Sunday, 7 September 2014

Slippage ...Beginnings, Endings, and Beginnings Again

I've already used the opening lines from Dickens A Tale of Two Cities in a post on my blog. But it's amazing how often those words can be applied to one's life. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." 

With those words Dickens perfectly sums up my very first semester of teaching during the winter of 1985. The best of that I finally had a full time teaching job; I was over the moon about that, so keen and excited to go to work each day. The worst of times... in that I worked day and night, literally (I taught 2/3 at day school, 1/3 at night school.) It seemed as if I never stopped working.Teaching is a hard job, especially so at the beginning of one's career. Plus, I couldn't afford a car and it took me two hours and three buses to get to my day job, two buses from my day job to my night school job and then two more home after night school, all during a very cold and snowy winter. So I was always tired, always sitting on a bus or waiting for a bus, and always wading through snow.... or so it seemed. 

Ah well...I was young and keen, and soon enough it was spring, and I had met my husband and, well...the rest, as they say, is history... I wrote about all that in my very first post on this blog. You can read about it here.

I retired from teaching a year and a half ago. That was tough. I loved my job; I threw my heart and soul into it. And I loved it right to the end. But I knew I was ready. I'd prepared; I started to scale down my commitments two years before. I resigned from board-wide committees and gave up several school-based extra curricular activities. Then in the last year I resigned my headship, and in my last semester taught only a two thirds timetable. 

I made a perfect exit. With a fabulous surprise party organized by three lovelies whom I had worked with and mentored when they were fledgling teachers, a luscious department brunch attended by all my favourite "peeps" (as I was wont to call them) and the official staff goodbye party with lots of laughs and funny speeches.... and tears (not all mine.) Perfect. 

My speech at my staff retirement party. Telling funny stories, waving my hands and tearing up. 

Off to my new life. Then the day after my staff retirement party and final farewell, my very athletic-skiing-canoeing-hockey-playing Hubby was diagnosed with a major heart blockage. This was the last thing we expected. But s**t happens, right? And, as Scout says in To Kill a Mockingbird, "thus began our longest journey together." 

Beginnings... Again:
So my retirement, at least initially, was not the "best of times" as anticipated. The winter of 2013 definitely was the "winter of despair" for us. But now, after a long recovery, Hubby is back doing all the things he loves, and we started travelling again last winter. Yep, all is well. We're living the "Pura Vida," as they say in Costa Rica. 

Definitely the "best of times"...except for ... well... the slippage. 

Let me explain. Keeping fit has been an integral part of my life for the last thirty years. I had, after all, married an athlete/phys.ed. teacher who was very supportive of my efforts - my very own personal coach. So, I ran for years until my knees gave out. I joined a gym for a few years; then we bought gym equipment and had it installed in our basement. I learned to canoe and ski, which we do together... along with cycling, hiking...and whatever. 

And while we've had tons of fun doing all these things, being active has its challenges.

Example #1... That's me below in Algonquin Park on a canoe trip sometime in the 80's. I'm trying to finish the last of my breakfast which is impaled on my fork... and shelter from the rain under the tarp...and I'm definitely NOT having fun.

Example #2. Me...on Mount Kosciuszko in Australia in 2008. The reason I'm walking like Herman Munster is that the wind was so strong it almost knocked me over. Later it rained. Enough said.

Example #3. Me and Hubby hiking in the CairnGorms in Scotland in 2005. We hurried to take this shot before the mist descended. Then it did. Hubby has another shot of me where all you can see, really, are my ankles and feet. Then it rained.

Example #4. Doing a canopy walk in the Cloud Forest of Costa Rica in December 2013. I'm soaked. Of course it rained. We were there weren't we? 

Example #5. Hiking King's Canyon in Australia in 2003. It didn't rain. Weather was beautiful, as a matter of fact. We were on a 3-day outback safari; we camped in permanent tents, had wonderful suppers around the campfire.... and had to get up at 5:00 A.M. each day to drive to our next destination and still fit four hours of hiking in before it got too hot. Five o'clock....A.M.! And each morning the guide strolled between the tents shouting "Wakey, wakey, wakey." I muttered to my husband the last morning, "He doesn't know how close he is to death right now!" In our photo album Hubby has annotated this picture with the caption..."Don't jump! You can sleep in tomorrow!"

