I had a birthday last week and I’ve made it to 63 years of age. When I was in my twenties I didn’t believe I’d get so far and I’m sure some of the damage I did to my body around that time will catch up with me in due course. But not yet, it seems!
I do a lot of walking to maintain a modicum of fitness. My average number of steps per day has steadily increased in recent years and, especially since I retired nearly two years ago. Many of those steps are up and down the steep valley slopes near where I now live. They are therefore more testing than the pure statistics suggest. However, I do wonder if increasing walking just makes me better at walking rather than fit and I do need to ensure that I walk at a heart-exciting pace so that I do get a true health benefit.
Of course, walking is not just for fitness. I do need to get from A to B and, since we tend to shop daily for just what we need each day, this includes a daily walk into the local town (Nailsworth). There is a real pleasure in this which I have mentioned in these posts before, not least because of the variety of routes and the lovely countryside to view on the way.
I’m fortunate in that Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) has also developed a love of walking in recent years. That means we can venture out on walks for walking’s sake together while discussing the issues of family, friends and the wider world. We also encourage friends who visit to join us on some of the nicest walks near our home. Indeed, that is how we celebrated my birthday when my Best Man visited us. After a lovely, sunlit three hour traverse of several valleys we adjourned to the local pub (as you do).
Nonetheless, much of the walking I do is alone and that too is calming and enjoyable. I don’t tend to think of matters of great import when walking alone. I watch nature around me, make mental to do lists, envisage great wins for Forest Green Rovers Football Club, play Pokemon Go, think about my next blog post and let my mind go near blank. The emptiness of mind as one simply puts one foot in front of the other amid beautiful countryside is what makes walking relaxing.
Reaching 63 has got me thinking about a couple of other aspects of health that I need to give more attention to. For about 15 years I have tracked the number of no-alcohol days that I manage. For the most part the trend has been steadily increasing – that is, improving. My current, (for me) aggressive target is to be alcohol-free 140 days in the year. I have only managed that once in the last 15 years and I’m not on track to meet it again but I am going to be more resolute, I promise.
I have also, for the last 6 months, been tracking my daily alcoholic unit intake using an application called Drinkaware. This is scarier since I am way over the safe limits health researchers have determined.
Part of my problem here is that in measuring only non-alcohol days, I have been only measuring my performance in one dimension. So, on a day when I might have one drink – to be sociable during a meeting with friends or to fill in time before a football match for example – I then think: ah, I’m not having a no-alcohol day, so why not have a few more drinks later. Dumb huh? I need to do better and will continue to track daily alcohol volume intake as well as no alcohol days. Just the action of tracking should encourage improvement.
The other health aspect that I need to work on is balance and flexibility. This is being underlined daily at the moment by a lower back pain I get after sitting down – something I do less of now I’m retired but which still occupies hours a day.
I’m also reminded of my failures in this area by the Instagram feeds that I see almost daily being posted by Youngest Son’s girlfriend. She is an osteopath and yoga teacher and has a great Instagram feed and blog (becthomaswellness.com) showing how to maintain core strength and flexibility. She recently posted a video specifically on how she keeps her spine supple and it was pretty inspiring.
Today I can’t physically do (at least not properly) 10% of the exercises she does but I need to do more than the 1% I currently do on some days. Just writing this down here feels like it is strengthening my resolve. But the important thing is action not words.
Let’s see how I am doing by the time I am 64. Meanwhile, I’ll build consuming one of my birthday presents into my strengthened fitness and health regime……