To Gym or not to Gym

You may remember that for several months I followed the 5:2 diet. It worked for me.  Losing over a stone (over 6 kg) I felt better about myself, had more energy, clearer skin, smaller waist. It wasn’t only the diet of course, I was walking three or four miles at a time and swimming regularly. Without so many bulges to manoeuver, my yoga practice improved no end. I slept better, and apparently my snoring stopped (I still dispute this – I don’t snore, I just breath a bit heavily). I flounced about with more confidence. It was great.

Until we went on holiday.

Oh yes, the bikini came out.  I know bikini’s on a sixty odd year old woman is unseemly, but believe me, this sixty something rocked it. No bingo wings to worry about when wearing skimpy cotton summer frocks. Swanning about in sarongs. Eating.

Oh yeah, the eating. We were in India. I love Indian food. What can I say?

It wouldn’t have been so bad, if we hadn’t spent the time we weren’t eating lying about in the sun, relaxing, chillin’, exerting no energy whatsoever. At all.  Consequently the pounds piled on.

Of course, when we got home my tubbier tanned body wasn’t up to doing much exercise.  I found excuses.  I couldn’t do so much walking because I’ve been suffering with plantar faciitis (still am, but getting better with the help of steroid injections), I’d got fed up with the weekly battle for parking, and the grim facilities of the local leisure centre – not quite the same as the infinity pool in Kerala. Even yoga got to be a bit more of an effort.

Then it was the food fest of Christmas.

Things have been going downhill ever since. I’ve put the weight back on. Energy levels are low to non-existent.  I’m not sleeping so well. The baggy belly is back.

So…. I’m tentatively back on the 5:2, but I still can’t walk the long distances I could, and I still don’t care for swimming at the leisure centre. So I’ve been considering joining the local gym.

There are one or two problems with this option though.

  • It costs money – lots of money
  • Other people, fit people, will be there
  • It takes a biggish time commitment to be worth joining
  • You have to commit for a whole year, yes, a WHOLE YEAR, and pay up front

I used to belong to a gym, when the kids were at school. It didn’t have a pool, but I’d go and use the equipment a couple of times a week, doing less and less on the murderous machines that I didn’t like, and more and more on the things you can sit down on.  I actually quite enjoyed it, but at the time I didn’t need to lose weight, I was more focussed on toning up a bit (this was before my yoga days).

The gym I’m thinking of now, is swish, like, really swish. It has a beautiful pool, sauna, steam rooms, Jacuzzi, fitness suites, lots of classes…oh and a café so that you can have a nice hot chocolate with marshmallows after your workout. It is so very tempting…

But…

Whilst a big chunk of me wants to join, believing it is my key to becoming svelte and energetic again, there is a growing niggle that I shouldn’t need to join a gym to keep fit.  I should be able to run about in the fresh air, garden more, yoga more, dance more…eat less.  This little voice keeps telling me that I am very privileged to be able to afford to eat more than I need to keep me going each day. I should be thankful that I am healthy if chubby, rather than skinny and sickly, and that I can afford to even contemplate joining an exorbitantly overpriced gym full of narcissists.  It is whispering that I should be content with who I am, be less vain, embrace old age with it’s niggly aches and pains and penchant for daytime naps.  Enjoy the fact that a bit of padding fills out the wrinkles. After all, I’m not actually overweight for my build, by BMI standards, I am apparently at a healthy weight for my height and age.

So I am torn. I know I would feel better about myself if I was fitter, slimmer, but I’m not sure I can do it on my own, or even whether I should want to.

Oh, but how I would love to wallow in that fancy Jacuzzi a couple of times a week… oops, sorry, I mean swim, and run, and lift, and stretch, and…

ooh now I’ve thought about it, I need a hot chocolate and a lay down!

Keeping memories

Mum 20sWe moved my mum into her new sheltered accommodation last week.  It is a lovely modern studio flat, where she has her own kitchen and bathroom and a key to her own front door.  It is so much nicer than her long, dark, narrow, crabby old flat which she had been living in for the last 40 odd years.

The trouble with living somewhere for so long, is that, without even realising it, you accumulate lots of ‘stuff’. Ornaments, and tacky souvenirs that family members have brought back from holidays; photographs in broken frames; pictures; lots of tapestries that mum had done herself years ago; CDs and cassettes;  very old records; programmes from long-seen shows; and many, many, years worth of birthday cards (‘I can’t throw them away, they’re too nice’).  Of course, moving into a smaller flat meant that she couldn’t take much with her, not even all her furniture, and it’s been down to my sister and I to encourage, co-erce, and downright nag her into leaving much of it behind. Sadly, what seems to us to be old tat, was to her much-loved possessions that were proof of a full and long-lived life.

