Exercise: Staying Strong for Spring

New GardensI will finally admit it, although it pains me to write this. I am middle aged, and that’s if I live to be 90. I could be older than I think.

Last year, after we added four new garden beds, and I’d shoveled manure mix into all of them by hand with HH’s help, I came in from the garden every night and thought I was going to die. My body ached from my hair to my toenails. It frightened me enough that I made myself a promise. My days of hibernating before the fireplace all winter were over. If I wanted to continue my gardening passion into old age, I was going to need to get off my duff and get moving.

Being a member of several garden societies, I knew lots of people in their golden years, and most of my friends didn’t reside in rest homes either. Which begs the question: Is how we spend our later years more determined by genetics and illness, or by lifestyle choices we now make?

All summer, I studied two of my dear friends, who in spite of being in their late 60s and early 70s maintained gardens larger than mine. Of course, they complained about muscle aches and being tired while warning me not to enlarge my garden anymore. But, all of this was said with a smile on their faces and a twinkle in their eyes. Because of their passion and interest in something besides aging, they remained fascinating women.

I examined what they did, and here is what I discovered.

  • They exercised. They took long, fast walks. When Wanda moved to Washington, she gave me many beautiful plants from her garden. One fine summer day, we spent most of it digging plants from her fabulous soil and carrying large containers to my car. It took all of my energy to keep up with her.
  • They lifted weights. All of that stuff about weight training keeping our muscles and bones strong isn’t fiction. It’s true.
  • They ate small meals. They didn’t overtax their digestive systems.
  • They didn’t eat a lot of sugar. They ate protein and fresh vegetables and fruit.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t immediately put their ideas into practice. I love bread and cheese and sweets, and when I was diagnosed with gluten and casein intolerance last year, I wasn’t happy. I had to relearn how to cook and then, I ate a lot of it because I was feeling sorry for myself. I also figured that I was getting enough exercise walking and working in the garden. I wasn’t. The weight began to creep up, and it landed on my middle where it stubbornly stayed.

When the wee ones returned to school last fall, I joined the YMCA, and I’m really glad I did. The cardiovascular exercise on the arc trainers was pretty intense, but easy on my joints, and I love, love, love the FitLinxx weight training. The system keeps track of my cardio and weight training in charts, and I just love charts and graphs. It also reminds me of which machine to use, so that’s good too. When you do twelve machines, it is hard to remember which weights you use on each one. I go to the “Y” two or three times a week along with walking in between. We have some lovely parks in central Oklahoma that have trails. I use those even on cold days. I like that crisp air. I even walked in the snow and ice one time last year. It was slippery, but fun.

I’ve also gone back on the South Beach diet. HH is doing Atkins, so it was join him or make several evening meals. Atkins is too greasy for me, and I’ve modified South Beach to leave out the cheese, which is a bummer, but . . . .

I’m not preaching that my methods are the best ones, but they are some things I can stick to, and the muffin top around my jeans is growing smaller, so I must be doing something right.

Again, is it mostly genetics, or do our habits make or break our autumnal years? What do you think?


  1. Dee says:

    Well, I had no idea that this post had so many comments. It must have been when my internet was down.
    Aimee, Best Girl, keep on exercising. It keeps us young.
    Curtiss Ann, you are one strong cookies even when you don’t feel like it.
    Lynde Cous, I’m so glad you’re visiting. Start that New Year’s exercise plan now, and after two weeks of exhaustion, you will feel better.
    Lydia, all of your advice is really good. So glad you lost weight. Would love to see your garden.
    Robin, you haven’t been posting on your blog as much, so it must be all that exercise you do in your regimen. You go, girl!
    Nan, thank you for the compliment on my garden. Wait til you see it this spring. I like your blog too.

  2. nancypants says:

    My Mom could outgarden me any day. And she is 37 years older than me! LOL

    Your place is beautiful!!

  3. Well good grief. It seems to be the thing to be thinking about exercise!

    I find it interesting that you observed energetic older gardeners for lessons learned. I don’t have any such role models, but I certainly believe your conclusions.

    Since I am very goal-oriented I keep thinking that I need to be training for some “event.” A trainer told me one time that the “event” was my life. I try to keep that in perspective and think that all the hard work I’m putting in at the gym is to help me enjoy all the other parts of my life all the more.

    Thanks so much for pointing out that you wrote about fitness too. It helps to know I’m not alone out here!

    –Robin (Bumblebee)

  4. Lydia says:

    I have gardened enthusiastically for all my adult life. I haven’t always been in good shape. In fact, I allowed myself to get FAT. These numbers may not be exact with each event- but they are real close.

    Three years ago I looked at myself and asked, “Are you happy looking this way?” Nope.

    So I cut out eating late at night, every time I was frustrated and dropped 10 pounds immediately. By the end of two months, I had lost an other 15.

    I worked with a local nutritionist, who advised me on a toxic cleansing vitamin regimen specific to my needs. Dropped an other 10 pounds.
    I took up golf. Good bye to another 10 pounds.

    And then I started working out. Fitness Advantage is the best gym where I live. They are careful to hire people who know what they’re doing. So that’s where I joined. About once a year I get in a regimen with a personal trainer. I would trust anyone on staff to keep me safe. the rest of the time I work out on my own.

    My blood pressure went out of the danger zone to perfectly normal.

    And my garden looks great.

  5. Lynde says:

    I know that I absolutely cannot keep up with my mother. She can out dig, out plant, and outlast me ANY day in the garden! So let’s hope those genetics hurry and kick in! (Otherwise I will have to start exercising.)

  6. Curtis says:

    I know I have be good little boy and watch what I eat If I want to maintain my weight. It is difficult at times to eat right and not eat to much or the wrong things, which I have done on thanksgiving. We won’t mention the pies.

  7. CurtissAnn says:

    I think it is both genetics and lifestyle. Thanks for the encouragement to healthy living. You help me believe I can do more than I think I can– and help me see all the good stuff I’m already doing! Except not the green tea, ewwew! I do love the roobios, though!


  8. Aimee says:

    I hate, hate, hate the idea of exercise at the beginning of the Christmas season. But, even more than that, I will hate having to work off the additional 10 lbs. I’ll gain during the next 4 weeks of sweets, eats and treats. What I have a hard time with is skipping food rewards during stressful times. You know, like when you have a deadline that you sleep, breathe and eat (and eat and eat). This summer I became very attached to my morning Frappacino at Star Bucks, Even when I said the magic justifier, “Light”, I knew it would creep up on me later. So, now I have to start back on the treadmill and go back to green tea…I am not fond of the muffin top look.

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