Seven years ago, I bought a mountain bike for $10 and started getting caught up on being outdoorsy again. A couple years before that, I nearly died trying to cut a tree down in my front yard with an axe. Not because the tree fell on me, but because of sheer exhaustion.
Shortly after I began the process of ending my marriage, I realized that my blood pressure was a wreck, I was at least 30 pounds overweight, and my cardio was so bad that I couldn’t even do 20 minutes on an eliptical. Over the next few years, I went to the gym several times a week. I started eating better. I felt like my younger body had lain dormant underneath all that fat and results of thousands of hours spent in front of the TV. One day I kayaked Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins for around seven miles of paddling.
My first international trip took me to the UK in 2019, where I walked six to 9 miles every day. My legs would ache at the end of every day, and I would just lower myself into a hot bathtub to let the kinks and knots unravel from my muscles. My toes were covered in blisters. When I got home, I walked all the time, rode my bike with my son, and I might have been in the best shape of my adult life.
Well, we all know what happened in 2020. A global pandemic stuffed all of us inside for several months and the gyms were all closed. It didn’t matter much anyway, because my job had ended and with it went the membership to the gym I frequented. At the end of 2020, I moved back to my hometown in the mountains, where I hoped I would get to go hiking more often. I did take quite a few hikes over the nearly two years that I have been back, but for the most part I work from home. Gas prices make driving to the trailheads prohibitively expensive. With the exception of a few hikes here and there, the most walking I’ve been doing is letting my dog out to pee or playing fetch with her in the park. I also walk to the post office every day.
My last couple of big trips, I have felt this…weariness. I guess that’s the best word for it. When I set out in a new city or even on one of my hikes, I feel like my knees don’t work right. They don’t bend like they used to. The last time I tried to run I was afraid something was going to snap. My last hike up the side of a mountain was tough. I had to stop to rest every couple yards. I could breathe just fine, even at 10k feet or higher, but it was like my body just…slowed down.
Not too long ago, back in the dating days, I thought about how many women my age or thereabouts wouldn’t have been able to keep up with me. Most of them had little interest in hiking or tromping around a city, wandering through museums, or strolling along a river at night watching the glow of the city reflected in the water. Their idea of a good time was sitting at a bar, ordering drink after drink, and maybe dancing if a song they liked came on.
I was watching a conversation on an outdoor Facebook group I belong to. Lots of young men and women in their early 20s and 30s. They posited the question of dating someone older, and I remembered my original stance on the subject. Women who were younger than myself seemed to have more of an interest in doing physical activity. Women my age tended to gravitate towards much older men. It was all about matching energy.
But the last couple of days, I just feel dragged out. I feel like I couldn’t hack a long hike, even though I often daydream about doing a big hike like the CDT or PCT. Until I think about how much my legs ache after a ten miler up and down the side of a mountain. Or how walking around a new city for hours often means cutting my sightseeing short so I can get my afternoon nap.
I don’t think insomnia helps, and lately I have had concerns with my heart beating like Jon Bonham is running it. I know I drink a lot of caffeine, and I probably could benefit from some strength training or some gradual cardio again after over two years off. But a part of me just can’t help but wonder, what if I’m just slowing down? What if this is old age? I no longer climb rocks or jump over stumps. I hike with trekking poles now. I haven’t ridden my bike in nearly two years because the idea of doing that…just hurts.
What the hell?
Will I one day become one of those tourists in white shorts and white polo shirts with the white baseball cap, white socks pulled up to my knees, lifting my New Balance clad feet into the tour bus? Wondering when the next buffet will start on the cruise?
If there is any hope for me to get back into shape, I need to start working at it again. I really have no desire to start running (I want to keep my knees) but I shouldn’t be exhausted after walking around a city for a few hours either. Or is this the desperation of middle age talking? Are my days of being physically active behind me? My brain still thinks I can jump up on that fallen tree or run across that ridgeline. But my body says “Hold up.”
Jeez, lately it just feels like time is running out. I’m fighting a losing battle and there’s not a damn thing I can do about any of it.