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Midlife Mentors – Tania Dalton | 49-yo Fitness Powerhouse and Inspiration to 1000's.

On facing mortality, overcoming fear and reinventing everything.

I like living behind this keyboard where I don't have to mix with people and their oft-times superficial conversations. Yet, paradoxically, I also draw huge satisfaction from helping people. Hook me into a situation where my superpowers can help and I'm all in till the bitter end.

Tania Dalton - 50 and Fit | Midlife TribeOne thing blogging does for you over time, is it conditions you to put your best self out there in the service of others; even if it's only to say, “I'm just as messed up as you are.” It also teaches you that no matter how insignificant you think you are, chances are, there are people who can benefit from your experience and your perspective on this little adventure called life.

It's taken me a long time to figure out how I can serve my little corner of the universe, and even longer to realise I'm starting to make a difference in some people's lives. Not many, but some.

Melbourne girl, Tania Dalton, knows this journey well. And like most who commit to sharing their life out in the open, she's overcoming old beliefs that don't serve her bigger picture. To look at her images on Instagram, it's easy to think she has it all figured out. Yet as you'll discover, it hasn't been all lycra and unicorns for Tania, and she's still figuring things out as she goes. But that, as I'm discovering, is the very best way to live – to treat life as a constant series of experiments.

Two milestones. Two transformations.

Tania will be 50 in September, which is remarkable when you look at her. My mum sure as hell didn't look like this when she hit the half-century.

When Tania's father died at 47, she enrolled in her first fitness course and went on to study every course in the fitness industry for the next five years. Later, she became a fitness trainer at 25 and worked part-time in a gym.

Throughout her twenty years in law, her passion remained health and fitness. It was always in the background but she never had the courage to give up her day job to pursue it fully. When her second child was born she ditched office work to become a full-time mum, running morning and evening boot camps, and other group fitness sessions.

This year she's taking a year-long break to train for a full Ironman triathlon, and explore the possibility of creating an online fitness and health resource for midlife people. This is her self-discovery experimental year.

Because she didn't travel when she was younger, it figures prominently now, whether it's camping a few hours from home or exploring new countries. She spends around three months a year away from home, and a very cool tradition she started five years ago is to celebrate her birthday in a new place each year. This time it's Santorini.

Beyond her training and exercise regimes, she loves hiking and wants to hike all over the world. She's already taken her two kids (12 and 14) on the three capes hike in Tasmania and the Milford Track in New Zealand. A few years ago, she bought a surfboard and started surfing with the kids, too. This year, she began horse riding – the hardest thing she's ever tried to learn.

It would seem Tania has her life pretty well sorted – certainly from a health and fitness perspective (the most important tenet in our arsenal). Indeed, she says her kids often tell her they love having a fit mum.

She also loves art, reading, seafood restaurants, gardening and little black dresses. So – perfect, then. Except things are never straightforward, and progress isn't linear, as you're about to see.

Tania's Views on Midlife

Do you consider yourself middle-aged? How do you feel about this moniker?

I’m about to turn 50. If I live to 100 then I am right in the middle. It is just a fact.

Is there something you loved to do when you were young that you've since ‘rediscovered' and embraced in later years?

I loved growing up in the country but thought that life had gone forever after living in the city since I was 17. However, I now spend as much time in the country as possible – hiking, camping, horse riding etc.

I thought I had perhaps become destined to always live in the city – but, I have realised recently that change is possible if you want something bad enough. I plan to live (at least part-time) in the country in the future.

Tania Dalton | Midlife TribeDo you believe middle age (say, 40-65) is different today than it was for your parents? If so, how?

My father died unexpectedly when he was 47 – he never had the chance to really explore middle age. My mother was left to grieve and bring up my 8-year-old brother alone during middle age. As hard as it was for her, being an older single parent actually helped to keep my mum active and younger.

Prior to my father’s death, he was actually planning a new career – he had grown up in a farming family and wanted that lifestyle himself. He had purchased a property which he planned to expand and eventually leave his job as a civil engineer to farm full time. So, I suppose thinking about it now, my father was, in fact, reinventing himself in middle age.

Overall, I do believe my parents were ‘older’ than I am at the same age. However, I have friends who think they are ‘old’ at 50 now. I don’t think times have changed so much. I think it is an individual’s attitude toward ageing that determines how they view middle age.

What was the most challenging aspect of approaching middle age? What fears or concerns did you have?

Coming to terms with my own mortality. As I approached the age my dad died, I experienced many fears. In particular, that my life may end before I ever achieved any of my dreams or goals.

It was such a confronting time for me. My children were still young and I felt a little trapped and even resentful sometimes that I had made the decision to be a full time mother and maybe miss opportunities to fulfil my career ambitions.