When I look around my own home, I can see that a lot of the things that I hold dear would, quite likely, seem like ‘old tat’ to others. But every piece has a memory attached.  Who bought it, why and when.  When I dust I caress each piece like a long lost friend, and every plant is loved and nurtured like a child.

Sitting here, I can look up and see photos of my children, a vase bought for me by my husband for one of our anniversaries, a moving fish that my daughter made in woodwork class years and years ago, the remains of a hookah pipe bought on our honeymoon in Turkey nearly 30 years ago, a slate rabbit from a mine in Wales, and a small wooden Buddha bought on our first trip to India. Now they nestle alongside some brass candlesticks rescued from my mum’s old flat.

I didn’t rescue much, just the candlesticks (which I remember sitting on the mantelpiece back when I was growing up), a couple of ornamental plates that we bought for her on trips to Turkey and Greece, a small wooden elephant, and some finger cymbals that I found in a box and had no idea she had. Heaven only knows where she got them, or why – perhaps a relic of a belly dancing phase of her life that none of us knew about?  Hehee..I’d like to think so!

Nan and Lil

My nan, mums friend, Mary, and my aunt Lil enjoying the sea

The only other thing that I took was an enormous suitcase full of old photographs.  There are lots of odd weddings with bride and grooms that I barely recognise, many of them now long dead. There are pictures of my grandmother as a young woman sitting alongside her mum who I never knew, or paddling in the sea in 1951 with her sister and a friend, all of them clutching their skirts above their knees to stop them getting wet.  Of course, there are also lots of pictures of my mum.

She’s there as a child with a big doll, and another very formal shot where she’s posing in a Mum dancingballet position aged about nine.  She’s there looking cheeky with her boyish brothers, and again as a young woman in a smart dark skirt and white blouse, smiling brightly, and it makes me wonder what the occasion was, maybe she was starting a new job?

She is there as a bride, marrying my father, with evidently, and mercifully, no clue as to the bitterness he would eventually bring her.  There are pictures of her at office parties, and on holidays with people I don’t recognise. All these pictures together add up as a testament to her life as a beautiful and vibrant woman.

Now, at 92, she retains her beauty, but some of that vibrancy is lost.  Old age is a dreadful thing, and something we all face, its limitations are both bewildering and frustrating, and ill health and aching joints can make you irritable.  When we meet older people who are suffering these difficulties, it’s easy to forget that they have led these amazing full lives, had jobs, children, experiences, hobbies, interests, just like we are having now.

If like my mum, you have to give up the home that you have created over the years, albeit no longer suitable, or desirable, or that others may be less than impressed with, it is a wrench.  A big wrench. And whilst it’s lovely to see her settling into her clean and tidy new home, and enjoying the company, we mustn’t forget that.

Unfortunately, once we had taken what she needed we had to have the flat cleared. The house clearance chappy told us it would all just go to the dump – the furniture; cookware; washing machine; ornaments; records……and all the other bits and pieces – just disposed of without ceremony. ‘No-one wants this sort of stuff now, you can’t give it away’ he told us, and I’m sure he’s right.  Still seems criminal though.

After this experience, I’ve promised myself I’ll reassess my own home.  Clear out all the stuff that I’ve collected in cupboards and kept in the loft. I don’t want my children to have to face clearing it out and having to live with the guilt of throwing away all those memories, no matter how sentimental and tatty they think they are.

New Horizons

In response to this weeks photo challenge ‘New’.

DSC_0386

This is a photo of my beautiful mum that I took a couple of days ago, over the Christmas break. Ok, she’s not exactly ‘New’, in fact, (I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you), she’s in her 90’s.  However, she is off on a new adventure.

She’s lived in the same town all of her life, and been in the same flat for about 40 years. She’s been happy and comfortable there, but now she has come round to the idea that it might be nice to have a bit more support and company, and we’re in the process of helping her find some sheltered accommodation.  Somewhere that she can still be fairly independent, and have her own front door, but where she can have a little bit more help when she needs it.  Also, somewhere a bit closer to family – she will still be a couple of hundred miles away from me, but nearer my sister and her family, so for the first time in her life, it’ll be a move away from her home town.   She’s both excited and a bit nervous – as you should be with all new adventures in my opinion! It’s a big leap of faith and we’ve all got our fingers crossed that it’s a good one.

