Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GETTING BACK INTO SHAPE AT 51

It seemed like an easy task; we would take a year to concentrate on getting fit. All we had to do was work out every day, eat the healthiest foods available, and restrict our calories to encourage weight loss.

When we started, I assumed that I would be at my ideal weight and totally fit within four months. I could have easily done it in that time when I was 40. But it is going much slower. The pounds are peeling off at rate of more like 2 pounds a month than my expected loss of 2 pounds a week. Though I am doing much easier work outs than I did in my early 40’s, I feel more worn out by them. For the first months I was so exhausted I couldn’t do much else during the day. I am much more sore from work outs than I ever remember being. (My internet research says exhaustion and pain are the primary reasons that most people in their 50s give up on their workouts before getting into shape.)

My first workouts this year, which mostly consisted of walking, met with severe pain from bunions on my feet. This inherited malady results in terrible foot pain and swelling from walking or standing too much at one time. My foot pain lead us to our daily routine of lap swimming and water aerobics. (Studies show that water aerobics is one of the best ways to get into shape and burn calories without impacting your joints or getting injuries.) Water aerobics is giving me a great upper body, abdominal, and leg workout all at the same time.

And not only that, one of the other people in the class is a retired mechanic, a brilliant mechanic. He has answered dozens of questions I have had for years about engines and carburetors.

We are in our own world as we talk about cars and motors and solar energy which makes the time pass quickly so that I hardly notice the work out. I have learned so much about engines and solar energy! We can work out even in the rain and being in the pool for an hour in the morning somehow keeps us cooler on the hot days.

After six months of concerted effort, we are seeing progress. Our goal is to not be overweight (BMI of 25 or less) and have healthy waist sizes (based on Drs Roizen and Oz waist size measurements in their book “You on a Diet”). We weigh in and measure our waist size weekly. Our weight and waists are very slowly, but steadily, shrinking.

Some of the progress I notice indirectly. For example, our lawn is on a fairly steep hill and mowing wore me out so much that I had to break it into 4 sections and mow them each on different days. Now I can mow it easily in 2 sections (maybe not that easily). A couple of weeks ago, we went to Kona and snorkeled at our favorite spot at Kahalu’u Beach park. After 30 minutes I am usually so tired that I am out of breath and have to sit on the beach a while to rest before going to the car. Last month we snorkeled for over an hour and we were not out of breath or tired after getting out. These are small victories that keep us motivated to continue as the year progresses.

I ask myself, “Is it worth it?” Half way through the year, my answer is, “More than I could have ever guessed”. During my 40’s extra pounds crept on and every year I felt heavier and less energy. My previous strategies for getting off the pounds no longer worked. These days it seems like everyone is over weight including young people. Now, as the pounds come off and my muscles get bigger, I notice that I am getting better service and more attention from people then before. It seems to be rare and more notable to be fit at 51 than fit at 40.

It suddenly feels really important as well. (I have read on the internet that the more muscle you have on your body the healthier that it makes your heart and that it enables older people to live longer without assistance.)

It is different getting fit and losing weight in Hawaii than it was back on the mainland. On the mainland it felt like I was just losing fat off my body and adding muscle, I would get thinner and stronger. In Hawaii it feels like the sun and diet of fresh fish and fruit is creating a new body, not just changing the body I have. When I look down at my tan legs, the skin looks and feels different, as does the skin on my arms and face.

The only thing I can think of is that it is the weather. Hilo weather is hot and yet not so hot that you have to sit in an air conditioned room. The lawn needs to be mowed 12 months of the year; the trees continually produce fruit; it is always growing season; the days never get shorter; it is always warm enough to swim and snorkel and take walks and long afternoon naps. It feels like my body is anew from a life of perpetually perfect summer days and eating fresh food without hydrogenated oils, dyes, hormones, and preservatives.

5 comments:

Keahi Pelayo said...

You have inspired me to go to my local pool to swim laps.

larry said...

keeping those pounds away at 48 defiantly is much harder than it was at 38.

one observation, you said "Now, as the pounds come off and my muscles get bigger, i notice that i am getting better service and more attention from people then before. i have to wonder if that is due to losing weight or the change in your attitude and how you carry yourself?

it's just as possible that people are giving you more attention because you are feeling better about yourself. maybe they are reacting to how being close to you makes them feel more so than how you look. it is always nicer to be in the company of someone that is feeling good than around someone who is tired and worn out or has low self esteem.

either way, taking off pounds and being in shape makes for a more enjoyable life.

alawaiblowfish said...

You live in a wonderful place for getting healthy. I envy you greatly. Hilo has access to the best food in the county, in my opinion. The farmerʻs market is simply amazing.

Have you ever considered day hiking? The trails in Hawaiʻi are wonderful and are seldom seen by most people. Youʻll get an extremely vigorous workout thatʻs not boring or too difficult, if you go at your own pace. Iʻve seen so many native birds and plants that you normally only see in National Geographic and textbooks, thanks to the trail systems throughout the oahu and the big island.

Na Ala Hele is the stateʻs trail access management department and they have a database of all their trails throughout the state @ www.hawaiitrails.org . They have good variety of trails that tend to be safe and well maintained.

Hawaiian trail and mountain club (htmclub.org) is another good resource for lesser known trails in the area. The people from htmc are pretty nice and understanding when there are new hikers in the group. They let you hike at your own pace and are very adept to give you information about the plants and terrain in the area. Theres a handfull of older folks in the club too who are mostly in their 70s and 80s. Its amazing to watch them scamble up the mountain faster than you can

Its just a suggestion, but I ended up losing 40 pounds from casually hiking once or twice a week, on and off over 6 months without altering my fat-laden diet of Honolulu food.

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