Words from Sam Cook about keeping our middle-aged bodies fluid and active:
We all have our gold standards of who we'd like to emulate as lessability begins to reel us in. They are the ones who cross-country ski into their 80s or beyond, the ones who year after year carry themselves down the Grandma's Marathon course on sinewy, 70-something legs.
They are lucky, perhaps. They've not had knees or hips or shoulders go bad. But it is not just luck. They have not quit. In the dark and quiet hours, they're doing sit-ups and push-ups and planks. They're jumping rope. They're stretching. They're doing yoga. They're hiking and running and biking and skiing and dancing. Not as fast as they once did, maybe. Not for as long at a time, maybe. And perhaps it only appears to us that they're doing it gracefully. Maybe it doesn't feel that way to them. But what choice does any of us have, really, except to keep at it? And let our bodies gradually reel in our brains, still stuck somewhere around 28.
In between my own workouts this three-day weekend, I watched my niece play some elite-level volleyball in a big tournament. She is a rockstar setter on a very strong team and as I watched, my mind switched back and forth from, wow, what a play! to wow, here are some qualities that are directly transferrable to Nordic skiing. I saw strength, of course, and explosiveness and balance and quickness and agility and proprioception. I told my brother that, but he's an occasional touring skier and just looked at me like I was off my rocker. Skiing and volleyball? Not seeing it. But I told him, you take those attributes we're watching right now, add some big endurance training and some technical skills, and you'd have, well, you'd have Jessie Diggins.
Nordic skiing can be an easy walk in the woods (yawn) but with these bonus attributes in your quiver, it becomes an occasion for exuberance and joy; it becomes a sport of power, pop, and sparkle, and one I will be passionate about for the rest of my life.
Because that's one of the things I love about being in love with skiing; you can do it well into your old age, as multiple living, breathing examples have taught me, but also the art of it encourages all the qualities I want in my own body: functional strength coupled with mobility, gracefulness and fluidity, balance, endurance, and cultivating a specialized skill set that uses both upper and lower body. And for people like me, the ski season is only a few months long, so in the off-season, the activities that will benefit us in ski season turn out to be super fun during the summer and fall, like trail running and hiking, biking and paddling, roller skiing and … dancing.
To that end, and emulating dancing Diggins, I'm taking a beginning hip hop dance class. Seriously. Because if anything can get this body trying to move quickly and lightly, it's going to be loud music and a super-fun instructor and fellow dancers who look, to my undiscerning eye, like professionals. I'm the oldest person in the class by a factor of at least two, maybe more, but that's okay; they still let me play. And I don't see hip hop on ANY ski training plan, but that's okay, too -- quickness and lightness are big weaknesses of mine (it's a long list) and I believe in attacking your weaknesses. And if attacking your weaknesses means getting all sweaty and goofy in a rundown old dance studio with a handful of millennials who got sick beats, hey, I'll try it! Verdict: to be provided when ski season rolls around.