Last September I started taking beginning belly dancing classes as a way to tone my “core” muscles. I was already doing an hour of water aerobics three times a week, and I walked at least a mile a day, weather-permitting. I also golf, poorly, which just means I get to swing the club a lot more than “good” golfers. In general, I thought I was in pretty good shape.

I knew when I signed up for the weekly classes that I was 54 years old. So what? That only makes me three times as wonderful as I was at 18. Or twice as terrific as 27. (That’s my personal theory, but feel free to borrow it.)

But eventually, the numerous knee and ankle surgeries, and the various “complaints” indicative of having turned out for, and been injured in, every high school sports team available, were bound to catch up with me. What I hadn’t counted on was that they would all gang up on me at once.

Belly dancing is not for sissies. In the past six months I have challenged my muscles to move in ways they have never moved before. And they have resisted in ways I never imagined they would resist. But I haven’t quit. And I think I’m getting a little more coordinated, a little more graceful, and feeling a little less pain after each lesson.

I now wear a “coin belt” when I practice. I enjoy hearing the precise jingle-jingle-jingle of the hip lifts and drops and snaps and shimmies. I can do a pretty decent stomach roll, and the other day I caught myself doing the “maya’ movement while standing in the shower. In other words, what began for me as an alternative “exercise” class has evolved into something fun.

Linda, the instructor at Sand Dancer Studio, has choreographed a dance we’re working on. She’s made us all copies of the music. Sometimes I listen to the music when I’m driving. Sometimes, especially on class nights, I hear it in my sleep.

So today I’m going to suggest to my readers, no matter what their age or physical condition, that they find a way to challenge themselves by learning a new sport, activity, or hobby. Age is just a number; attitude is everything.