Of course, she’s only willing to go if they have broadband so she can still use her ipad!

I’m very proud of her for facing change so stoically. I hope I never get too old for new challenges either!

A mark in the park

Strolling through the big old iron gates, I notice that they haven’t cut the grass lately. It’s usually clipped to within an inch, but today it’s ankle high and swaying slightly in the cool breeze.  As usual, there’s not too many people in the park, though a few are walking through it, using its path as a short-cut between town and houses.

It’s a school day, so the climbing frames, swings and roundabouts are all empty. The council had to rebuild the playground recently because vandals had set fire to it and burnt the lot down. Now it’s protected by security cameras on tall grey posts, looking for all the world like alien eyes.

Looking westwards across the open space I can see an old man throwing a stick for a rangy looking ginger mongrel, who fetches it back and drops it at his masters feet time and time again, tail wagging and tongue lolling waiting for the next time. He runs after it so fast his feet barely touch the ground.

Beyond them is the river. As I approach it I hear the rushing of water over the weir that’s situated just above the bridge.  As children, we used to play ‘pooh sticks’ here, throwing out sticks between the bridge’s ornate balustrade and watching to see whose came through to the other side first.   Now and then fetes are held here, and they have rubber duck races down the river these days.  Today I can see one of the little yellow competitors caught twirling in the current under the weir. I wonder how long he’ll stay there before getting rescued by a child with a fishing net who’s come to catch tadpoles.

The river bank is lined with weeping willows that dip their branches in the water catching weeds, while the park’s lazy water fowl community huddle under them waiting for another stranger to bring them their next meal of stale bread. Fast food for ducks we called it.

On the opposite side of the bridge lies the formal flower gardens.  There are not too many flowers at this time of year though, apart from the odd late rose. It’s always kept neat and tidy, apart from the ornamental pond with its not-working fountain, which always has a collection of rubbish floating in its shallow algae covered water.

I sit on one of the benches alongside the path. Immediately I realise that I have sat directly opposite a couple who are too busy smooching to have noticed me.  I try not to look, but my eyes keep wandering back, just like his hands keep wandering to her thighs.  It takes me back to teenage years. Long summer evenings spent knocking around the park, chatting each other up, and finding out about life and love, and all the grey areas in between.

I quickly decide that I should move. There are plenty of other places to sit, and I don’t want them thinking I’m some sort of pervert, so I decide to make my way over to the bandstand area, which is closer than I’d like to the skate tube, but should be quiet at this time of day.

However, I could hear the screech of the wheels on metal before I rounded the corner and saw that there were several lads there with their gaudy skateboards, clearly bunking off school, and disturbing the peace. Nevertheless, I sat on a nearby seat to watch.

They were pretty good. Their skateboards looked like they were attached to their feet as the swooped down the curves and jumped in the air before landing.  One or two fell and cursed, though they didn’t seem hurt. There was a lot of cursing.  It still embarrasses me to hear those words.  My mother would have a fit.

I sit awhile, before deciding it’s time to leave. On the way back to the gates, I pass the huge old oak, where my initials are still carved in a heart alongside the initials of a boy I can’t remember.  That was long before the skate park, or the playground, and before the lads or those lovers were born. It will be here long after I’m gone too I expect.  I think it’s probably ‘un pc’ as my granddaughter would say, to carve anything into tree trunks, yet still, It’s pleasing to think that one day someone will look at those marks and wonder who ‘S.A.’ was and if she still loves ‘L.C’.

This is a short story written as part of the writing 101 challenge.

Me, the poser

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog. Not me. If you think I’m going to put a picture up of my efforts you are much mistook!!

Sooooo, since Christmas, in addition to my weekly 90 minute class, I have religiously been doing at least half an hour’s yoga practice every day.  My husband leaves home at about 7:20 in the morning and by half past, I’ve started.  Usually I use one of the standard classes in the Yoga Studio app on my ipad – either intermediate or if I’m feeling ambitious, advanced level.   Its a good, though sometimes challenging, way to start the day.

karnapidasana ear pressure pose

Karnapidasana – Ear Pressure Pose. This is not me, this woman has no tummy….

