Throughout my life I have been blessed with extraordinary mentors, mostly women, who have taken me under their wings and helped me negotiate the perils and pitfalls of work and life. I became a better employee, manager, mother, and friend because of the generosity of these amazing women.
As a young, newly-minted junior account executive in an advertising agency I attached myself to one of the company’s vice presidents, a woman who decided I was a worthy project for her to take on. She taught me the subtleties of office politics and the pitfalls of gender battles in the workplace. I will forever be in her debt for all that she taught me.
Words of Wisdom
One day she explained to me that at a certain age, usually after 50, women start to become invisible. She told me this was especially true for women who relied on their looks and charm to get ahead in the world. “Do not let yourself become invisible,” she commanded. “Make you mark through hard work and innovative ideas. Make people see and judge you by your accomplishments.”
Her advice served me well in my career; my mentor’s words have guided me and shaped my professional life. At times, when all I really wanted to do was maintain the status quo, I would remember that, while beauty may fade, my accomplishments would continue to define me and how I am perceived.
Becoming Invisible in the Gym
This advice has also helped shape how I looked at fitness after I turned 50. At about that time, I gave up running marathons, a pursuit that had defined me for decades. Soon I found myself in the throes of an exercise rut – a walk here, a cursory trip to the gym there – I kept a certain level of fitness, but I was losing my passion. I watched with envy as younger women attacked their workouts, and for the first time I actually felt like I was becoming invisible.
Do Not Go Gentle
My “aha” moment came when I got an invitation to a wedding in Sydney, Australia. I realized I would be there during the running of the famous City2Surf 14km Road Race. The City2Surf is one of the world’s largest races, with more than 60,000 participants. The course starts in downtown Sydney and snakes it way through the city suburbs ending at the iconic and beautiful Bondi Beach.
The race gave me a training goal and helped me get my fitness groove back. I also figured it would get me in good shape to do the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb, something I had always wanted to do.
My entire exercise regimen changed. I approached it with a discipline and joy that had been missing. I wasn’t training to win the race, but I wanted to be proud of myself when I finished.
And I was. Crossing the finish line was exhilarating. Though I was slower than my younger self, and though this was no marathon, I was thrilled to still be in the game. I was fully present in the moment, visible to the world.
Building a better, more vivid exercise routine takes effort. Even more important, it takes imagination. You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to amp up your fitness plan. You can just as easily find motivation and goals in your own back yard. Maybe there’s a mini-triathlon you been dreaming about. Most areas have women only races that welcome new and first-time participants.
If that goal sounds too daunting, you could pick a hike that would challenge your current level of fitness and train to do that. My friend Sarah is making me work out with a 12-pound backpack a few days a week in anticipation of a hike we’re planning to take this summer.
Pick a fitness goal that feels beyond your reach, and then train to make it a reality. Get help if you need to, find a group that can support your quest, grab a fitness buddy and train together.
Women of accomplishment are never invisible. And for fabulous mid-life women, there is accomplishment around every corner. With imagination and determination it can be ours for the taking.