I successfully avoided exercise for a full three years in retirement. I intended fitness to be a goal, but procrastination came so easily. Intermittent travel to visit our granddaughters in Ontario nicely postponed joining the local YMCA. Other new commitments took precedence as well: lunch dates, old movies, novels, coffee to drink until mid-morning, wine to sip mid-afternoon, and so on.
The first spring of retirement I relished watching nature bloom. So I occasionally hiked the wooded trails of a local county park with our Labrador retriever. I didn’t need a gym in summer when I had the great outdoors. Winter arrived. Walks halted. I rationalized that strength and muscle tone naturally declined in one’s sixties. Winter clothing hid flabby arms and legs. I rallied slightly when the weather moderated in April and resumed sporadic walks in the woods. By summer my preference for three-quarter-length sleeves and Capris covered unsightly cellulite. And I hadn’t donned a swimming suit in years, anyway. Still, my conscientious side nagged my lethargic side to get active.
Just in time, our decision to buy a house in northern New York saved me from a Curves commitment. I gave up walking to pack. The move provided plenty of exercise; a better word would be exertion. My back muscles told me so. They ached from dragging furniture off a trailer and hefting cartons into the new house. Most nights all joints throbbed after the day’s work-out on ladders with tools or paintbrushes. In our new locale, trails, parks, and remote roads encouraged walking. Yet, I neglected to take advantage.
When my new physician reviewed my declining bone density, he recommended a daily hour walk, at a fast pace, no meandering. Out of fear over breaking a hip, I vowed to walk. My son suggested a few exercises using light weights. My husband had been working his way back from a shoulder injury. We agreed that when winter arrived, we would join the local fitness center.
Stalling came natural through the holidays. We had plenty of distractions and lots of holiday feasting to do before actually committing to the gym. Finally, on a weekend trip in early January we duped ourselves into believing we would use the treadmill at the hotel. How easily we talked ourselves out of that because the fitness center was too far from our room. Conveniently, the buffet was just off the elevator.
No More Lollygagging
At last, out of excuses, we joined the local fitness center, just about three years to the day since I retired. I reluctantly admitted to the owner that I had never ever been on a treadmill. She hid any surprise. Fortunately, she did not ask for my fitness goals. She appeared too young to understand my vital objectives. I hope to exit a low-seated car without a single moan. I want to get down on the floor with the granddaughters and get back up…without their help. I need to lug grocery bags without triggering tendinitis in my wrist. On girlfriend trips I must sustain long sprints through sprawling airport terminals, as well as lift a thirty-pound suitcase onto a hotel shuttle. Most pressing, I require agility to jump in and out of our new boat to tie-up and dock.
Moreover, with the knee, hip, and shoulder surgeries that plague my generation, prevention dominates my thoughts. As I work my way around the women’s circuit I concentrate on the muscles around my kneecap. I pull that bar down trying not to tear a shoulder muscle, yet keep tendons flexible. According to AARP, walking helps high blood pressure, arthritis, depression, insomnia, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Therefore, I extend my time and speed on the treadmill, conditioning for my eventual daily outdoor walk. Hopefully, my new habits will endure all the distractions sure to arise in spring.