After a slew of circumstances which seemingly justified me not going – a business trip plus various social and domestic commitments from which I could not escape all featured – yesterday I returned to my local health club for a ‘session’ for the first time in at least a month.
The immediate catalyst was an early morning step onto my bathroom scales which revealed that I had now regained every one of the nine pounds that I had been proud to lose during the course of the summer through a concerted commitment to a combination of dietary restraint and regular gym visits.
It’s funny how complying with the essential equation governing fitness and good health (‘fuel in’ x physical exercise – in other words ‘calories burned’ – out) can be such an elusive standard to achieve let alone maintain.
Unless you are a hermit, sociopath and/or otherwise capable of dreaming up excuses to avoid contacts with the rest of the world, the extent to which enjoying life prevents you remaining physically ‘as you would like to be’ is quite remarkable.
At some point in late August, upon my Monday morning meeting with the scales, I weighed probably as little as I had done in fifteen years or more. At the time, on top of my sense of general well-being, I also felt strong, fit and healthy.
I had fallen, partly by design and partly by happy accident, into a regular regime of eating salads, fruit, yoghurt, nuts and other ‘good’ stuff (not too much of it, mind) combined with avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, having a post-lunch nap and then spending an average 90 minutes at the health club every day.
But then life got in the way.
You know how it goes. You’re invited by a long lost friend to a lunch. Your parents or your daughter and her boyfriend invite you to go and stay the weekend. You’re involved in a business trip. You start with just two or three items in your engagement diary over the next fortnight – just about manageable, that – and suddenly it seems as if one of them begins bleeding into another … you become ‘detached’ from your normal home routine [see above] … and suddenly it becomes a case of ‘Oh, WTF ..’ [viz. ‘I’ll just go with the flow for now (anything different might cause offence to those I’m enjoying spending time with) and simply return to my fitness regime the moment that I get home’].
Two or three weeks – a month, even – later and you suddenly notice that, for one reason or another, you’ve been eating three heavy meals a day and taking no physical exercise at all (well beyond going up and down stairs and driving to the supermarket to buy more food and drink and/or travelling to your next social engagement which may involve eating out or, on the way there, at a motorway service station, both of which require all willpower to be left outside). Plus you haven’t been to the gym. Plus you are still applying the ‘Oh, WTF …’ attitude to your current lifestyle … thereby, as night follows day, risking it changing from a short-term temporary thing to something more permanent.
And then you get on the scales … or perhaps it is ‘get on the scales again and actually register what they are indicating to you if you’d only chose to appreciate it’.
I know what you’re thinking. That I’m stating the obvious. That physical fitness is not so much a ‘spinning the plate on a stick’ kind of thing, whereby you can whirr it round with some vigour and then leave it to spin for 60 seconds … a day, a week, a month, a year … without needing to do any more to it. It’s a constant thing, right? A little at a time maybe, but it has to be often – regularly, daily probably – in fact, let’s face it, part of a strict-ish ongoing routine.
I’m going to be sixty-four this month. There’s a strong history of dementia on one side of my family. I figure that, with a fair wind – and leaving aside some drastic fatal intervention such being hit by a bus, or by some crippling disease, or by having a stroke or heart attack – I’ve probably got a maximum of about sixteen years before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Either that, or if I’m still fighting fit by then, I’ll be sufficiently ga-ga that I won’t have a clue what’s going on, or who anybody is … and so (at that point) whatever my circumstances are won’t really matter anyway.
Which brings me back – assuming one wishes to remain physically-fit over the course of a period of time – to the necessity of a sticking to a relatively-strict dietary/exercise routine.
These days it is perfectly natural for people to talk of the notion that what matters most is ‘quality of life’, rather its quantity (or longevity). I know I do. I’m not being depressive or negative when I admit that I regularly think (more often than I say) that the last thing I’d want to be is a burden to anybody. I’m not here trying to make a case of principle either way on euthanasia, or indeed the ‘right to die’, or other similar potentially life-ending issues.
Simply that, in the context of trying to stick to a dietary/fitness campaign (or not), in thinking about it – if one is accepting that one has maybe sixteen years maximum of useful life to go – given the way of all flesh, there must surely be a point coming for me personally where I must consider whether to succumb to the attitude ‘Oh what’s the bloody point?’, relax and simply ‘let myself go’ as regards my general state of physical fitness at that moment in time.
Now perhaps that is a depressing point to make.
That’s why at some point this afternoon I’m going to make my second visit to the health club in two days. Last night, when I returned home at about 4.00pm after my personally-enforced excursion there (it was a piece of cake to don my sports kit, less easy to actually get myself out of the front door and on my way up the hill) I felt both elated and physically better for having been.
The cobwebs had been blown-out, the lungs and limbs exercised, the pores opened in the sauna and I felt physically tired but content and relaxed.
I’ve still got a way to go with the diet, however. Last night I consumed two helpings of ‘toad in the hole’ with mash, peas and onion gravy after my large gin and tonic.
I’m sure that lot hadn’t done me any favours in advance of the moment when I jump onto the bathroom scales butt-naked later this morning …