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50 is the new 30

By JOANNA PREYSLER-FRANCISCO, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 15, 2021 9:01 am Updated Jun 15, 2021 9:33 am

“Fifty is the new 40,” said all the 60-year-olds as I turned 50. I thought to myself, why aren’t the 40-year-olds saying the same thing? 

I have always been athletic and into sports. Growing up, it was practically a religion in our home — my dad was a naturally gifted athlete. He had a black belt in judo, excelled in boxing, but his heart was with horses. He was a show jumper, did dressage, and was Asia’s best polo player at one point. My mom was a tennis player, and during her downtime, was a competitive bowler.

So you can imagine our home. There were always punching bags, weights, equipment, activities, and conversations about sports. The ‘‘Thrilla In Manila’’ was a non-working holiday for us!  I was the son my dad always wanted, and thankfully I had two left feet, so was promptly pulled out of ballet and tap. 

 Joanna Preysler Francisco: ‘‘My sense of accomplishment has given me more confidence and strength as a 50-year-old woman, wife, and mother of three.’’

I started playing tennis at age nine, was on the soccer team and on the swim team in grade school, and was really a tomboy. I was competitive and did several different types of sports a day — we were triathletes without even knowing it! I would even bike all around our village, while my friends went in their cars, or I would skateboard. 

 With hubby Raul Francisco, looking fit and young at 59. Raul and Joanna run Provenance Art Gallery and Othello.
People sometimes ask me, ‘What is the best exercise for women above 40?’ I always say the one you can be consistent with, the one you can commit to.

That love of activity and sports is so ingrained in me, I cannot imagine not having that freedom of movement — that endorphin rush — so much so that I grew up not being a TV person.

To me, not exercising or being active while I’m physically able is tantamount to giving up on myself, on my health, on my future self, and reflects a lack of effort and discipline to improve my genetic predisposition. 

 Joanna with her children Monica, 27, cycling instructor and marketing manager at Saddle Row; Mio, 22, law student; and Diego, 12, grade 6 at Everest Academy

I have always told myself: I will have the body that I deserve. I will have the level of health and fitness that I work for. You get what you give. 

It is a rule in our family to train. There’s no punishment, no reward, but it proves your strength of character, discipline, and focus. It is investing in your health. Even on the days that it’s difficult, "embrace the suck" and thank yourself later. It’s the best feeling.

People sometimes ask me, “What is the best exercise for women above 40?” I always say the one you can be consistent with, the one you can commit to. I have committed to my intentional growth toward my health and fitness, and have been able to harness that energy and focus toward other aspects of my life.

The seemingly self-indulgent act of training and caring for myself is actually my daily prayer to God. This is me saying, Okay, God. I am doing my part; You take care of the rest.

My sense of accomplishment has given me more confidence and strength as a 50-year-old woman, wife, and mother of three.

 ‘‘I will have the body that I deserve. I will have the level of health and fitness that I work for. ’’

It has shown my kids that anything is possible if they work toward a goal. That in athletics, as in life, you must first win the battle in your head — once that mental barrier is broken, anything is possible. It’s the building of physical and mental strength. 

God helps those who help themselves. So the seemingly self-indulgent act of training and caring for myself is actually my daily prayer to God. This is me making sure I’m good for those I love and want to grow old with. This is me saying, Okay, God. I am doing my part; You take care of the rest. Please let me see my children’s children, allow me to be healthy enough to enjoy them, and keep me hot enough so that my husband doesn’t lose interest! 

Today, as my 52nd birthday looms around the corner, I find myself thinking, time may not be on my side; the numbers don’t lie. So make hay while the sun still shines, Joanna, and live each day as if it may be your last. Because one day, it will be. 

But for now, I look at the life that Raul and I have designed and built together — a life that I so love, a life that inspires our children and hopefully others. So I lift, I train, I run, I Frisbee, I bike, and I scuba. 

After all, 50 is the new 30.