No, weather does not hold us back. (Nor early mornings, for that matter.) As my husband is fond of saying, you can't let weather stop you from doing what you want to do. I'm lucky that Hubby is so determined to stay active; I have to stay in shape just to be able to keep up with him. And years of keeping up with him has fringe benefits with respect to good health, positive state of mind and being able to fit into my jeans. Or it should have.

But despite one's best efforts, the body changes and all my hard work at staving off "slippage" can not stop it. At age 28, I weighed 125 lbs. Then as the years crept by... 130 for a while, then 135 for a few years...then...138... well, you get the idea. 

And then I retired. And the fact is folks, that teaching is a high energy job, and motivating a room full of teenagers... talking, organizing, waving one's hands around while telling stories that are mostly relevant to the lesson, running up and down stairs and up and down hallways... burns a lot of calories. 

While retirement....does not. 

Even though I found I had a lot more time to work out... we cycle more, I pedal my exercise bike more, I started skating last winter.... when I'm not working out.... I'm, well, sitting. Sitting for that hour in the morning with my cup of tea and a book, sitting for that other hour in the late afternoon with a cup of tea and a book, sitting at the computer writing this blog....all adds up to a lot of sitting. 

So I have to do something about that. Diet is not the problem. We ate a pretty healthy diet before Hubby's heart problems; now we eat a really healthy diet. 

Nope... I just have to find a way to get moving. And not get injured in the process. This is the real challenge with staying active.

Like many of you know, I'm sure, being active can hurt. I've had physio over the years for problems with knees, upper back, lower back, etc etc. As a result I have a pretty good understanding of what I can ask my body to do and what I can't. For instance, I can cross-country ski two days in a row... but a third day will kill my knees. Too much paddling hurts my upper back... years of marking have taken their toll there. And thanks to physiotherapists, I know how to manage these problems.

So (clap hands briskly here) it's time for a new plan. Oh, I love planning. Moving my butt more will be my fall project. A new beginning, again, fitness-wise. 

I mean... if I can handle a difficult class of 36 fifteen year olds ... if I can survive the rain in Algonquin Park and gale force winds on a mountain in Australia... what's a little slippage, eh?

And lest you think that it will be all work and no relaxation... I'm sure I'll still find time for that glass of wine after a hard day fishing... or cycling...or whatever.

Back country fishing in the Yukon, 2006
Trust won't be all work and no play. And slippage or no slippage... I'm determined that retirement should be "the best of times." Just with a little more movement that's all.

How do you stave off "slippage?"


  1. Staving off slippage is a challenge! I find myself weighing 35 lbs more than I did at 40 while my exercise routine is more consistent and my diet is better. It's very frustrating. I wish I had a good answer for you, but alas, I don't.

    1. Frustrating is right. Feel like Paul Simon..."Slip sliding away" !! Thanks for reading Maggie.

  2. I'm afraid I have not held it off. Despite my best efforts I am 15 lbs above what I should be and I have been most of my later life. We too eat well (mostly because of hubby's heart and diabetes problems) and we ARE active, dancing, gym and walking, hiking or biking. But I think that is the way it will be for me from now on. I seem to have found a balance between diet and activity and remain steady at this weight.
    Have you reached the age where you are also shrinking a bit in height? Same weight but an inch or two shorter? If not that is something else to look forward to probably despite your best efforts.
    Had to laugh at your Algonquin picture. We may have run into you there in the 80's. We live in Pennsylvania and that was one of our go-to camping places several vacations back then along with our four kids. Lots of rain and fun.

    1. I haven't started shrinking in height...yet. Once I get used to retirement and find a way to burn some of the calories that simply working took care of...I hope that I my weight will remain steady. Just have to avoid the temptation to diet...knowing that it never, never works in the long run.
      I'm still going to Algonquin with Hubby....I wrote about our summer trip this year on the blog in July. It's harder now, of course, but satisfying to still be able to do those trips....despite the rain.
      Thanks for's good to know that other women who are active fight the same battles.

