decided to get strong, both mentally and physically strong.

I wrote more about this in my post Just Eat and I also talked about this at my strength workshop I Am Not Afraid To Lift earlier this month in Dulles, VA. Someone at the workshop asked me how did I get past these dysfunctional thought patterns and disordered eating?

It didn’t happen overnight, it was definitely a process, but in general I was fed up with food, the scale, low self-esteem, and poor body image controlling my life and I decided to grab hold of the reins and get STRONG. Get my mind strong and get my body strong.

If I let all the hype of the facts of aging dictate my physical and mental progression though my twenties and thirties then the picture on the far left below would represent me today and the picture on the far right would have represented me when I was 20.

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However, when I turned 30, rather than letting my age dictate what I was capable of and letting the facts of aging determine my self esteem, instead I spent my thirties building both physical and mental strength that I did not have when I was in my twenties.

As a result at age 39 I am more physically and mentally strong than I was when I was 29 and I expect to continue on this path as I turn 40, 50, and beyond. I want to be like Dori when I grow up.

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Dori and I in Albuquerque, New Mexico for my strength workshop I Am Not Afraid To Lift.

I move daily and strength train so that I can continue to move well and be strong through the decades and celebrate my strength and ability to move well by completing feats like an 80lb burly sandbag (which is about 70% of my bodyweight) Turkish get-up, at age 39, at a DVRT Ultimate Sandbag workshop, for the very first time that I ever trained with sandbags, and NOT GET HURT.

In today’s world the facts of “normal” aging appear to be a result of a poorly nourished, sedentary lifestyle. Don’t let these facts dictate YOUR aging process. Not physically and not mentally because the two go hand in hand. Instead embrace Strength Training, Proper Nutrition, and a Mentally Tough Mindset as THESE elements are the Fountain of Youth.

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