12.5 Exercise History

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.

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