With all that stretching and bending you would think that by now I would be ready, flexibility wise, to join Cirque Du Soliel, but sadly not.  Ok, I’m probably much more bendy than some others of my age, but my left knee still lets me know quite clearly when it’s over flexed in Fire Log or Head of the Cow, my badly feet make Warrior a lot more challenging than it should be (have I mentioned I’ve got Plantar Fasciitis – it’s a right pain!), and my tummy, though somewhat diminished through over a year’s worth of 5:2 diet, still gets in the way in Ear Pressure Pose (lie down, lift into shoulder stand, drop into plough with your feet behind your head, and then bend your knees and push them against your ears – it’s not pretty, at least not when I do it) and I admit my composure isn’t all it should be when I attempt it – I’m not sure you’re supposed to giggle so much!

Crane Pose - Bakasana

Bakasana – Crane Pose. Also not me…! I doubt I look this good, just as well I can’t see myself!

I guess an hour every day might produce more results, but nonetheless I have felt a massive improvement one way or the other.  Yes, I am a lot more flexible, and my balances have improved in leaps and bounds (can one balance in a leap or a bound…no didn’t think so, but you get the gist).  The real mega improvement though, has been strength wise.  I can hold the plank position for, well, what seems like ages, but is probably no more than a minute or so – much better than the 10 seconds I used to  manage though.  Even better, I’ve been practicing hard and can now, to my delight, get into Crane and hold it for a bit.  Ok, still only seconds rather than minutes, but I’m impressed with myself anyway. Carry on this way, and I may end up like Madonna who’s arms were once described as ‘like dog chews’!!

I’ve probably said it before, but yoga is the one exercise regime that feels like its doing me good rather than killing me off.  I feel like I can achieve anything, and because it is progressive can find some improvement with practically every session.  When I finish I can feel every muscle and sinew, so I know I’ve still got ’em and have not turned to putty just yet.  And without wishing to sound all new age, and arty farty, it’s good for the soul too, a bit of inwardlooking meditation or mindfulness really does give your mind a rest from problems and hum-drummery (no, I don’t think that’s a real word either, but hey, I like it).

Pigeon pose

Pigeon with forward fold – nope, still not me. Though I love this pose even though its a bit hurty!

Oh, and the other thing, all those Downward Dogs and Pigeons with Forward Folds are really good at stretching me ol’ feet, and the faciitis is slowly getting better.  Win win I’d say.

Savasana - corpse pose

Savasana – Corpse Pose. Ok, not me, but I’m really, really, proficient at this one, and a picture of me in this pose would look very similar I promise you!

Well I’m off to practice my favourite pose – Savasana (corpse pose) for a bit. After all, it is the bit at the end that we all like best, don’t we?

The truth about Balls – for Cinderellas everywhere

Every now and then we get invited to a dinner and dance or a ball.

‘ooh, how lovely’ I hear you say. Yes, the chance to get myself dolled up in a posh frock used to get me excited. Now, as a cynical, grumpy old woman, you’ll just hear me sigh and moan at the thought.

For a start, these ‘do’s’ are usually work related. The ‘Celebration Dinner’ or the ‘Awards ceremony’ during a conference. You’ve already had a day of smiling nicely, and all you really want to do is go and sit in a bar with your chums and a bottle of wine. The reality however, is that you get less than an hour to get yourself sorted and ready for an evening of torture.

You have a quick shower, then attempt to do your hair with one of those stupid hairdryers you get in hotel rooms. You know, the one’s where you have to hold the button down to keep the air flow going. What air flow there is – they invariably have the power of a fly flapping it’s wings past your ear. Consequently, hair isn’t that of a tennis girl-friend (how do they get hair like that?), more of the not-so-fashionably tousled variety. You put ‘
product’ on to try and tame it. It looks like its been dipped in grease and sticks out at right angles. Hair should not have corners, should it? Ho hum… on with the dress…

You will have chosen a suitable posh frock to wear. A nice posh frock, I have found, invariably needs some pretty mega underwear to make it look half decent on me. Strapless bra that digs in, and has potential to slip either up or down, and make you look squashed in funny places. Big keks. Big, big, keks. Big keks that hold you in so much you go cross eyed, and feel sick if you eat so much as a stick of celery at the dinner – neither can you go to the loo quickly, so can’t drink too much either (I have discovered though, that a certain brand of big keks has a special gusset that kind of opens so you can do what you need to without taking them off – who knew??? It’s made me look at red carpet celebs in a whole new different way). The dress is long…bit too long, need high heels. You’ve bought a beautiful new pair, that make you feel a million dollars. You’re tall, you’re elegant, you are a Cinderella look-alikey, you’re held in, and your feet bl***y hurt.

