It’s paying off…

4 08 2013

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Since my sabbatical year in 2011/12 I’ve been working on several wellness issues including my diet and exercise. At times, my progress hasn’t been what I wanted it to be, but I have lost 60 pounds and counting, have learned how to eat food that is both healthy and delicious (they are not mutually exclusive), and tentatively embarked on a fitness program.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit — no, it’s really embarrassing to admit — that when I began this journey, I would think twice about going to the end of the long hall in my building to get my mail, walking to the pharmacy a block away was a big deal, and bending down to tie my runners was a challenge. I started off slowly by joining a pole walking group. (Yes, I’ve heard all the jokes about pole dancing…LOL). After learning the technique, we would set off to walk the promenade at Willows Beach — about 4 blocks long. Fortunately there were benches spaced strategically along the route and we enjoyed every one of them. My friend Lynne had a good excuse as she was about to have knee surgery but I was just plain completely out of shape. Slowly we would stop at every second bench, then every third until we could walk the whole distance, take a break and walk back again. Next we tried the Gorge walkway which is about a mile long. We took breaks and did the slopes up and down fairly gingerly but we did it and eventually we could do the 2 km route fairly handily.

In addition to the walking, I also worked with a great trainer at Vibes Fitness who took me from barely able to get up on the machine to working out with greater strength and endurance. I also did Aquafit but fairly sporadically as I kept getting terrible sores on my legs from various attempts to learn how to ride a bike. That activity was sadly taken off the list but a trike is still in my future.

By the end of my sabbatical year, I was doing pretty well — if I were an eighty year old, out of shape woman — but not for someone my age and I was kind of frustrated. I was grateful for the positive changes that had occurred but knew I needed a whole lot more fitness if I was going to be able to really enjoy my life on the island.

After my stint teaching in the Fall term 2012, I returned to Victoria and sought a more rigorous program that would bring me to the next level of fitness. I signed up for the Saanich Rec Centre programs and loved the centres — they’re really well equipped, they cater to all ages and stages of fitness, and they are bright and clean and kind of inspiring. I then decided to work with a trainer and signed up but had to have a form signed off by my physician. It was gruelling getting that d$%&n form signed. My own doc was away on paternity leave and his locum would not sign the form permitting me to work out with a trainer. I could have gone and worked out until I collapsed on the floor on my own, but working out with a trainer was considered dangerous?…go figure! Given my medical history I can sort of understand but one of the best antidotes to heart disease is healthy changes in diet and increased exercise. I tried three different times to convince her that I would not keel over at the gym but she wouldn’t budge. Finally my own doc came back and I talked him into signing it…yay!!!

My trainer is Cheryl. She’s perky, fun, knows her stuff, endlessly patient, and is not a twenty year old who can’t imagine what it’s like to be in your sixties and overweight. I expected her to show me how to use the machines and bark out some orders to keep me at it and that would be my session. It turned out that she had quite a different philosophy for fitness training — provide me with the understanding, knowledge, and skills to work out my own fitness. I learned not only what to do but why and how I could extend exercises as my skill level increased. She sent me pictures and notes for various exercises because most of them I could do at home. I ended up getting weights, a step, half pipes, tubing, a ball and various other pieces of equipment that make my exercise program possible at home and, unlike some big bulky machine, can be hidden away at a moment’s notice if guests drop by. She even gave me a set of exercises specifically for the office that will allow me to complete part of my exercise program while attending meetings (although I may look a little odd at times. I mean, you try doing a butt squeeze without anyone noticing:-))

Cheryl also recommended a great therapeutic massage therapist who has made a huge difference in ways I’m not sure I could even explain. For example, my hips don’t hurt if I take a long step and my back no longer twinges after a good strong cardio workout. It’s like magic…

Okay…so what’s happened as a result of all of this work (and it has been work at times although I can honestly say that I enjoy it now) and massage therapy? Well, today my daughter and I went to Saltspring Island. It’s a holiday weekend so there was a crowd everywhere on this charming hippie island. We walked all over the place and my feet didn’t hurt, we stepped down and up some pretty challenging steps and I didn’t need Melissa’s arm to maintain my balance and my knees didn’t hurt nearly as much. I didn’t take any extra medication to help with joint pain during or at the end of the day. In fact, when I got home, I stood for about 45 minutes straight while prepping my dinner — something I would not have been able to do in the past because my right ankle and knees would have been throbbing and my back would have been too sore. My legs don’t swell nearly as much (a problem that is the result of my heart issues) and are not tender to the touch any more. Like I said…magic!

I know these improvements are baby steps in many ways, but they are steps in a direction I never thought I’d be moving. My goal for this academic year (I still think of September as the beginning of the year) is to increase my endurance walking, continue to pursue good nutritional, heart-healthy eating habits, lose more weight (20 by Christmas I hope), and continue to exercise so that I don’t lose what I’ve gained.

Once I get back to Victoria after teaching at U of A this Fall, I’ll step up my fitness program, get my tadpole trike to tool around the park and neighbourhood, and work on losing the last of the weight I want to get off this old bod. I’ve proved to myself that this is do-able and that my goals — modest for most — are just fine as they are but I can also challenge myself. I don’t have to be able to do the Ninja moves one older guy does at my gym on a wobble board, but I can learn to balance on one leg on a wobble board and walk heel to toe on a half pipe. I may not be able to take stairs two at a time, but I will be able to walk up and down stairs without stopping at each step because my knees hurt and my muscles don’t support stair climbing. And I don’t have to lift 30 pounds overhead or 50 while doing biceps and triceps, but I can move up to 3 and then 5 from 2 pounds overhead and 30-40 from 10-20 when doing biceps/triceps. And I may not do it gracefully, but I will be able to get up and down from the floor for mat exercises. It will happen with persistence and commitment. And the motivation? It comes from the way all of this effort is really paying off one small increment at a time as I work to reach my goals for a life that finally includes the wellness that is possible for me.

It will be fun to discover just how far this journey will take me but the pay off so far has been incredible!

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