It’s funny how little, unobtrusive, simple things can suddenly turn life in a new direction, open your eyes. A wise saying showing up on Facebook at just the right moment. A phone call from out of the blue. A book that has just the right sentence at just the right time. A song that brings back a meaningful memory. A voice from the past, speaking just the right words.
Or even an ironing board showing up at an inconvenient time. Yeh, I know, that’s a shift…but that’s what turned on a light recently in this 77-year-old brain.
I had encountered that board last year after I’d been sick for many months and was shocked then at how heavy it had become. Heavier than I’d ever known it to be. I’d lost 60 pounds and muscle mass and strength, and it had gained 20 pounds and considerable heft!
Dang! I’m old! I’m old enough all of a sudden that I can’t lift even a relatively light ironing board? At least it used to be light…
Months went by. I did nothing. Dismay did not turn into determination. Winter was hibernation season in Minnesota, and I just nestled in and hunkered down and stayed warm.
I tested myself with that ironing board periodically, and it wasn’t losing any weight at all. I just kept pretending that I could magically get stronger as I got healthy again. That ironing board was my nemesis. And it was winning!
And I finally got tired of losing. I’m in great health now (for my age), but I knew that something important was still missing, and that something was something I did not want to have to face.
If I wanted to age well – if my blog was to mean anything – I’d have to age as well as I can physically. “Good enough” was not good enough any more.
PROBLEM: EXERCISE HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY BETE NOIRE!**
I admit it, I am inherently lazy, and besides, I hate to sweat. A deadly combination, I know, but there you are. A great day for me is spent with a book, indoors, sitting, reading. When I have worked in a routine, it’s only lasted a couple of months before I’m bored and lazy kicks in again. Call it a failure of character! I can take it.
I’ve never found any sport at which I was even minimally capable, let alone proficient. I’m not particularly well-coordinated. Call that a failure of DNA. I was even pathetic at badminton! Besides, sweating, you know?
There was 2015 at the Rochester Athletic Club, which was glamorous and had everything I needed, including a buff instructor who taught me how to do everything safely. I was fit, alright! And I loved it!
But as time went by, it got harder and harder to get myself out of the house and into my car. And when I did, it seemed as though the available parking places at the RAC were farther and farther from the entrance! As if that’s a problem when you’re trying to get fit! I made it a problem: another failure of character. I lasted a year.
Now, at almost 78, I’ve realized that I’ve been paying a price. I can’t fool my aging body any more. I can’t wish it into shape. The wrinkles I get used to, but the loss of strength and agility is another matter altogether. I don’t know if I can get back as much as I’d like to, but I’ll never know if I don’t try. Bodies work that way.
I’ve tried walking. Boring. Countless walking machines. More boring. Walking in my large apartment complex. Meh – and boring. Exercise videos for “older people.” Not bad, but also, meh. Running? Are. You. Kidding?
But now the snows are melting fast, and temperatures are in the high 40’s-low 50’s and the sun has come out again after the long dark winter. Spirits are lighter – including mine – and everything seems possible again!
So just in time – how does that happen so often? – I read about Nordic pole walking*** in an article written by a woman I know. She loved it, so I did some exhaustive online research and thought I just might love it, too. It turns out that this form of exercise is even great for us elders! Okayyyyyyy!
I got my SWX Norway 8-oz. aluminum poles with carbonite tips three days later, AND I LOVE THEM!!!! Not being an athlete, it’s taking a little time to get the technique down (especially the use of my non-dominant left arm), but I do think that this thing is going to be my life-saver! This. I. Can. Do.
Even at this early stage, I’m sailing along, back straight, head up and looking ahead, per instructions. Hands loose in the straps, poles grabbing the pavement as I easily push down on them as they pass behind me. I’m flying! And, to my surprise, I didn’t even care when I realized that… I. Was. Sweating!!!!!
Grace shows up as an ironing board!
And two eight-ounce poles!
Do I know that I am very, very lucky that I can still do this? Oh, my yes! I’m aware of that with every step I take. We do what we can. As long as we can. And sometimes we find that gratitude has become a way of life because physically, life has becomes harder now. And to choose to do anything that keeps us going and independent is also grace.
One major plus with Nordic pole walking: you use 90% of your muscles! That means arms, too! Ironing board, you are on notice! I am on a roll! I am coming for you!!!
And I intend to stay on a roll!
This old gal is gettin’ fit!
I’ve got a sweat to work up!
Now – where is that blasted ironing board! Hidden, of course. Behind the bathroom door. Where I never notice it…
*moxie: having enough cleverness, skill, fortitude, cajones to solve (or at least to get out of) a difficult and personally threatening situation. Chutzpah. Fortitude. Grit. Gumption. Spunk.
**BETE NOIRE: French – black beast. Bane of one’s existence.
***If you want to see what Nordic pole walking is all about, a good shorter video on YouTube is “Nordic Pole Walking Technique” from Nordic Pole Walking USA (4:47 min.) A longer one (22:28), also on YouTube, is “The Nordic Pole Walking Technique by Nordixx Canada.”