Can we defy nature as we age?

Received wisdom tells us that if you work hard at something you will get better at it. If you keep practicing you surely can’t get any worse. If you train you will build strength and stamina. As an aerialist I have always believed that the more I apply myself the stronger and more flexible I will become.

If I tell myself I am strong and flexible I will become strong and flexible. This mantra has served me well over the years. Until now. I have reached the ripe old age of 65 and suddenly I feel less positive about my fitness. I am struggling a little bit with motivation and I am slightly scared of attempting new moves.

This could all be explained away by Covid and working in isolation for almost two years. There is no denying the power of camaraderie and the positive results that come from peer pressure to improve. I hope this is what is ailing me and not the far more gloomy prospect of ageing.

Working alone on aerial moves is not advisable by anyone’s standards and I do not advocate it for anyone at any level. But Covid has effectively put an end to working with others and rather than lose fitness and get rusty I have soldiered on alone. I guess this ‘aloneness’ is holding me back somewhat.

However, I do need to face up to the fact that as I am quite old I am alone in this aerial world. I talk of peers but they are not really ‘my’ peers but rather the peers of my daughters.

Training alone has meant that the fear of falling has become greater. Furthermore, I am all too aware that any injury will take so much longer to heal than it would have done 30 years ago. I feel sure that my bones are strong but I don’t really know that for sure. My muscles are strong but if I stop training for a few weeks (for example when a two week break becomes a two month break due to lockdown) it can take me a month to fully regain the strength and skill set I had before. This would have taken a few days when I was younger.

I do also keep reminding myself that most professional sports people hit a peak at around 30 and in gymnastics it’s a whole lot younger than that. I came into pole and aerial sports when I was already well past my potential peak at the age of 59. I have made progress over the years but the rate of learning is slowing down and the thing that worries me most is that I am not feeling the drive to overcome this perceived failing.

So the first big question for me is – Can we force our bodies to defy nature and keep on performing at a superhuman level?

I hate to admit it but the doubt is creeping in. Nevertheless, I am fighting it every inch of the way. I WILL be strong and flexible and I WILL still be climbing that pole …well into my nineties and beyond.

The second big question is – Will Covid back off anytime soon and allow us to resume business as usual – perhaps for our aerial retreat in September 2022?

Soozie Campbell