It all started back in February. During the winter I hadn’t exercised much, mostly there was one measly 30 minute run a week. That was because I had knee problems, and my doctor had told me to ride a bike instead of running (though he did say I was allowed to run on account of me being not too heavy – which I found rather funny because I am rather fat). So I didn’t quite know what to do exercise-wise, and my knee hurt, and I was looking at my body going downhill over the next few decades.
I felt rather helpless. Yoga hurt, biking hurt, sitting hurt, so I just didn’t exercise. All the time I had the feeling that I should move a little more than I did but it just didn’t happen. And then two people on my favorite ravelry forum decided to help each other exercise more, and they started a new thread about it, and I committed myself to moving at least ten minutes almost every day. That was February. I walked, and did a little yoga, and ran a bit, and all of a sudden I was moving again but not very much. It was a start, though.
One of those two people who started that exercise thread recommended a strength training book, and I thought starting strength training again would be an excellent idea. So I ordered the book, and soon enough I was working with dumbbells and such twice a week. And I liked it very much. The program had you add weight each time you were comfortable with the exercises. Soon enough I was looking through the garage for my husband’s 5 kilo dumbbells. But the best thing about the strength training was that I stopped hurting. My back, my knees, my hips, all of that felt better. Did you know that strength training is really, really helpful for joint pain? I didn’t. It was like a miracle. Sweat and grunt for 30 minutes and be free of pain. I also learned that strength training helps against osteoporosis. Did you know that your bones start to get a little brittle (and your muscles a little weak) after forty? That falling and breaking a hip is the one thing that has old women in the hospital the most? That you can see improvement in bone density, and muscle mass from regular strength training even when you start when you’re 80 or older? That strength training improves your balance and flexibility? I didn’t but now I do.
Next thing I start reading “Younger next year” which I found through Neil Gaiman’s journal. (There is a version for women called “Younger next year for women” that I’d recommend, by the way. Buying both books is rather pointless because a lot of the information is the same.) That book tells you that if you exercise six times a week for 45 minutes you will be able to have the body of a fit fifty year-old until you’re 80 or so. There’s more to it than that but that’s the main message. Exercise for 45 minues, six times a week, and be able to do just about anything you want until you’re pretty old. And be able to do all those things without pain.
My husband and I are already seeing the beginning of that downward slope towards death. The joints that hurt, the cricks in our backs, the feeling of “I can’t do that anymore, I’m getting old.” But the great thing is that we now know we can do something against it.
Now 45 minutes is quite a bit of time, and I have to confess I’m not quite there yet. At the moment I do about 45 minutes of cardio three times a week, and only 30 minutes of strength training three times a week. Since I didn’t want to keep buying heavier, and heavier weights I have started a strength training program where you use the weight of your own body as resistance. It’s “Body by you” and I find it fun. Well, not exactly when I’m doing it because it’s really hard but certainly afterwards when I can feel my muscles growing. Me doing all this exercise has also changed something in my husband and son. All of a sudden my husband is running again, two or three times a week, and my son who is as much of a couch potato as I am is doing the strength training with me. Three times a week we meet in the kitchen and do all kinds of silly exercises using chairs, and the counters, and door handles. Right now it is pretty easy to keep going because my body is feeling so much better. And I’m seeing progress. Who knows, one of these days I might even be able to do a set of real pushups. But the best thing is that my knees aren’t hurting anymore, they don’t hurt at all, and I had already resigned myself to live with this nagging pain for the rest of my life. Oh, and all this exercise is making me tremendously happy. Who would have thought that couch potato me would come to this?