I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A lifelong habit

Blueberry bushes in the foreground, Mt. Baker in the distance
I laid in bed last night around midnight, when I woke up to visit the bathroom, and I didn't go back to sleep right away. Thinking about this post, what I would write about this morning, and nothing came to mind. Sometimes in the morning I toss and turn my words this way and that as I struggle to get started on something that might be of interest, not only to you, but also to myself. It helps to have a topic in mind.

As I lay in bed, I massaged my sore Achilles tendon and wondered when, or even if, it will get better. It's been a couple of months since it started to bother me, and although it's changed a little in its nature, it still hurts for a few days after my Thursday hike. I went so far as to purchase another pair of boots, thinking that maybe it is caused by my footwear. It's not bad enough to keep me from exercising, but it's worrisome. I would go to the doctor, but the treatment for non-acute tendinitis is fairly straightforward. I'm doing it all.

That picture: last Thursday, when the sun was shining through the bushes, which have turned red as they do in the fall, I wanted to get Mt. Baker behind. It meant laying down on the ground to get low enough to capture this shot, and I managed to struggle down onto the path and take it, but the sun was so bright that I couldn't be sure about what I captured until I got home and took a look. I'm pleased with it, and it was worth the effort. I didn't see that one stray stalk on the left at all, or I would have removed it. It doesn't bother me; in fact, I kind of like it. Although those bushes look like they're on fire, it's only because the sun is shining through them; if I were to stand with the sun behind me, they just look brown and uninteresting. Loaded with ripe blueberries, but certainly not pretty.

Many of my blogging friends have commented on how active I am, and it got me to thinking about it. Am I more active than most people? If I were to look at a bell curve and figure where my activity level might be placed on it, I'm certainly not the most active, but I would be past the top of the curve going in that direction. Three times a week I get on the treadmill at the gym in order to warm up before my aerobics class. I look out the window at the streets below on a busy corner, and I almost always see, like clockwork, an old man go running by. He's not going fast, not more than a fast shuffle, but he's out there. I was amazed the other day when I saw him trotting in the same manner in an entirely different part of town. Does he run all day, every day? He looks to be about my age, I think. If I ever get a chance to ask him, I'll find the answer to my little mystery.

I have been exercising regularly for so long that it's become a habit. Not just a small habit, but one I feel compelled to continue for as long as I can. As I mentioned when I wrote about Olga Kotelko back in July, I would love to be able to carry on like she did until I am in my nineties. But frankly, my genetic background doesn't make me optimistic. Neither of my parents even made it out of their sixties, and only one first-order blood relative has lived to be ninety. Several of my friends have parents who are still alive or recently died, but it's been more than twenty years now since my mom died. I read a wonderful book about Olga (it's linked in that post), and I was struck by something she said in the book: that she really didn't know what she would do with herself when she became too ill to compete in track and field any more. She said nothing else would stop her. I knew just what she meant: you must find something to take the place of those activities that give you a reason to live, to stay in shape, to feel good about yourself.

Thinking back, I realize that exercising has not actually been a lifelong habit. When I was young, back in the sixties and seventies, most people didn't do much physical exercise, other than a few outliers. Then in the 1980s, the fitness craze hit. I well remember the first time I laced my feet into a pair of running shoes. Thinking that all I needed to do was go out there and run around the block a few times. Hah! In a few days I had shin splints and could barely walk. I went to a sports podiatrist and began wearing orthotics, and it did the trick. I had moved to Boulder, Colorado in the early 1980s, and several of my friends convinced me to go into the wilderness with them and climb 14,000-foot peaks. It was painful and sublime: I struggled to the top but could not believe the wonderful 360-degree views I was treated to in that rarified atmosphere. Not much air up there, but it sure was beautiful. And addicting. I climbed 26 of the 52 peaks over the years.

When I was working, I would often exercise during my lunch hour, grabbing a quick salad and eating it afterwards, rather than socializing in the lunchroom. And then, of course, there was skydiving for a quarter century that helped to keep me in shape. I still remember jogging first thing in the morning when I would travel to various places to skydive. But I no longer run, and soon I will no longer be an active skydiver. I'll always feel that those years of running and skydiving are part of me. That will never go away.

And in my retirement years, I continue to find ways to enjoy the outdoors. My Senior Trailblazer friends are all around my age, so we commiserate about our various aches and pains, but we keep each other going, even if we sometimes don't go on the hardest hikes, we still get out there. My Saturday walking group has also become a staple of my exercise routines, and I do love many of those wonderful women. I have decided to take my own advice and hope that if I take care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

I want to leave you with a funny dream I had two nights ago. In my dream, I am getting ready to attend my hundredth birthday party. As I was talking with my friends, someone asked me when I was born. I told him, and he said, "you're not a hundred! You are only ninety!" I remember looking at him, bemused, and said, "well, I did wonder why my nineties zipped by so fast!"


Sally Wessely said...

Taking care of today is good advice. I think you are right on the money here.

Loved the story about your dream. I have no idea about how long I'll live. Duh. None of us do. My mother is 98. Some days I wonder if I'll make 70. Right now, I feel healthier than I have in quite a few years.just keep moving. I think that is most important.

Love the photo.

Anonymous said...

haha. Great punchline. What a wonderful dream.
I love that photo of the red berries and Mt. Baker behind them.
Please consult a doctor regarding your tendon. Your self-treatment hasn't worked, so maybe you should seek expert advice.
As for exercise, carry on!!!

justme_alive said...

I'd recommend getting some Zensah leg sleeves to wear on your hikes & walks. They are available at Fairhaven runners. They're also great for day after leg soreness. Hope your leg feels better.

Rian said...

