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Life Begins at Fifty – Healthy Life #7 – Listen to your body – exercise

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I began the Healthy Life blogging on 22nd February, well into my plant based living journey, but striving to find the right balance of food and exercise to suit my newly ‘nicotine free’ body. It’s for anyone, not just those of us with those numbers beginning with 5, because the problem with any choices we make about diet or exercise won’t necessary be perfect for our bodies. We need to find the balance that works for us.

This post ‘Listen to your body – exercise’ will be followed by ‘Listen to your body -food’. I really hope you enjoy them and find them useful.

Not getting hung up on what the scales say has made me get on with my life, do my best and feel a whole lot better…well enough to show you the changes in my body shape since 22nd February. I’m not sure how well you’ll see them as I live in an old farmhouse with tiny windows, so lighting is always tricky…as is the fact we are effectively living inside a renovation project so there’s mess everywhere, but I’ve done my best.

It’s only been five weeks, the changes are subtle, but what you can’t see is how tight my bum is getting and how the hills on my walks are much easier to climb now.

For me ‘Listen to your body – exercise’ has been about working out the exercise routines that work for me, while still aiming to reach achievable targets that I know are beneficial to my health and fitness.

What I’ve learned in 5 weeks

Walking 10,000 steps EVERY day isn’t essential – I was quite obsessive to start with, but now I aim for more ‘active minutes’ on my Fitbit, minutes of exercise that work my heart and my muscles a little bit harder. I’ve kept my Fitbit minimum on 30 minutes though, because on a particularly heavy writing day (it does take time to write a novel!) a good morning walk and another in the evening, might be all I can manage. I know this works for me…on my Fitbit, my cardio fitness has risen to 38-42.

I can use a lot of what I do to aid my reaching exercise targets without needing to go to a gym – After the weight piled on, I worried I might need to go to the gym to address specific areas of my body that needed to be exercised. I’m learning to use what’s around me…

I move a lot of wood! My partner chainsaws while I do the picking up and barrowing…I make sure I’m  doing single or double arm curls when I pick up logs, and depending which way round I barrow, I’ve found this uses different muscles in my shoulders, back and arms.

Collecting tiny new trees on our land gives me a great squat work out. I collect one plant on each squat, come up, walk to the pot and plant the tree and walk to the next one….I have knee damage after falling about fifteen years ago, so I find repetitive squats hurt almost immediately and I can’t do more than half a dozen. This way, I get to do more and I don’t hurt at all.

Due to back damage, I find digging in the usual way with a spade down into the ground undoable, but using a mattock to break up the earth, and my new, smaller curved handle spade to scoop up the soil and stones, I’ve turned the final corner digging out the foundations for my potting shed (an old conservatory we helped to take down that we’re recycling) I can mattock straight in front of me with my legs bent, or to either side, all three positions have strengthened arms, shoulders, back and legs. Digging out the earth and throwing it up into the barrow works my triceps really well!

Dance is the best and most fun exercise ever! I always bill bellydance as a full body work out, and having started another beginners class in Aberystwyth, I’m now teaching six hours each week, plus a regular private lesson, plus any events we dance at.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my yoga when I get back from my morning walk. I do as many and which ever poses I feel like (sometimes I just sit and breathe) and I’m loving the peace it’s bringing me.

I wish someone had told me I would feel like this a year ago

A year ago, having to go back on HRT after the lack of nicotine in my body sent my hormones manic, and being put on a different dosage to the one I’d had before, I put on at least two stone in weight in a matter of weeks. Only now, one year on, after trying jogging, walking millions of steps and trying all sorts of different foods and combinations am I starting to feel like ‘me’ again.

The return of the menopausal symptoms dragged me down, both physically and mentally. I felt like my whole body was out of my control, condemned to be ‘down’, droopy and saggy, being pulled without my say so. Although my doctor was keen to recommend ‘Couch to 5k’, which proved too much for my knees, she told me I’d have to put up with the band around my middle….lucky for me, I’m a fighter.

It’s been hard work…actually, it’s been DAMN hard work! There have been mornings when I’ve wanted to stay in bed and let the world carry on without me, but I didn’t give up….all life is far too precious to waste it.

One year on I do still get ‘down’ days, but life is generally on the ‘up’, and I make the most of every one of them.

Thank you for reading. Join me next time for Healthy Life #8 – Listen to your body – food. Bright blessings xx

 

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Life begins at fifty – Healthy life #3 Ignore the images!

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I have no problem with young women taking charge of their lives, and looking to be as fit and healthy as they can be, but I do have a problem when the media bombards women with only images that are not attainable by most.

I was twenty three when I join a gym for the first time, and I wanted to look like this. The reality was, I trained twice a day, six days a week and in five months, I pretty much did, but it wasn’t sustainable…or rather it was if my whole life revolved around exercise.

At this stage in my life, I have so many things I want to do! Exercise can be part of my life, and I’m happy about that, but I want it to be part of who I am, so the exercise HAS to be enjoyable.

From all I’ve read about exercise and health, there seems to be two things that are important:

Consistency

Active exercise

Consistency means you do a certain exercise, in a certain way, often, and I’ve chosen walking for this. Every morning, I walk between 2k and 4k steps around my land before breakfast. I’m now following this with 3-5 yoga poses. So, my walking is consistent but the length and intensity of my walk may vary, depending on what else I’m doing for the rest of the day. When I started, I worried I wouldn’t make 10k per day and pushed the mornings too much, especially on a ‘dancing day’. I managed the day, but struggled to get up the next morning! I’ve let go the need to achieve the 10k, listening to my body more, and going with how it feels.

Active exercise is about raising your heart rate in order to burn calories and fat efficiently. I use my Fitbit to monitor this and its really useful…yes, I can programme in extra data, but I don’t want to get obsessed by this. My active exercise can be pushing the walking harder, dancing or working on the land….mattocking and digging works well!

Should you have a goal? Should you have a weight target or a dress size? Should you have a fitness challenge?

It depends what motivates you,

I’ve set myself the challenge to lose 14lbs – 21lbs, because I think my knees will thank me for it! Carrying less weight and fitting back into my jeans is my motivation, but I’m not setting myself a time limit.

I’m also not on a diet as such. My eating is whole food plant based and I’m using Cronometer to monitor the nutrients I’m getting in as much as the calories. Most days I’m eating between 1.3k and 1.8k calories, while burning more than 2.1k. As my body muscle increases and the fat slowly drops away, my weight will decrease and I’m happy for it to be a slow process.

Join me next time for a delicious, versatile smoothie that you’ll love!