I’ve been a little lacksadaisical about exercising regularly in lockdown, and so this week has seen a concerted effort to at the very least get my step count back up by going on walks round the block – about thirty-forty minutes depending on pace – with Lady M.
Today my body has decided to register its protest by twinging at the base of my spine across my hips; so I am currently sitting carefully, reading and writing while I let a hot water bottle ease the spasmed muscles. Later, I shall slowly shuffle to the shops to get some painkillers, and a few minor groceries – and count that as today’s exercise.
Back to the walking tomorrow when everything is a bit more sensible. A pity really, because it looks really nice out there at the moment. On the plus side, I’ve been getting some nice snaps on the phone as I’ve been walking about – so that’s another reason to keep doing it as there really are some hidden gems locally.
Whether it’s local plantlife, or views across the horizon, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we’re right on the edge of London, just where the countryside starts to open up into parklands,woods, and farming but still also relatively urban. It makes finding signs of spring both easy, but also easy to overlook because it rarely takes the form of woodland clearings covered in snowdrops and daffodils. Instead there is blossom on trees and bushes, thick verdant foliage, and the sound of birdsong – all of which do surprisingly well at pushing out past concrete and asphalt – albeit sometimes quite discretely.
Right, I can feel my muscles easing – so I shall change to go out, and try not to look like my spine is fused.
Lady M has had knee pains for quite some time. In one knee it’s been since childhood as a result of intensive dance and gymnastic training (and kneeling on an upturned plug, but let’s not go into that right now). The other knee however has been deteriorating too, especially when on stairs or bending down to pick things up – somewhat tricky in a second floor flat.
I eventually nagged her into consulting our GP and with some health insurance queue-jumping (because let’s face it that’s all that a BUPA membership really is) we got the diagnosis that it was early stages arthritis.
So early in fact that it could be offset or even sidestepped with physiotherapy and exercises.
As a result, Lady M has an exercise regime that she keeps forgetting to do at home. She does it, or at least elements of it, at work instead with stretches and various bits of leg contortion under her desk. I have come to call this the Ministry of Silly Sits, largely from her recounting the occasional expressions of concern from co-workers when they catch sight of her doing it.
Any of her co-workers reading this who is willing to do a complete Monty Python-style Ministry of Silly Walks routine past her desk will probably get to hear her taking my name in vain.
Well of course there was going to be a price to pay for all the recent gallivanting around and claiming to have a life that I’ve been doing recently. Today I paid that price by going back to Body Balance classes for the first time since the horrible winter cold took root at the beginning of December.
It will come as no surprise to hear that I am now lying in bed with every limb aching in protest – which is why I won’t say it, because I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well it went.
The only really noticeable deterioration has come in the balance sections, where my ankles decided they didn’t really want to cooperate. On the plus side my upper body strength seemed to be enough to allow me to get into a Crow Pose for approximately two seconds.
Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either.
So, that happened. I now don’t feel bad for relaunching back into the general debauchery of #Tuesdays like we did this week. I think it was the first time we’ve had pretty much everyone there for ages.
The usual suspects of the Ladies M, Lady G and myself were joined by Lady P and Sirs D and S in a rowdily good natured assemblage determined as ever to bestow salt-laced wisdom on current events.
Sir S was waylaid by the landlord and his son, and pressed with many fine Irish Whiskeys in return for operatic snippets; presents were distributed to those who had not otherwise received them; stories were discussed; and the band tried to make themselves heard.
It’s a tough old lark this trying to get healthier and lose some weight thing. Having dragged Lady M into coming along to the gym, she got her revenge by convincing me to join her in a Body Balance class. These 45 minute classes combine Tai Chi, Pilates, and Yoga and hit most of the main muscle groups, focusing on balance and core strength (he says, reading off the label).
What better way to spend a Sunday lunchtime? Tying myself in knots, discovering that I’m far more flexible than I reckoned on, and have a knee that’s still surprisingly weak ten years after surgery. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. Okay, eating would be a better way to spend Sunday lunchtime, I’ll grant you that, but it did mean that when we got home I felt no guilt about setting up open sandwiches topped with smoked grilled back bacon and slices of black pudding fried in butter.
I have no shame.
What the lesson also taught me was precisely which muscles I haven’t been using in a while – because the first half of this week has been spent walking around feeling like someone has stapled the top thigh muscles to my legs with iron spikes. Yesterday was the first day I could get out of a chair without wincing. I celebrated by going back to the gym.
I know it’s going to be worth it – in fact I already know it is worth it because my resting bpm has already fallen significantly and a bit of weight loss has started too. I’ll try not to bore you all with it in huge detail, promise.
I joined our local gym a few weeks ago, driven by doctors’ nagging and a growing dissatisfaction with my general health and appearance. I’m pleased to report that the combination of near-daily 30-45 minute cardio-heavy sessions and a renewed focus on logging at least 10,000 steps a day is paying off. Weight is starting to shift, and a routine is starting to suggest itself.
That said, I did overdo things the other day by throwing some weights into the mix – for the first time in maybe nine or ten years. Although I thought I’d been reasonable in my starting weight selections, the pain in my upper arms the last couple of days would suggest an over-extension or two. If it wasn’t so painful I’d no doubt find it as funny as Lady M does.
Speaking of the redoubtable Lady, she too has taken the plunge today and joined up too. She’s booked into a yoga/Pilate’s/body balance session already. I shall limit myself to the gym while she attends her class. Anyone wishing to talk to us afterwards may find themselves trying not to laugh at our synchronised groaning.
I’ve bitten the bullet and signed up for the gym run by the local authority just round the corner. I’d love to say that it stems from a deep-seated love of health and exercise and a desire to craft the body beautiful, but no – I’d be lying. Ever since my doctor put me on blood pressure pills my weight has started to pile back on again – and having had my back in spasm the last fortnight has reinforced my dislike of being unwell. I’m not saying the two things are connected, but I’d be silly to not consider the possibility.
Secondly my usage of Bydureon to manage my diabetes is dependent on managing to keep the weight off. If my weight hasn’t begun to go down again before my next check up in a few months then I’ll be put back on to daily injections of insulin and all the hassle and calculation that goes with that. That’s before we even get to the whole ‘stabbing myself with sharp metal every day’ element of that which I don’t want to get back to for a variety of historical reasons.
I already home cook most of my food, and I know that calorie counting alone isn’t going to cut it. I need to kickstart my metabolism, so a change in routine is called for. As I already wake when Lady M gets up to go to work, I plan to get up at the same time and go round to the gym to start my day. Even 30-45 minutes a day each day will give me some structure and get me started – and it’ll be early enough that I won’t be stressing about fitting it around work. I’ll be able to get on with my day.
So, a decision driven by fear and irritation rather than aspiration – but sometimes that’s what’s needed, especially as I know how lazy I can be. Oh well, what’s the worst that could happen? I just need to remember not to Google gym-based injury anecdotes or videos…