  3. Yes, it's the sitting that kills us! I have found that weightlifting combined with cardio serves me well. As we age, we lose muscle, which is what burns more calories at rest. Have to eat more protein than carbs, too. My fitness plan has slackened since I went on vacation in early august, so I need to get back at it. I just use dumbells in my basement three days a week, and bike three (my knees won't let me run anymore). It's a bit depressing, as it doesn't take long for those pounds to start sneaking up on me when I take any sort of break from the gym.

    1. Carbs are my weakness although I have managed to cut out cookies and chips. I'm also trying to do my weight work-out more frequently. Especially since the physio told me (and showed me) how weak my quads are on one side, resulting in a hip problem. I thought that cycling would take care of that, but too many years sitting and marking in a bad position have wrought havoc on me.
      Thanks for the commiseration...I'm not alone apparently! And thanks for reading.

  4. I absolutely can relate ~ I've been extremely thin my entire life, even after having three sons. Now they are all gone, married, nine grandchildren etc. But my job dictates that I sit at a computer all day and, at 61, it's definitely starting to show. I don't own any scales so have never known my weight unless I have a doctor appointment, but can definitely tell by the way my clothes fit. Like you, I keep moving (fibromyalgia limits what extra I do) and watch the diet.

    1. I didn't realize how much I was sitting until my physio asked me.... so now I do not sit (especially at the computer) for more than 45 minutes. That's to help prevent further back and hip issues. My real problem is trying to find a way to burn more calories when I'm not exercising.
      Oh well....mustn't the Brits say. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Debbie (Artsy in Boulder)8 September 2014 at 21:13

    I hear you on the ever-lurking danger of slippage. To paraphrase Paul Simon (or perhaps Art Garfunkel?), "Hello chocolate my old friend/I've come to munch on you again..."

    Have you tried high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? It's short (and not so sweet, truth be told), but it really works. It amps up your metabolism by causing your body to make more mitochondria--mitochondria that are more efficient at burning fuel and producing energy (therefore "younger"-functioning), turning you into a lean, mean fat-burning machine (or something like that--hey, my majors were English and Art History). Weight training (ugh!) is a necessary evil. I have learned to tolerate it by incorporating it into my Pilates class: the specialized Pilates equipment/apparatus makes it more fun. I'm a firm believer that "The best exercise is the one that you actually do," with enjoyment and variety being key factors. I therefore belly up to the buffet of walking, hiking, cycling, Pilates, Zumba, belly dancing, rowing (on a machine), and yoga.
    Off topic here, but returning to your post on the Mitfords and your hankering for more "Downton Abbey," I wonder whether you've read "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" by the Countess of Carnarvon? It's wonderful to have a wallow in other worlds. My version of Mitford mania was triggered by "Out of Africa" (movie version, initially), after which I read the source material and devoured biographies of the assorted highly colorful ex-pat denizens.

    1. I have heard of HIT but not tried it. I was thinking of trying Pilates as a change. I wish I could find a competent professional to give me some all round advice which takes into consideration my goals and my physical limitations. Love the pun..."belly up to the buffet..."
      I will have to look for that book by the Countess of Carnarvon. I saw her interviewed about it on the TV series. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. i am significantly older than you are (65). after having been fat most of my life i lost 50 pounds about 3 years ago and now revel in my figure and my ability to dress more fashionably. the best device i have ever bought in order to try to maintain my current weight is my fitbit pedometer. i NEVER miss my 10,000 steps and usually average more like 11-12,000 a day. walking is less strain on the joints and can be done everywhere. i incorporate extra steps into my daily life in such simple ways as walking up and down every aisle of the supermarket when i go to pick up a couple of items. i walk my dogs. anytime i talk on the phone i walk around the house as tho i am on a walking track. i love being able to quantify how much effort i've put in every day and i recommend that anyone add the pedometer to their daily routine in order to stay healthy.
    my daughter taught me how to respond thru gmail so now i am susan rather than anonymous! yay!

  7. What a great idea, Susan. Thanks for suggesting it. And thanks for reading.


All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.