Summer has always been a time of body reckoning. What can be covered with maxi-dresses and long sweaters in winter, must be revealed in a swimsuit come summer. While it's a proven fact that no one ever thinks they look great in a swimsuit, post 50s have the added challenge of keeping their self-esteem above water when they are surrounded by the younger bikini-clad minions at the beach. Here are five tips to help you hold your own:
1) Ignore them.
Seriously, invisibility is a two-way street. They don't notice you and you don't notice them. Going to the beach is a glorious experience brought to us free of charge by nature. The warmth of the sun, the softness of the sand, the soothing sounds of the crashing waves. Focus on the natural beauty, not the beauty of your fellow beach-goers.
If you are someone for whom this is easier said than done, try and remember that the most successful battles are the ones you choose not to fight. Your goal is to be healthy and happy, not thin and void of cellulite. If you can't ignore the beach bikinis, at least don't sit right next to them. Bikini babes tend to position themselves in the center of the action where it's best to be seen. Head to the coves or down by the water's edge, where it is quieter anyway.
2) Learn to surf.
Trust me, a wetsuit hides not just cellulite, but also functions almost like a rubberized girdle but with a higher comfort factor. Plus, for reasons I find unfathomable, post-50 women on a long board are about the hottest thing in the water. Surfing etiquette requires that you take turns claiming a wave; just like in kindergarten, you line up nicely and wait -- careful not to crowd the kid in front of you. But I've noticed that since I hit the other side of 50, invariably someone motions for me to go ahead of them and then later on shore strikes up a conversation. I also noticed that I no longer get snaked, which is the surfing equivalent of illegal passing on the double yellow line. In Gidget terms, it means that even though my arms ache and I've always been a slow paddler, the young dudes don't whiz by me hoping to beat me out to the wave; they politely stay their distance and I choose to think admire the view of my backside. I only wish this attitude extended to finding a parking spot in the surfing beach lot.
3) Bring smart reading.
If you want to make a statement, bring the Sunday New York Times. Print edition. Before I was married, I used to bring the Wall Street Journal and the occasional copy of Sports Illustrated.
On a recent beach vacation to Mexico, I was struck how many beach-goers buried their noses in Kindles instead of paperbacks. It makes perfect sense of course: Being able to "carry" multiple books and magazines on one device is a sensible solution for airplane travel and vacations. But electronic book readers share one big disadvantage: Nobody can walk by them on the beach and know what they are reading. That eliminates a wonderful opportunity: The ability to interrupt a stranger and ask if their book is good or exclaim how much you loved reading it last month. Knowing that someone likes to read the same things I do makes me feel like I already know them. And I've used this technique to meet dozens of people on beach vacations.
4) Walk, don't sit.
Beach-walking is a great form of exercise because you don't really know you are exercising. You don't need special equipment or gear except for sunscreen and a hat. If you get too hot, you can always dip in the ocean.
One thing you are likely to notice is that the Beautiful Bodies don't walk the shoreline; they tend to stay stationary and wait for the world to walk past them. To parade would be unseemly. That, or movement might cause an uneven tan line. Walking the beach makes for great people-watching.
5) Sand improves the flavor of your sandwich.
Seriously, it does. Bringing a big old picnic basket filled with bologna sandwiches is a rite of passage that would likely make the carb-phobic crowd cringe. Let them sip their vitamin-infused waters while you eat cake.
Beaches and the near nudity we bring to them doesn't allow for many secrets, so embrace your flaws with passion. And mine? It's eating bologna with mayo on white bread with a dusting of sand.
Earlier on HuffPost50:
See A Doctor First
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you've been idle for a while, it's important to see a doctor before getting active again, says Dr. Alexis Colvin, an orthopedic surgeon at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. You want to make sure you don't have any pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, that might present a problem when you start up your new exercise regimen.
Getting active too quickly, often with incorrect form, is one of the primary reasons people over 50 find themselves in her office, Colvin says. It's important to slowly build a base level of strength, flexibility and fitness before pushing yourself to, say, sign up for that marathon.
Consider Seeking Professional Help
It's always helpful to have a little direction and support in starting something new. Colvin suggests getting started with a personal trainer or physical therapist to tailor an exercise program to your goals.
Get In A 'Pain-Free Zone Of Activity'
Low-impact activities, such as swimming or using the elliptical, are all good for people who have joint pain, says Dr. Colvin. If it hurts, don't push it!
Think Beyond Cardio
An active lifestyle isn't limited to throwing on some running shoes and hitting the pavement. Dr. Colvin suggests yoga and pilates, which can help with strength and flexibility even if they don't give you the same cardiovascular workout you might get from the treadmill.
Think Outside The Box...Or, Should We Say, The Gym
Colvin also points to the many home exercise videos available, which can be a great alternative for those who would prefer to exercise from the comfort of their living rooms. The one drawback, she says, is potential for injury from using incorrect form, "since there's no one watching you."
Mix up your routine and <a href="http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/tipsandtricks/a/Cross_Training.htm" target="_hplink">consider cross-training</a> (adding swimming and biking to a running program) to prevent boredom, avoid repetitive injuries and improve your overall condition. Exercise with friends to add social benefits to the physical and mental advantages of your workout. Recognize your limits, adjust accordingly and enjoy the quality-of-life benefits of an active lifestyle for many years to come.