Lori Jackson, Age 48

I’ve been on a break from running. For the first entire week after my “elite” PR race, I woke up with legs that felt like concrete, heavy and still sore. I’ve read that during intense training, you create microtears in your muscles that don’t have a chance to heal until after the season. I swear I could suddenly feel those microtears all cropped up on me.

I’m in that strange mental  space after you work really hard at a goal, and then actually achieve it! I’m proud, amazed, and a little let-down and lost. For about twenty-four hours after that Saturday race, I was hyped up about the next running milestone, the next running plan! Then Sunday, I went for a hike in the steady rain for almost two hours — the same stupid steady rain I trained in every run for the last month — and suddenly, I wasn’t so sure what I wanted.

Instead, I’ve been going to the gym. The intensity of all that racing in the last six weeks finally did shed muscle back off my frame, my weight dropped, and I’m looking runner-skinny again. Not in a good way. Now I miss those triceps and shoulders I had this summer! The seesaw effect on my body of cardio vs. weight training is starting to drive me nuts.

However, all this craziness has gotten my body about as fit as it’s ever been. I startle myself in the mirror sometimes — I look a lot like the photos next to the fitness articles I read — closer to fitness model shape than I’ve ever been. If it weren’t for that little back fat on my waist… that droopy, poochy stomach skin… the bit of cellulite on my butt and upper hamstrings. Suddenly I wonder, what if?

Gail Kasper

Gail Kasper

I know this is vanity. I’ve been training for performance, and as arbitrary as the goals can seem, at least they’re about doing something. They seem justifiable. To train for a look seems different somehow.

But I’ve already been inspired by several over-40 women who’ve done that, especially when they show how youthful a person can stay. An early inspiration for me to grow better with age — not merely stave off the inevitable — was Lori Jackson, a forty-eight year old fitness instructor featured in Power of 10 about ten years ago. Her image stuck in my head and led me to start my original five-year exercise goal when I was forty-one… hoping to eventually look like her at forty-eight! A few years later, posters of “Mrs. New Jersey” Gail Kasper became a favorite pin-up among young deployed military guys in Iraq — right into her mid-forties! It made me rethink what was even possible.

These women weren’t merely pursuing a superficial goal — they were showing how disciplined hard work could maximize one’s potential in a particular area and even bust stereotypes. Lori is still a fitness coach with a successful practice, and Gail is a motivational coach who also campaigns for humane treatment of animals.

While I’m on this break from running, I’m thinking of finally going for it — losing the last fat around my middle (I store weight like a guy, says my doctor!), toning and strengthening all over — and maybe, just maybe, seeing where else I could end up that I never thought possible.