Getting old has not always been the fun that I'd expected it to be. Yes, growing up, i heard people complain about aches, pains, and stiffness. I thought it was just them. I laughed when I heard their knees and ankles mimic Rice Krispies with their snap, crackle, pop routines. I thought it was just them. I frowned, gasping in amazement at their lack of strenght, range of movement, slow movement and how easily they became winded. I thought it was them.
Then it started becoming me.
Staying active while in the military wasn't hard. First, I was younger. I had more energy.
Boy, I miss that energy. Wouldn't mind having that youth back, either.
We had intramural leagues in the military, and all kinds of courts and gym activities. They encouraged us to be active, authorizing time off during the day to go exercise and play. I played racquet ball three to five times a week for years, as well as running.
But times changed. I left the military. My body aged. I didn't, mind you. I thought I was still young. Then I discovered a chasm between my mind's age and my body's age. What was once taken for granted now had to be managed. I began working on improving my body's age and bridging the chasm.
I've developed quite a range of my own routines through the years. I've always put exercising reasons in categories:
1. Maintain and improve cardiovascular capabilities.
2. Maintain and improve range of movement, flexibility and balance.
3. Improve and maintain hand/eye coordination and reflexes.
4. Keep and maintain muscle tone and mass.
5. The burn - to help fight unhealthy weight gain.
6. Physical therapy, to cope with specific issues and recover.
7. Discipline, will and focus.
8. For fun and socialize.
When I exercise, then, I'm trying to fulfill these categories. The exercises are planned around them.
I admit, I'm a sweater. I love pushing myself to the point that I'm not just dripping sweat, but my clothing drips sweat. Alas, those days are fewer and fewer. Most days, I'm contant with a beaded brow, some dripping down my back and chest, and a really bad body odor. I've had a few 'broken necks' - chipped and fractured vertebrae in my neck - broken ankles and wrists, and suffered some nerve issues when I was young. I exercise to cope with them.
The nerve issues are what drove me into yoga. I had 'sciatic nerve syndrome'. I was just twenty years old but sitting for more than ten or fifteen minutes would become painful. My right leg felt weak. Sometimes it would give out on me without warning.
I did not like that.
I was in the military at the time. I went to PT and talked to the counselors. One of them suggested yoga. I started doing it, increasing my yoga activities during my transendental meditation phase.
I learned to listen to my body and understand what it was telling me. The sciatic issues weren't without warnings; I had simply sublimated them as normal and ignored them. But thinking about, I felt specific twinges and subtle aches that warned me of rising problems. Using that, I learned what postures and activities caused problems, and avoided them.
I have a stairmaster, weight bench with free weights, and a small trampoline. I try walking a few miles every day, and then augment my walking with these activities and floor work. My floor work is just crunches, leg lifts, squats, leg thrusts, stretching and flexing routines, along with some yoga routines that I've carried forward through the years. I've cut way back on yoga routines, though, and limit myself to just a handful of postures and routines that focus on breathing and balance.
I have to say, the cats are not helpful during the floor work and yoga routines. Each come to see what the hell I'm doing on the floor as though they've never seen it before.
And I go through the same routine every time, asking them, "Seriously? You don't remember this? I was just doing this. Why do you always need to investigate my exercise?"
"Meow," they reply, which...really doesn't help. Neither do their purring and bunting.
Try doing a sponge with a cat walking up and down you.
Augmenting all of that are my own routines. Although I walk and use a stairmaster, I do toe lifts on the garage steps, and I just walk up and down the garage steps, forward and backwards, a few times a week. Usually it's a timed exercise but sometimes I just count repetitions. I've developed some swimstroke routines that emulate swimming on land, using the butterfly, overhand and sidestrokes. I also pretend I'm throwing a baseball and swinging a bat, remembering that movement, and I shadow box.
Shadow boxing is both good physical routine but also a good way to get rid of some anger and frustration. Just pretend you're hitting something you don't like. Sometimes as I jab and thrust, I'll repeat mantras. "No fear, no doubt, no worry," jab, jab, left right left. It really gets your heart going if you punch hard, putting your shoulder behind it, and following through. I do recommend it.
I'm a big nut for using steps, eschewing elevators and escalators. I'm the one you'll see at the airport, mall and stadium, using the steps. When I'm forced to use escalators, I'm the one that walks up it. Likewise, with moving sidewalks. I don't stand on it; I walk. At airports with trains, I'm the person who walks between terminals, time permitting, rather than riding the train.
I document most of it. That document is a reminder, this is what you said you were going to do, and this is what you've been doing.
I do a lot of my exercising while watching a movie or television in the evening. I'm not one of those people who can read and exercise, though. I try but I've never mastered that. Sometimes I'll listen to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and other downloaded NPR favorites, like "All Things Considered" and "Click n' Clack", great even in reruns.
Mostly...it works. Things interrupt. Furnaces break down, network printers stop working, cats and wife get sick, I get sick, there are chores to do, errands to run, friends to meet, house guests, holidays.
But there's that piece of paper, beside my monitor, with the dates, waiting to be filled out. Then I think, oh, man, has it really been three days since I exercised?
Just like writing, except on a lower priority, I schedule time for exercising. I do things to change my focus, like showing up and changing my clothes. Then, like writing, work, or chores, I take a deep breath.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com