I 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?