I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment. There’s nothing like a new convert to something to want to change the world!
Actually I’m not aiming to change the world, but if just one of you reading this blog makes the kind of changes that I have made then I will be happy because that will be one less older woman who is likely to have a slow and inexorable physical decline. Yes - my mission is to get you up off that sofa and encourage you to build some regular exercise into your everyday life. A couple of weeks ago in my New Year New Image blog, I bemoaned the fact that I see lots of older people who walk with a kind of slow, shuffling gait. Now, I accept that they might be suffering with sore knees and bad feet, but I suspect that the real reason is to do with poor balance a weak core combined with poor muscle tone. I was definitely headed in that direction a year ago until I finally decided that I had to do something before it was too late.
First of all I had to overcome a profound resistance to the notion of participating in any form of physical activity. I have lived my life almost entirely in my head. The best way to explain this is to say that if I gave any thought to my body, it was to consider it as an inconvenient and slightly annoying irrelevance. I disliked the size and shape of various parts of my body (who doesn’t?) but had long ago given up punishing it with weird diets. I gave my body as little thought as possible and for most of the time I had few health issues outside of migraine, something from which I had suffered since adolescence. It is also interesting to note that my one health problem was associated with my head rather than my body! So what changed? It was a kind of creeping realisation that I was heading (quite literally) for a fall.
So - I accepted that there was a problem but I could not see my way to a solution which would work for me and not be a ‘flash in the pan.’ I really cannot stress enough the profound level of my resistance. For instance, I had never owned a pair of proper trainers and wasn’t even sure where to buy them! Hard to believe but true for me. I think that to be able to do anything in life you have to (a) really want to do it (b) believe that it’s possible for you and (c) be able to visualise yourself actually doing it. I was just about there with (a) although not wholly convinced and as for (b) and (c) there was no real belief and absolutely no picture in my head for me to aim for. Then Lindsay came into my life. This was during a regular business meeting after Lindsay approached me as a local person working with a clientele of older women. We were chatting about various ways we might work together when I said ‘Do you know what I’d love - to work with a personal trainer who didn’t think I was completely pathetic.’ And she replied ‘I offer personal training and specialise in helping older women - even those who have always avoided exercise’. Heaven sent or what? That was about 15 months ago and all I can say is:
How could it have taken me 69 years to realise that bodies are made for physical movement, activity and heart raising exertion, they are not made for an almost entirely sedentary life?
For about two or three years before this epiphany I had been kidding myself that ‘walking’ was a perfectly adequate level of exercise for a woman in her late sixties. The fact that these walks were occasional, short and more of a stroll was something I chose to ignore. So I went to Sweaty Betty, admitted to the lovely young sales assistant that I had no idea what to buy and came out with an appropriate (and to me totally alien) outfit. Strangely the clothes really helped me to see myself differently and Lindsay and I set to. I am not going to tell you it was easy. Because it wasn’t. I am also not going to tell you that it was enjoyable. Because it wasn’t. But I am going to tell you that it was worth every second of the time I spent bending, stretching, balancing, twisting and toning my whole body using weights, stretchy bands, a pole, a polystyrene roll thingy, a balance ball, a step and any other instrument of torture (sorry - equipment) that Lindsay arrived with.
Tricep dips at home
The results are fairly clear to see. Several people have said that I am looking very ‘trim’ which is surprising because I have not lost much weight but I do appear to have dropped a dress size. I feel stronger and walk differently and hold my body more upright. I can easily get in and out of my low-slung sporty two seater car and recently had dramatic evidence of the value of the exercise I have been doing. I was walking along a pavement (sidewalk) in London carrying a bag in each hand. I suddenly tripped over a raised paving slab and pitched forward, automatically dropping both bags to free up my hands in order to break my fall. And guess what? I dived out of the fall and pulled my body upright - testament to my improved core body strength and balance. There was a woman following me who helped me pick up my bags and asked me if I was ok and I said “I can’t believe that I didn’t fall - I could see the ground rushing towards me and suddenly I was upright again!” Who knows what damage I might have done if I had fallen flat on my face? I guess I would have been just another statistic in some A&E department of an older person who’d sustained some physical harm from a fall.
My New Year’s resolution is to start Nordic walking and I have had my first lesson so that I can join a local group (who knew that walking needed lessons?) And I have bought the cutest pink exercise bike for £99 which can easily be folded away into a cupboard. This is to give me an aerobic workout on days (like today) when it’s grey, dark and bitterly cold and I can’t face going for a brisk walk. Lindsay has shown me how to use the bike to do some high intensity routines over 20-25 minutes and I do it whilst watching Pointless on the TV! And guess what? I am actually quite enjoying it and it’s making me feel very virtuous. I am in this now for the long haul. There’s no turning back. I want to be as fit and active for as long as I possibly can. Every now and then I say to Lindsay ‘I’m 70 you know!’ and she replies ‘Yes and you can do better than that!’ And she’s always absolutely right!
Have you had any exercise epiphanies like me? What difference do you find that exercise makes in your life? What would you say to someone like me who resists physical exertion? Do share your thoughts - they are part of the conversation on LFF!