I hope your New Year is off to a great start, and you are not falling prey to unachievable and punishing resolutions. Better to practice moderation and gentleness. If you want to learn more about The Wisdom of Mindful Eating and Zestful Aging, check out my all new online courses. You can find them through my website: NicoleChristina.com. For the month of January only they are radically discounted. I hope that provides the nudge you need to make changes in your life that lead to both physical and emotional wellness.
Senior Games....Here I Come!
When I recently found out that I had qualified to play tennis in this year’s National Senior Games in Albuquerque, it was a dream come true. I've always wanted to play in a real tournament, with all of its pressure and excitement. I love tennis, and to be able to play at the Games will be a highlight in my life. But my journey to the Games has been entirely unconventional, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Lesson #1: Your History is Not Your Destiny
As a school kid I was always picked last in sports. Gym was a special kind of nightmare, and I learned that you can only claim to have your period once a month. I tried everything to get out of the humiliation of changing into those wretched gym clothes with the balloon shorts. Kickball and dodgeball seemed particularly barbaric, and I had a fear the ball would hit me in the face. And I was too busy reading and drawing. Why are you expected to be good at everything in school? Even now, I can’t do a proper push up. I love the bumper sticker that is anti-running. It boasts the driver’s running mileage: 0.0.
Eventually, though, I did discover that I had a knack for racquet sports. Many evenings, my dad and I played platform tennis when I lived in Connecticut. I got great pleasure from beating him, as many teenagers do when they establish dominance over their parents. But when I started hitting tennis balls, I was smitten. There’s no way to put into words the beauty and elegance of the game unless you’ve been overcome by its charms. It’s simple, and impossibly difficult. You can never learn everything about the game. One day you think you’re gaining on it, and the next it shows you how far you still have to go to master it. I've heard it requires the same strategic thinking as chess.
Lesson #2: Effort and Enthusiasm Go a Long Way
There’s an absolute feeling of freedom that comes over me as I put my daily anxieties aside and just concentrate on that little fuzzy ball. And what I lack in skill, I make up in enthusiasm. I track that ball down like my life depends on it. I’m surprised I haven’t hurt myself. People have died playing the game by falling and hitting their head. Eventually my occasional recklessness will have to be reined in. But not quite yet.
Lesson #3: Showing Up Counts For a Lot
Before you get too impressed by the fact I qualified for the Games, the truth is that it wasn’t that difficult. There wasn’t a very big field of competitors at the New York State Games, which allowed me to earn the silver medal (which came from a Ziplock bag, and might have been made out of recycled soda cans). But I got there. It was hot. My tennis friends didn’t want to take the day off of work. I showed up.
Lesson #4 At this Age, I Don’t Worry How Others Are Doing It
There are less than 200 days left until the Games in June. My training schedule is as unconventional as my road getting here. I suspect many of the other athletes are going to the gym daily, eating Keto, and making themselves kale protein shakes. Me? I’m bouncing happily on my rebounder with light weights to classic Elvis Costello. I'm taking my dog walks with my weighted vest on. And maybe cutting down on the chocolate a bit. I’ll be more conscious of drinking enough water. Will I be buff and a “senior olympic specimen”? Doubtful. I hate the gym because it bores the daylights out of me. And as much as my tennis coach wants me to do reps and lose weight, that’s a recipe for grimness. At this stage in life, fun and pleasure are my focus. And, it turns out, happiness is health promoting.
Lesson #5: Getting to New Mexico is Expensive, But So is Regretting Not Choosing Adventure
As the host of Zestful Aging, I’ve spoken to so many talented, amazing women from all over the world. I’ve heard countless stories of grit and determination. Frankly, It’s restored my faith in humankind. There is a clear message I’ve learned from my guests: You have to take risks, and you may end up looking silly. And time is ticking. At 57, who knows how much longer I can play singles? It's hard on the body. Advil and a hot bath are usually required after a vigorous match. The next day I'm moving pretty slowly. I know I'm lucky to be able to do this. After going through chemotherapy about 15 years ago, I wouldn't have imagined that I would be able to hit the ball as hard as I can (a point of pride!) or have the energy to get through a long match. It will take everything I can muster not to bend down and kiss the court with gratitude for getting there.
Many guests have told me that when they are trying to make a decision whether or not to pursue something, they project to the end of their lives and ask themselves: “Will I regret it if I don’t do it?” It’s scary thinking that I might get skunked. I will be really disappointed if I get out there and lose every single game. I may freeze up and hit every ball long--a common sign of nerves. I may wilt in the New Mexico or get dizzy from the altitude. But I need to take that chance in order to live a vibrant, courageous life. But if I do win a medal, I will be beaming with pride. Believe me, you'll hear about it.
So I'm getting ready. I have my beautiful tennis bag--a super find from the Salvation Army. I'm thinking about what colors I should wear. I'm friending other participants on Facebook, and making contacts in Albuquerque. I know the National Senior Games are not Wimbledon, and I am not an elite athlete, but it’s a dream come true for me.
And if you know anyone who wants to sponsor an energetic, determined post middle age tennis player, send them my way.
To taking risks in 2019,
All the best health to you!