Most athletes know how this works: When you play a sport, you get hurt. Over time you learn how to keep playing in spite of the pain. It’s not pleasant—who wants to carry around pain–but it’s still part of the whole experience of being a sportsperson, especially so for professional players.
I have observed this phenomenon among the participants in our older adult group exercise classes. We come there to do the work that will keep us physically and mentally alert. We sweat and strain. We flex and stretch entire muscle groups. We get tired from the exertion. And many of us engage in exercise is spite of a host of physical conditions that can accompany getting older.
One similarity we share with athletes: We’re really having fun. Perhaps not uproariously so, but still enjoyable. There’s no competition—we’re all winners just because we showed up. There’s not an immediate financial reward—no one pays us anything for our early morning workouts. We’re just playing!
For some of us, the pains may be the reason we’re there. Some of the maladies of aging occur precisely because of inactivity, so we may have come to the class with already-existing pain—joints, tendons and muscles in need of conditioning. Others in our group exercise as therapy for mind and body—so past injuries won’t immobilize us. Wounded spirits? They’re healed from being there with each other.
So you know: We’re not noble über-humans because we’ve decided to play even though we may be hurting. What we’re doing makes sense. In spite of the aches and pains we’ve gathered over the years, this kind of self-care keeps our bodies, minds and souls fit for living well in God’s world.
And did I mention the part about playing…?