At the end of each year, I list the habits, practices and beliefs I'm going to say ‘yes' to and ‘no' to next year. As a mentor to other mid-lifers, what would be some of your ‘yeses' and ‘nos'?

Learn mindfulness and meditation
Get adequate sleep most nights
Exercise most days
Create healthy habits
Have a social life with people who are good for you
Go somewhere you have never been at least once a year
Spend more time outdoors in nature
Taking more risks

People who are not good to you or for you
Dwelling on past missed opportunities or mistakes
Comparing yourself or situation to others

What's a tactic you've used to gain more control over your life?

Starting to learn mindfulness and self-compassion. I spent many years tormenting myself for my past mistakes and even present ones. Learning to be more self-compassionate is helping me to move on and realise that I will continue to make mistakes and even bad decisions but that is part of life.

I am also learning to let go of people in my life who are not good to me or for me. I am learning to forgive others as well – I realise that most people’s cruelty happens because of their own past bad experiences or pain. No one starts out in this world planning to hurt others. One day I hope these people learn to move on from whatever it is that has happened in their life to cause them to be like this.

What's a limiting belief you've abandoned (or reframed) in the last 12 months?

That it was too late for me to live the life of my dreams. Now, I am fit and healthy and passionate, and I'm just getting started.

What is your dominant cause of anxiety or frustration, and how do you deal with it?

Perhaps this is similar to most people – lack of time. I wish I had another 48 hours every day! However, I accept that we all have the same 24 hours.

I am working on becoming more disciplined and productive with my time. I am also trying to be more self-compassionate and be happy that I have had the opportunity to be a full-time mum while I start to create a new career.

How different are your feelings about midlife today versus when you first considered yourself middle-aged?

Now that I have surpassed the age my dad died (and my fears of also dying young), I feel freer to start really living life to the fullest and making the most of every day I have left.

Did you suffer a midlife crisis? How did it show up for you and what helped you to overcome it?

I’m sure I suffered a midlife crisis.

Realising that half my life was over and I still hadn’t achieved any of my career goals was so confronting. I don’t think I suffered from depression but I definitely had times of being miserable, feeling very sorry for myself and even angry with the world for the things that didn’t go my way.

I think that it’s an ongoing process of learning to accept that my life circumstances have maybe not been ideal and that I missed many opportunities due to fear and my perfectionist attitude in the past.

However, I feel that I am finally becoming a risk taker and starting to achieve things I once never thought possible. Completing my first marathon when I was 47 was a big turning point for me. It is something I had wanted to do for more than 30 years but never thought I was capable of.

Tania Dalton - Horse Riding | Midlife TribeWhat book would you recommend to someone over 40 who wants to reinvent themselves, and why?

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is life changing.

Many mid-lifers who write to me say they feel lost, unfulfilled and shackled by circumstance (much of their own making). What advice would you offer them?

That is exactly how I felt. And, it has been such a battle for me to get over this – to some extent, I think it will be an ongoing process throughout the remainder of my life. However, I have started to change my way of looking at things.

I am perhaps fitter and healthier now at almost 50 than I have ever been before in my life. I am actually looking forward to turning 50, as I believe that in the fitness, health and wellness industry I will have more credibility being over 50 than if I was younger.

I really do believe in the George Elliot quote ‘it’s never too late to be what you might have been’.

What advice would you give to a mid-lifer who believes they're stuck on a certain path and should just accept it?

There are so many of us whose lives haven't turned out how we initially thought they would. No matter how many years you have been going in the wrong direction, I believe that it is possible to change. It perhaps won’t be easy but it is definitely possible.

I have a tendency to be impatient but I am learning that patience and persistence are two necessary skills to create change.

Can you think of a way you’ve surprised yourself at an age where many people feel ‘set in their ways’?

Maybe it’s because I didn’t achieve a lot when I was younger but I feel like I am just getting started. I completed my first marathon at 47 and first half Ironman triathlon at 48. I want to complete a full Ironman triathlon, climb a big mountain, learn to ride a horse well, motivate other midlifers to lead fit and healthy lives, create a fulfilling career, travel – the list is endless.

Midlife is very exciting and I have a lot to look forward to.

Midlife Lessons

  • Maybe you haven't reached any of your past goals – career or otherwise – it doesn't matter. You can decide tomorrow to either reset them, or chart an entirely new course.
  • Don't wait for a dramatic event to occur before deciding to take the reins and make some key life choices.
  • Never underestimate the value of being around good people. If you can't change the people around you, change the people you surround yourself with.
  • Go easy on yourself. Everyone has different circumstances, different upbringings and vastly different goals in life. Stay in your lane and follow your chosen path.
  • Plenty of people are completely reinventing themselves in their 40's, 50's and 60's. You can too.
  • Do be afraid to be 100% unapologetically YOU. After all, there's only one of you.
  • Do something completely new this year. You'll probably surprise yourself!
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