There’s a certain age, and I guess I’ve reached it, when, even if you still feel pretty good, you start to worry that you are kind of at the last point where you can easily get back in shape. Did I say “easy”? No, there is no easy at this stage. In my twenties, if I wanted to lose five pounds, I skipped dessert one night and walked three miles. Not quite that easy today. No, not easy at all. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even doable. It’s certainly not doable in the sense that women’s magazines tell you it’s doable: “Get a Bikini Body in 30 Days!” No siree, Bob. That’s NOT happening.
Here’s what I’ve done for the last 30 days. Actually the last five weeks. And I’m nowhere near a bikini body. I had been slowly upping my exercise over the last several months including signing on with a trainer two days a week. But five weeks ago, I decided to step it up. I rejoined the hiking group I’d been hiking with until an illness sidelined me a year ago. I decided to commit to two hikes a week. I started with hikes of five miles. Then I moved into hikes of seven or eight miles. I added that activity to the two days with the trainer and a commitment, thanks to my Jawbone fitness tracker, to log 10,000 steps on my off days.
Finally, after five weeks of this, I tackled a 10.2 mile hike in the rolling hills of Joseph D. Grant State Park. And…I survived. I actually felt good afterwards. I didn’t yet have a bikini body. In fact, according to an assessment at my health club, I gained 1-1/2 lbs of muscle on each leg and 1/2 lb. of muscle on each arm, but only lost 1/2 lb. of fat overall. So not exactly a 30-day bikini body, but I felt I was on my way to fitness.
Until BAM! I did a little, wimpy five mile walk. And my right leg, from mid-calf to mid-thigh swelled up to twice its size and bent into the shape of a pretzel. I hadn’t tripped, I felt no obvious injury. I can’t imagine what I did. It’s possible that I got seriously dehydrated or had my potassium and sodium levels drop, because, after eating a packet of GU and drinking a gallon of water, I felt marginally better. I then hobbled my way, for a week, through stretching, massage therapy, icing, Tiger Balm patches and whatever else I could throw at the leg in a desperate attempt to walk normally again. As I said, I have no memory of doing anything that would have caused this injury. But my council of friends and advisers have one opinion: “You are over Fifty.”
Thanks. While I was secretly telling myself I was going to go all out to get in shape or die trying, I realize most of my acquaintances are pretty sure the outcome is going to be the latter.
It’s certainly enough to make you lie down on the sofa with a Law & Order marathon and a bag of Cheetos. Luckily, I got myself out today on a 9 mile 1600 foot elevation hike. And I survived. My leg seems to be roughly the same size it was when I started. I know. I’ve been obsessively measuring it for the last few hours. So maybe I can move to the next level in the next five weeks.
Sadly, what I won’t have is that optimism that I’ll just keep smoothly moving forward toward better and better fitness. Because I’m older now. Aches and pains and weird physical shit are going to pop up out of nowhere. So I’m marching ahead, but with GU packs and salt pills, double thickness Merino wool socks, emergency supplies of Moleskin, an extra large hydration pack and a cooler with more water in the car. I’ll end hikes with an assessment of what needs to be wrapped in an ace bandage. And I’ll drive home, as I did today, sitting on an ice pack just in case.
Sing me out, Mick Jagger. What a drag it is getting old…