The Hamilton Spectator
I’m going to let the Canadian Air Force get me back in shape
Like most of you, I’ve been shovelling snow. I love shovelling snow. Always did, and always will. I actually love winter, though we Sommerfelds are not People of the Ski. While I acknowledge the difficulties that bad weather can bring, I also can’t help but welcome every storm with open arms, and demand to see a manager when it is not delivered as promised.
I now shovel snow a little slower. I look out my window and say things like, “oh, I’d better get out there for an early round to save my back later on.” I used to say things like, “I’ll go out when this storm has gotten it all out of its system.” Now, if I allow a storm to get it all out of its system, you may not find me until spring. I go out and shovel for what feels like an hour, then come back in to find that 10 minutes have passed. As a kid I could fly around the whole court, shovel in hand, digging out the “old” people who were then younger than I am now.
There’s a reason we age a little bit at a time. It gives us a chance to ease into it, to get used to the nicks and scrapes and bends and stiffnesses that, if they came all at once, like falling off a cliff or being hit by a bus, would be too much to endure.
Instead, we endure small indignities delivered in small doses. Last year I could easily lift 20 pounds, a decade ago twice that. But when? When did I cross some imaginary line between being able and not? I mean, I know the line’s not really that imaginary; it’s when I gave up on the gym, again. I tell myself that raking and shovelling and weeding and cutting beats the gym, but the fact I am doing those things in more infrequent bursts instead of a sustained shift is telling.
I have a trick back. As a kid, we had an uncle with a trick back, and I thought that sounded like fun. It is not fun. If I pick up a piece of paper at just the wrong angle, it can be a week of pain. I move more carefully as I get older. I hold onto railings, put on more lights and try to keep my mind on what I’m doing. I shovel less snow in shorter intervals.
The downside, of course, is thatt if a cat is sleeping on my lap, I take that as a sign that I cannot get up, for any reason.
I still remember jumping out of bed. Now, I wake up cautiously and take an inventory of what’s working and what needs oiling before I make any sudden moves. Actually, sudden moves haven’t happened in years unless a mouse was involved. I’m back to the beginning, reminding myself that the amazing Helen Mirren herself credits the Royal Canadian Armed Forces fitness plan, created in the 1950s, with helping her stay jaw-droppingly fit.
I’m going to start doing it.12 minutes a day to fabulousness. I know my father had a copy of the original book, now out of print, and I have no idea where it ended up. Instead, Youtube will have to help. The exercises can appear (deceptively) easy, and they increase as you gain strength but always take just 12 minutes (11 for men) and you need no equipment and little space. Prince Philip credited the plan with keeping him in shape and he lived almost forever. I don’t feel like living forever, but I wouldn’t mind looking as good as Helen Mirren.
Wonder if she feels like coming over to help me shovel snow.