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A report from the outer edge of fitness

I occasionally blog upon the travails of my fitness campaign – a bit of a misnomer in recent times after the gym I frequented burned to the ground about six months ago – and so those uninterested in the minutae of an individual’s life can now perhaps move on to more entertaining subjects featured elsewhere on this organ.

It is surprising how one’s life routines can be affected by extraneous events. To the point my gym ‘went down’ my existence, like anyone else’s, tended to vary day by day bar one milestone – an excursion to take some form of exercise, most often either a longish walk (5 miles or more) or a visit to the aforementioned establishment.

To be blunt, the benefit I gained was less in the exercise involved, or the details of what I got up to upon these expeditions, but that the fact they happened every day and that afterwards I felt a slight sense of achievement combined with one of well-being to one degree or another. This manifested itself in a feeling of regret and/or having ‘missed out’ if – by dint of an engagement or other priority – on any particular day I did not have the time or opportunity to take the exercise that I otherwise would have done.

Six months on I have lost perhaps 40% of any fitness I formerly enjoyed and my planning going forward has yet to involve finding or devising a replacement for my previous activity.

And yet life goes on. There is a degree in all this that other things in my life continue to occupy me fully enough for me to feel that I have a purpose to get up each morning. At the same time I’m conscious of the line that “If you want something done, give the task to a busy person’ – this on the basis that anyone who wishes to do more than they are (of whatever it is) can always find the time, and a way, if they wish to badly enough.

Which is a roundabout way to get around to admitting that – as regards fitness – I’ve been in a bit of a rut recently. (Of doing nothing).

And thus it was that on Sunday last I made a determined effort by allocating a couple of hours to putting on some sports kit and going out to take some exercise.

I duly set off, walking, towards a large park about half a mile from where I live. I had no specific plan in mind, but once I reached the wide, grass-filled open spaces I decided to try some jogging.

When you’re nearer to your seventieth birthday than your sixtieth, most forms of exercise have to be approached in the context of your personal list of past infirmities, weaknesses and injuries.

I played sport frequently and energetically from childhood to my middle twenties – had a gap when I got well-fed, portly and unfit [okay, I got married and had kids] – and then (realising that time was slipping by in my middle thirties) began a serious campaign to improve my health and fitness by taking up running.

In all I took part in four London Marathons over the next nine years and a number of other half-marathons and/or 10 kilometre runs, by which route I was eventually forced to give up ‘proper’ running by a combination of a pair of Morton’s neuromas in my left foot (which required the surgical removal of two nerves from said item) and a formerly ruptured Achilles tendon in my right leg that decided to protest whenever I ran upon hard surfaces like roads or pavements. The doctors’ advice was “no more running” and so from that point all my jogging/running/stepping has since taken place on a treadmill in a gym.

The above-mentioned issues have to be added to the broken metatarsal (and metal screw that has remained in my right foot ever since), the broken wrist, the badly-dislocated right shoulder and the two cracked ribs that I previously managed to pick up during my years of playing rugby and hockey – and that doesn’t count the innumerable times I got myself cut, bruised and battered (and occasionally stitched up) when playing one sport or another and simply carried on playing anyway.

Overall – looking back over my sporting career – I reckon I got off pretty lightly given the amount of sport I played during the course of my life to date and the enthusiastic not to mention aggressive manner with which I approached all physical contact sports.

In (I think it was) 2016 I also had a right hip replacement operation from which I took a fair amount of time to recover because I neglected (or perhaps took a rather cavalier attitude towards) my physio rehabilitation.

In summary – when on Sunday facing the concept of doing some jogging – it was not without some trepidation.

Since my hip replacement – partly heeding my “no more running” advice received and partly fearing that running might adversely affect my new hip set-up – I had broken into more than a brisk walk on probably fewer than a dozen occasions, during none of which I felt particularly confident or comfortable. I had even contemplated that perhaps my running days were permanently over.

Anyway. So I began jogging slowly on the vast expanse of grass, opening with a distance of no more than 50 metres before stopping and walking again. And you know what? It didn’t feel too bad and I was encouraged enough to do it again and again. In amongst the walking.

Towards the end of my time out I came across three rugby pitches marked out with posts standing. By now I had done some physical jerks – press-ups, laid on my back and pulled my legs up into the air and so on – during my progression around the park.

I decided to do a series of shuttles – jogging the whole 100 metres of the pitch … and then turning round and walking back to my starting mark again. I did six of these (i.e. six 100 metre jogs, six walking returns) in all.

After the fourth such jog I felt a slight something in my right lower calf. Noticing it, I walked back to my mark somewhat carefully. I completed the two final jogs, registering a growing ache/pain in the area. I had clearly “done” or pulled my calf muscle.

By the time I’d walked home it was stiffening up. Now, 36 hours later, it is still as stiff as a board. I have been hobbling around like Long John Silver and I am convinced it is a case of ‘repair by rest’.

The irony is that I was really enjoying the exercise I was taking on Sunday.

I guess it just goes to highlight a couple of things: (1) as an oldie, taking any sort of exercise has its attendant risks; and (2) you have to ‘listen’ to what your body is telling you.

By curtailing my exercise on Sunday after six ‘shuttle lengths’ as a precaution, I have probably saved myself at least an additional week of discomfort that I might have caused to myself by continuing.

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts