My 10-year-old beagle and I went for a walk Wednesday morning. It wasn’t pretty. Happy, who began our “walk” straining against the far end of a retractable leash, set an initial pace that left my calves screaming for mercy long before we’d covered the two blocks between home and a neighborhood park. Less than a half-mile later, Happy had slowed to a walk. I might have been able to convince myself that my thirst for revenge on my canine companion was bearing fruit had it not been for the fact that forward movement even at a sensible speed was painful.
By the time we’d stumbled back home, I’d reached an inescapable conclusion: Either both of us were going to start walking a whole lot more often, or neither of us was going to be walking at all. Since the latter option was totally unacceptable, I went inside to tell Amber I was going to start walking or biking three or four times a week and that I was going to look for other exercises I could do as well.
I should have quit right there. Instead, I made a play for sympathy for my still-trembling legs.
“Did you stretch your muscles beforehand?” she asked, pretending she didn’t already know that it was highly unlikely I’d remembered to do something that practical. “Well,” she continued, “You can still do some post-exercise stretches. Touch your toes a few times.” Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, in only a few years, either my legs had lengthened, my arms had shortened or I had allowed myself to get woefully out of shape.
Some reduction in physical ability is an inescapable part of getting older. So is the fact that any given level of physical conditioning deteriorates more quickly and is regained more slowly after we become eligible for senior discounts. But that doesn’t mean we have to surrender.
Walking is a surprisingly multifaceted exercise for anyone, but it can be especially valuable for seniors. Repetition is the most important key to a successful walking regimen. The walk I took Wednesday didn’t really do me much good, but a sustained commitment to walk at least every other day will be paying huge dividends by the time hunting season rolls around.
Wearing comfortable shoes will help anyone stay committed and so will walking at a specific time each day. Although taking advantage of covered tracks to maintain the routine during bad weather is great, walking outdoors is more stimulating. It’s important to walk far enough to allow muscles to strengthen but avoid pushing too hard, especially at first.
The professional assistance that accompanies gym membership can be the key to achieving overall physical fitness. Or at least it can be if the member takes the advice he or she is paying for. For many people, therein lies the rub, and the fact that going to a gym is a chore in its own right makes following through even harder.
Books and videos can bring professional assistance inside your own home. I Googled “exercise for senior adults” and was given 6,170,000 choices. I didn’t try checking out “exercise for senior dogs,” but I think I might. Perhaps some of the suggestions will mesh. If they do, Happy and I will be on our way.
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On a completely different subject, no matter how old you are–errr, aren’t–don’t forget to take your father fishing on Father’s Day. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.