At the start of this new year, the role of exercise in my life remains strong, if only because a period of lockdown lethargy and overeating reinforced how much I enjoy feeling reasonably fit. This concern doesn’t seem to be mirrored by many of my contemporaries, who seem keen to deteriorate far too fast, but my aberrant desire to be active and alert remains strong.
Call my five-year journey since age 60 a tale of physical decline and mistakes. In 2016 I could jog 10 kms three or four times a week. My speed was slow: 6¼-6½ mins/km (aspiring to 6 mins/km), but it was steady. I weighed in at 77 kgs. Over the next two years, hiking was a constant, and that seemed to round out the regular street pounding. The following year, 2017, I added cycling and over the next three years, cycling played a part in physical fitness but I didn’t manage it well. I never became any faster than 19 kms/hr; never got a lighter, more fun bike; and solo cycling (I exercise alone) never thrilled like jogging. In addition, cycling ruined my virtuous jogging regime, and suddenly a couple of injuries found me managing only 5-7 kms at about the same slow speed. My weight climbed, a kilogram a year. Last year I dropped cycling and jogged more, but slowed down to more like 7 mins/km. 5 kms was all I could manage and my weight ballooned to 83 kgs and escalating.
The nadir arrived in Darwin in September. I did something wrong on a jog and suddenly my left knee was sore enough to stop altogether. I began again under a physio’s tutelage, 1 km, then 2 kms, then 2½ kms. Three times a week, excruciatingly slow and puffing more than ever. The only positive was a fresh commitment to gym, including new exercises to strengthen the glute muscles plus rollering leg muscles in lieu of massages. The idea is to resist going to a sports doctor and finding out I need an op. Knee operations work and they don’t. Keep the pain below 4 out of 10. Let the brain internalize some discomfort.
Last week a final step in the program. I was told to get a metronome app and try to run less strenuously but with increased cadence. Increase my steps/minute from 155 to 175, I was told. Out into the early morning light I headed. Tik, tok, tok, tok went the metronome and I charged off. After my regulation 2½ kms, I felt fine but the next day … disaster, a really sore knee. Back to 1 km, back to pain. Disaster. Who knows what to do next. Ceasing running, that’s not an option.