Each morning as I walk into the gym, the whirring cries of 50 some treadmills and ellipticals greet my ears. The users of these stationary instruments of cardio-based torture put forth maximum effort not to move forward, but rather to turn back the hands of time. The time which, year after year, like the rings of a tree trunk, added pound by pound and roll by roll to hips and bellies. The average American gains 1-2 pounds a year through his or her 20s and 30s and I am no exception. But I realize now, as every 30 something has before me: there is no going back. You can burn off the fat, but the person underneath is no longer 20 and a fit body is simply a thinly veiled disguise—a homage to a time when we all but glowed in our sexuality and the pride of knowing the entire world was wishing they were us. But now we have joined the ranks of the demographic spinning on treadmills, running from time while watching a fresh wave of 20 somethings in the free weights area spending more time taking selfies and chatting than actually exercising. And we have only the grim vindication of knowing that someday they too will be here.
But something interesting happens around age 30: a drive for personal growth. Maybe it’s the fact that structured learning is no longer a part of our lives. Or that our entire agenda is no longer based completely around sex. But suddenly we crave challenges like riding a bike further than ever before, running faster than ever before, performing better at our jobs than ever before, or raising the children we got as a result of the activities of our 20s. Many elite marathoners are in their 30s. At 38, Constantina Diță of Romania won the women’s marathon In the 2008 olympics. At our jobs, we have the advantage of both looking young, but also old enough to be taken seriously and the experience to back it up. So make a goal to move forward, not backwards, and achieve something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Do we miss our 20s? Absolutely. But it’s not going to slow us down.