As a boy, growing up in post World War II London, I was extremely active. I played cricket or soccer every chance I got. The bombed buildings were a playground paradise, albeit a dangerous one. Food was not plentiful. As a teenager I lived in the attic of a four story walk-up. There was no chance that I would be overweight.
After high school and through college I was less active, but I still was active enough that when beer became an important part of my life I did not gain weight.
In my twenties and thirties I did not have an exercise regimen. I played tennis and touch football and I hiked. It was during these years that I started to have problems controlling my weight.
As I approached my fortieth birthday I started thinking about a mid-life crisis. I didn’t feel like I was on schedule for one, but I decided to do something to forestall it anyway. I took up jogging. I progressed to being able to run more than nine miles on sand. My best race was 6.6 miles at a sub eight minutes per mile pace. I still had a problem controlling my weight.
In my early forties, around 1980, I developed a problem in my right shoulder. It was so bad that I learned to write left handed. After I consulted several doctors Mary Ann, who is a nurse, suggested that I try physical therapy. Later I would describe Sharon, my therapist, as “the best looking woman who ever caused me intense pain.” But Sharon knew her craft—she fixed my shoulder. However, the fixes for such problems are never permanent. To retain functionality my shoulder needed to be exercised. So I started weight training.
Weight training has been an important part of my life for decades, and it still is. For most of that time I would go to the gym once a week. I started with an aerobic session of from 30–45 minutes followed by a full body weight workout of about 14 exercises. Each exercise consists of two sets of 8 to 12 reps each.
My next crisis was in 2000. I was having hip pain when I jogged. I got an appointment with a physiatrist and my hips were X-rayed. It turned out that my left hip had a hole where the cartilage ought to be and the right hip had problems too. I had to give up jogging because my hips couldn’t tolerate the impact.
I tried an exercycle, but it bothered my knee. I tried the elliptical, but I didn’t like it. Finally, I found my new exercise. It was the treadmill.
I found that walking on a level treadmill did not give me the exercise intensity I needed. This was easily solved—I just set the treadmill to simulate walking on hills by raising the elevation.
Later still I found another great aerobic exercise. It was walking up stairs. I never liked the stair climber at the gym, but real stairs are a different experience. Stair climbing was great preparation for our annual hike up Mt. Washington.
I always marveled at the athletes who participated in the Mt. Washington Road Race. Then one day, as I was surfing the Internet for news about the race, I read that some people over age 70 entered the race and walked up the mountain. “Hey,” I thought, “I could do that.” In 2010, at age 71, I participated in the race for the first time. Participants who complete it in less than three hours get an official time, and I just made it. In 2012 I competed again.
My lifestyle over the last few decades has left my cardiovascular system healthy and my muscles strong. I am slowing down but I am still able to enjoy an active life.