My Exercise Needs Changed in my 40s—& not because of my Age.

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I used to adore aerobics classes.

The love affair started when I was a kid, with “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons. It continued in the ’90s with Jazzercise, and into the new millennium with Zumba. For decades, I couldn’t get enough of bouncing across a gym floor to loud music.

Then I hit 40, and something changed. For a while I couldn’t put my finger on it. I was still showing up to class, but I’d often leave early. I’d start out comfortable, have fun for about 20 minutes, and then start to feel anxious and annoyed. Finally I figured it out—it was just too loud. (OMG—had I just gotten old?!) I tried earplugs, and that helped, but in the end I realized it simply wasn’t the workout for me anymore.

This wasn’t the first time I’d felt this need for change. A decade ago, when I got divorced, I got to keep the house I’d shared with my (now ex) husband. While that was a blessing, and I truly did love the house, I suddenly felt like I was suffocating in that space. All the design choices were ones that we’d made together, and I felt like I was stuck in my past. While there was nothing wrong with the décor, looking at those old choices made me miserable enough that the only solution (short of moving) was to paint the walls a fresh new color, sell some of my stuff on Craigslist, and start over again.

I needed to wake up every day to my future, not my past.

I’ve found that the need for change is not really a matter of age, but of circumstance. Just like there is no eternally perfect relationship, perfect home, or perfect workout. It’s just a matter of finding the one that is perfect for us based on who we are right now—and what we need right now. Whether it’s our lover, our home, or our exercise regimen, all of them will need to grow and shift alongside us over time—and if they don’t, we’ll have to move on from them.

If the need to change my workout wasn’t a result of hitting 40, what was it? Well, in my first three decades, I lived a less stressful life. I felt energized by the music and movement of dance aerobics. But now, at 40, I’m self-employed, and running my company means I lead a team, meet with clients, and constantly network. It takes all my energy. I no longer crave the frenetic pace of a Zumba class. I need a place where I can be quiet, get anchored, and slow down.

Lucky for me, it turned out that my mom had been practicing yoga for the past year. For months I’d listened to her rave about how it had helped redevelop her muscle tone, dramatically improved her flexibility, and stopped her daily headaches. I decided to give it a try, and I fell in love. So I’m one of millions of people who’ve left the aerobics floor for the yoga mat—at least I can wear the same lycra pants.

My wardrobe, home design preferences, and relationships have all changed over time, so it really shouldn’t surprise me that my workouts and the ways in which I renew myself also need to shift. I’m glad I finally recognized that it was time to look for a new activity, because it’s nice to be back in a place where I look forward to my workout, rather than it being a struggle to make time to exercise.

There’s nothing wrong with living in the same space, wearing the same clothes, and doing the same workout as we did a decade ago, unless those things no longer feel like they fit. Then it’s probably time for a change.

I don’t know if yoga will always be part of my health practice, but I hope it will. I have never felt as flexible in my life, my wrists no longer hurt, and, like my mom, I rarely have headaches anymore.

If it’s not a forever choice, it’s definitely a great choice for right now.

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Relephant:

15 Cool Things Yoga has Taught Me. (Hint: None of them are Handstand.)

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Author: Rebecca West
Image: Dave Rosenblum/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Rebecca West

Rebecca West, author of Happy Starts at Home, is an interior designer who doesn’t actually care if you buy a new sofa—she just cares if your home works for you and helps you live a happier, more successful life. A twice-married, once-divorced, incurable optimist, Rebecca can’t resist a costume party or a cat, and she chose her own last name. See her room “before & afters,” check out her book, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

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