DJan, I think you would most definitely be past the top of the curve... meaning you exercise much more than the average person your age (at least this is IMO). And it's great! Keep it up, but do be cautious and don't overdo. I think I would be somewhere between those that do nothing and the middle... meaning I really should *do more*. DH and I walk the 2 story mall twice a week and I try to use the treadmill a few times, but that's about it.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I do like that photo with Mt. Baker in the distance. Nicely done! Your comment about the sunlight on the bush reminds me about advice a mentor once gave me about photography: it's all about the light. Well, that's not 100% true but it's way ahead of what ever is in second place. Sometimes, when out driving, I see a scene that looks beautiful as I approach and the way the sunlight is hitting it and then, glancing in the rear view mirror, it looks completely drab. In any event, the light worked for you on that photo! I agree with the others here that you on the leading edge of the bell curve on exercise for folks your age (and mine too ... ha ha). Keep up the good work. I like the story about that dream. They call scary dreams nightmares but what do they call dreams that are funny? Which way would you call this one? Thanks for your comments on my blog. Wishing you a good week ahead. John

Elephant's Child said...

Love that dream. Big smiles.
And I love your activity. I should do more, and you inspire me to try.

Rick Watson said...

I've found that exercise is essential for me. If I go a while without exercising, I feel like a slug.
I just did yoga on my back deck. It is beautiful here with autumn upon us.
Rick, your latest follower.

Arkansas Patti said...

What a wonderful shot. Interesting how lighting makes it work.
You mentioned you wear orthodics. When was the last time were you fitted? I know I need to get mine updated for I have been getting mild tendon problems in my shin area lately and I am pretty sure it is because my orthodics are pretty old. They are so expensive but I know I need new ones and I need to find a good podiatrist.
That was a funny dream.

Linda Reeder said...

I have never been that interested in living into my nineties. Right now I see myself staying relatively active for the next ten years. But after that, who knows. I'll just do what I can, one day at a time.
Your photo is lovely.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm quite sure you are among the leaders in level of activity. Some days I want to live a long life, and other days I realize that I want to live a basically healthy and low-pain life. Since it's mostly out of our control I'll just do the best I can, day by day.

Linda Myers said...

Water aerobics and walking are about it for me. I do ride my bicycle in Arizona in the winter. I hurt my back three years ago and it still affects my feet.

You know, gardening is good exercise too! Now that I'm not watering every day, my back and shoulders don't hurt.

Rita said...

You're definitely on the high end of exercise activity. Might not hurt to have your heel checked out. Even though I know you are doing your best to doctor it on your own. The shot of the red blueberry bushes and Mt. Baker is wonderful. Myself, with my knees and hips I'd never get back up off the ground without the help of friends or a big boulder to brace myself. ;)

O-town Ramblings said...

Your dream was funny. Can you imagine that really happening? How funny! You never cease to amaze me with your high level of physical activity. My friend and I just had a conversation the other night about how genetics really isn't destiny. The environment we live in and the things we expose our bodies to have a much greater effect than most think. I think you're doing everything you can to keep the odds of a long, active life in your favor.

amanda said...

Your thoughts here somewhat relate to thoughts on my mind the past week, after taking one of our athlete sons to the doctor yet again for wear & tear / injury to his body.
Our kids have almost never doctored for childhood illness, no ear infections, antibiotics or any of that. Just check ups when they were due and preventative care.
Then they entered the sports scene and as high school athletes they're making up for all the doctor visits we never had to make. The frequency of our trips to doctors & xrays has me dwelling on this thought: "Sports can be good for our health, but very hard on our bodies." I think that you've been wise knowing when to stop running, and when you'll stop skydiving. Just as I'm grateful our boys won't be playing full contact football forever. The risks of injury that could affect them the rest of their lives and prevent them from doing other activities they love are not worth it.
Anyway, I think you are far more active than most people! I admire your physical activity level greatly, and think that you're choosing very beneficial forms of it. All those beautiful hikes are good for the body AND soul!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I don't know where you are on the activity curve/chart. What I do know is that most days I think of you as I begin my walk around the neighborhood. Your devotion to exercise inspires me.

I've gotten my walking up to two miles a day and I hope that before the year is out I'll be up to three miles. But what I know is that today I've walked one mile this morning and I feel good about my body. I suspect you've inspired many of us. Peace.

Friko said...

I am not even half way on any scale of physical exercise although I walk (amble) every day with the dog. A lifetime of exercise certainly seems to have done you no harm and it would be a shame if you had to give it up any time.

Just tailor your exercise to your abilities, as I am sure you do already, and you will still be ‘out there’ at a ripe old age.

PS: 70 is not old!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I love your photo...even with the little spring sticking up! I can imagine you getting the perfect angle for the shot!

I think you should get some of that elastic wrap...If you have a farm supply store you can get Vet Wrap they use it on horses legs in all kinds of colors. It sticks to itself and is non bulky but will give you some extra support that you may need. In a drug store they will sell it too...but it is more expensive. I use it on my thumb when carving both for support and protection.
Just a suggestion.
You know when you get older it takes longer to heal.
You just keep on going girl...do whatever makes you feel good:)

Glenda Beall said...

Just want to tell you about a wonderful book called Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. I began following his advice and my hip pain is completely gone. You can find it on Amazon and the e-cises he tells you ab out seem simple, but are great. The one I do every day now is lie on my back on the floor with my legs up on a chair seat. it is called static back. My hips settle into place evidently and after twenty minutes I get up and my pain is gone. Try this book for your foot pain. He makes so much sense.

Stella Jones said...

I find it interesting how everyone is so different when it comes to exercise. My mother in law was inactive for years, but she lived to be 98 years old. I am busy a lot of the time but I wouldn't call myself active. Like you both my parents died before they were 70 so I don't expect to exceed that either. I am 63 years old today, so that should give me 7 more years if I'm lucky.

Stella Jones said...
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