After tidying up the make-up you’ve smudged inadvertantly at some point of the getting ready-ness, you totter off, clutching your clutch bag, which you will have mislaid by the end of the evening. Arriving at the reception you grab a glass of free champagne and swill it down. Then you grab a second. You immediately regret that second one. It’s ok now, but the first glass of wine with dinner is going to mix with those darn bubbles and send you giddy fairly swiftly. Never mind, you are charming, though wish you could remember the names of the people you don’t recognise at all who seem to know you quite well.

Then there is the dinner.

You are sat at a round table with some eight other people, none of whom you have anything in common with, except perhaps the woman opposite, who you think you might get on really well with, but you can’t actually hear anything she’s saying, because the enormous table decoration separates you. Instead, you’re stuck with the slimey Mr I Am sitting next to you for the evening. Have another drink.

There’s the food to negotiate. Soup for starters. Eating soup daintly is a knack I’ve yet to learn. Then there’s the chunk of meat for main, and who thought strips of pasta was a good idea – are they having a laugh? Slippery and sloshy with sauce, guaranteed to slither down your chin. Pudding is so often that little row of three teeny tiny same but different things. One is so so, one is revolting, and the third is the smallest one, that is delicious and you wish you could have just had a big portion of that. Then there’s the coffee…..don’t get me started…see previous post…!!

Speeches. Oh hoo bloomin’ ray! Does anyone, ever like the speeches. Sure, everyone laughs politely, claps a bit, but really we are all wishing we could get to the bar (the wine on the table went very early on). Awards to be given out. Endless awards, with endless photos to be taken. By this time, I am nodding off, possibly with a bit of dribble coming out of the side of my mouth. Then the ENTERTAINMENT. A misnomer. Need I say more.

Of course, there is always the disco at the end. Dad dancing at it’s finest! It does liven everyone up a bit though, and I actually start enjoying myself. Of course, it’s enjoying myself with the abandonment of more than enough glasses of wine enjoying myself. Heaven knows what I look like. My shoes, taken off discreetly during dinner, lie abandoned under the table, I’m tripping over my frock and trying to shimmy despite my big keks, and slippy bra. Doubt anyone else remembers anyway, and it’s giving me the chance to bitch about everyone else’s odd choice of clothing for the evening. I wonder why that woman’s boobs are such a funny shape – could it be her bra?
Oh god, it’s a mirror…

It’s just killing me

I walk, I practice yoga, I do housework, I garden (a bit, in fine weather) I occassionally have a go on the wii too, but apart from that I don’t do exercise. We do have a cross-trainer sitting dustily amongst the books and papers in our study, and every now and then I’ll have a spurt of enthusiasm and go on it every evening for a week or two. If I haven’t started feeling the benefit, or losing a pound or two after that, and I never have, I give up and months will go by before its pedals are turned again.

I have this theory see, that once you reach a certain age, too much exercise stops doing you good and starts killing you off. It certainly feels that way. After ten minutes on gym equipment, of any sort, I am puffing and sweating, and frankly, just need a lie down. My heart is a muscle that works hard enough keeping me alive, anything over and above that is just wearing it out quicker! That’s why I appreciate yoga so much. It makes me feel stronger rather than weaker. My brain isn’t addled by my lungs failing to suck in enough air like it is for five minutes after a gym workout. I feel good. I feel invincible. I believe I am a warrior!

Trouble is yoga alone isn’t keeping me in shape. I might feel like a warrior, but I certainly don’t look like one. I’m guessing I should cut down on calories, deny myself wine and sweet things, and then I might revert back to my young slim self. It is a cruel fact, that in my youth I hated being thin. Hated my scrawny limbs, and my shapeless torso. I still cringe when I remember being fitted for a bridesmaids dress, which to start with I was so excited about, until my aunt, who was the dressmaker, said she didn’t need to measure me all over because I was just straight up and down. And I was. Twiggy was a chubster compared to me!

The truth is, I believe we all look better with a bit of chubbiness, certainly as we get older (I give you Victoria Beckham vs Nigella!) It fleshes out the wrinkles, and makes us look robust and healthy. Many oldies get bent and boney, their faces sunken. Well I’m blowed if I’m going to let that happen to me.

No, its alright, I’m not going to get obese, and I’ll do enough to keep healthy, but just maybe I’ll be satisfied to stay a little bit bigger than I’d really like to be, so that should I ever be graced with grandchildren I’ll be a proper, cuddly grandma.