I started exercising about five years ago. I was thinking about two things: My father’s pulmonary fibrosis (and my own shallow breathing), and my mother’s multiple sclerosis. I started by skipping rope, reasoning that this would address both concerns. The aerobic exercise got me breathing more deeply, and the jumping provided a daily check on the muscle tone of my feet and ankles, and whether I was having any momentary loss of muscle control. Plus, the great benefit of skipping rope is that one can do it in the back garden where no one sees you, and when you feel like stopping you’re already home. The first day was profoundly comical; I couldn’t coordinate my rope-turning with jumping, and I gasped for air as I put unexpected stress on my breathing.
After just a few weeks, I was jumping up to twenty jumps in a row without problems (I know that’s a ludicrously low bar, but remember I was a late-middle-aged flabby, stout, non-athlete). I got into the habit of jumping for five minutes or so, which meant I was breathing more freely and coordinating my muscles more reliably. Once a week I might try skipping for a longer interval, just to push myself, but the routine of skipping rope daily was my exercise regimen for a couple of years. It served my purposes well.
About three years ago, I think (and I’m a bit at sea about the passage of time, as so many people are, in the aftermath of COVID lockdowns), I decided to run once a week, on Sunday. Morning Prayer at the college is 7:30 most mornings, but 8:30 on Sundays, and I would use that extra hour to make a short run and to cool down before the Office. I clenched my teeth and staggered for a mile, wheezing and gasping, as once again I ventured on a form of exercise for which my sedentary habits (even with rope-skipping) had not prepared me.
I kept at it for a few months, and one week decided I would run also on Wednesdays (the Office begins at 8:00 on Wednesdays, so I had a little extra time then). And after that, I stretched my run out to a mile and a half. A little more than a year ago (again, I think), I started running every day. Sometime at the beginning of this past summer, I pushed it up to two miles a day.
I am no athlete, and will never be an athlete. I haven’t run any organised race with a ‘K’ in its name, not even the ones that claim to be ‘fun.’ (I see through that one!) But my legs are stronger, my breathing is better (not as much as I’d like, but it’s still better), and although it wasn’t my intent when I set out, I have lost some weight, partly through the exercise, partly through cutting out some snacks. Six years ago, I weighed in at my GP’s office at 94.6 kg (208 lbs); the other morning before my shower I weighed in at 80 kg (176 lbs). That’s less than I’ve weighed since my twenties.
I don’t like running; I wish I could keep in this physical condition without exercise, while indulging my taste for big breakfasts and salty snacks. But yes, I’m pleased at what several years of slow change have done for my condition, and no, I won’t stop any time soon.
By the way: Two icy 1° miles (no ice on the pavement, thank heaven), not sure what I’ll do for breakfast, a lot of teaching and marking, and eventually to bed.