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Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons from my Father

A while back my 89 year old dad was admitted to the hospital for irregular heart beat and difficulty breathing and pneumonia. The hospitalization and recovery period afterward was quite an eye opener for me on many levels. The main observance being that, like many daughters, I believed my dad was invincible and would be strong and healthy forever......and unfortunately that just is never the case. Sooner or later at some point, aging will wear out your body and the signs of aging presented themselves very clearly to me. Comments from the doctors have made me committed more than ever to getting and staying fit and healthy, keeping up with my cardio, aerobic and weight bearing exercise. To our surprise, we were told he has some chronic obstructive pulmonary disease *(COPD)....which can be caused from smoking (which my dad hasn’t done in over 50 years) or from scar tissue forming for various reason—one of which is from lack of exercise...lack of exercise that can also cause heart problems.
 
My dad was a runner most of his life....not professionally....not competitively....and certainly not on a regular basis that I can remember, but he did jog a lot in his 50s and 60s....several miles. But at some point he let that slide, he started getting aches and pains and the jogging became walking around a track and the walking became less and less. It’s hard to convince someone with arthritic pain in their knees and ankles that it’s the continued walking that will get rid of the pain.

We told the doctors that even though he stopped jogging, he lived out in the country and got on and off a tractor and did lots of digging and hard work around the property and house he and my mom lived in. The heart and pulmonary doctor both said.....that’s physical labor....it’s not cardio or aerobic exercise; not exercise that gets your heart rate up for a substantial period of time several times a week. I’ve heard my trainer explain similar thoughts....that free weights and weight machines alone won’t get it. You have to do cardio exercises, brisk walking, jogging, cycling at least 3-4 times a week.

I guess none of us can say what tomorrow or even an hour from now holds for us. We could be fit as a fiddle and be hit by a car. But more likely than that happening is that our aging bodies will slow down on us....if we allow them to.

Many things bring people to the hospital......and many of those things are the end results of lack of exercise.

I believe, as my trainer says “Old is a box we put ourselves into”. “Old”doesn’t necessarily have to mean that we are not fit. “Old”doesn’t have to mean we will get sick and have aches and pains. “Old” doesn’t have to mean we become stagnate. “Old”doesn’t have to mean we have heart and lung problems. Our bodies are the homes we live in and we have to take care of them. We have to exercise them regularly. We have to feed them healthy foods. We have to work at being mentally alert. Our bodies do age, but if we stay fit, we don’t have to put ourselves in the “Old” box.

My dad’s health conditions give me reason to let out a heavy sad sigh. But his condition also makes me want to go to the gym and work out, makes me want to take an 8-mile power walk, makes me want to go to an hour long spin class or walk on the treadmill.

never too old.

His condition makes me want to do that today, tomorrow and everyday up into my 90’s. That’s my plan. That’s my goal. All I can do for him now is be there for him, pray for him and encourage him to listen to the physical therapists and try with all his might to continue moving (which right now is so difficult for him).

If your dad and mom are still alive, count your blessings and take every lesson you can from them..........

Another lesson I have learned from this is something I should have learned (and listened to) many many many years ago....something that kept me overweight.....A connection that a lot of us don’t make to our weight gain.....that being “when do you eat” and “what do you eat”. While my dad was in the hospital and as I am taking care of him...the answers to these questions are before my face in BIG BOLD RED LETTERS. I eat when I get nervous, I eat when I’m sad and as strange as it may sound in this situation, I eat when I get bored (if you’re not the one in the hospital, there’s not much to do except sit around and wait). And you tend to eat what’s available at the time even if it’s not healthy.....sometimes ‘especially if it’s not healthy’...........that old ‘stinking thinking’ convinces you it’s OK. Come on let me see a show of hands....how many of you have grabbed a package of M&Ms from a vending machine at a hospital, because after all you’re scared, worried, anxious, tired and M&Ms are our friends....little round sweet chocolate pills to help us feel better.....oh good I see one brave honest hand besides mine going up out there in cyberspace.....oh two....three...come on don’t be shy. How about a soda or chips or a crappy cheese burger down in the hospital cafeteria just to get something in your stomach. OK enough of that. You get my drift. I became very mindful of my old bad eating habits that reared their ugly heads while Dad was in the hospital. But hopefully in time, I turned my hand toward my face and pointed my pointer finger at myself and said, “Peggy, what are you doing? You’ve worked your butt off to get the weight off and exercised like crazy to get fit.....are you going to throw it all away just because Dad is not well.......and wasn’t that your goal to begin with to keep yourself fit so you can try to avoid having the problems so many elderly people have as they age....problems that can in many cases be averted with healthy eating and exercise. COME ON PEGGY! THAT OLD PEGGY IS GONE! YOU ARE COMMITTED AND DETERMINED! WHEN YOU GET STRESSED, ANXIOUS, SAD, OR JUST PLAIN AREN’T FEELING WELL...DON’T GRAB THOSE M&MS....EAT SOME FRUIT AND VEGETABLES....GRAB SOME TUBING OR YOUR TENNIS SHOES AND EXERCISE!

Please join me today no matter what your age or fitness level is. Don’t put yourself in the “old” box. Commit to keeping your body fit just as long as you can.

Oh and one more thing I learned. It truly is lesson in the making....a thing of beauty and pure sweetness..... to see an 87 year old woman, married to an 89 year old man for 65 years take care of him when he is sick....and to see the love and appreciation in his eyes at her effort. It makes me cry tears of joy....to see such pure love and to know that they are my parents.

I have someone like that in my life. I hope you all have someone to love and who will love you like that.....if you don’t....I hope some day you do.....but remember first you must love yourself. I love you! And I want you to walk away from your overweight unhealthy self. Start eating healthy. Start exercising. Start training to be fit at 99.

One other lesson that just came to mind.....now that my dad is doing better and I am back home, I realize that even though I’ve not exercised much in about 3 weeks and even though my scale says I’ve gained 3 pounds in the last two weeks, I can pick up right where I left off and start fresh again.....

Life will throw things in your path that last moments, days, even sometimes weeks and months; situations that you are not expecting. Deal with what life presents, but DO NOT QUIT. Just be determined to get right back on track as soon as you can.

Remember this is a lifestyle not a quick fix

Fitspiration

Do you have questions? Would you like someone to help you get started or just keep you motivated to continue your effort to get fit? I’m here. I’m not a professional, but I know first hand the struggle and the hard work it takes to get and stay fit. I know the pitfalls and the“falling off the wagon”. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Why not make it a long healthy life. Write to me...I’ll be glad to write back. If I don’t know the answer to your question, I’ll find someone that does know the answer. PEGGYLEE57@AOL.COM Just put FITAT99 in your subject line so I’ll be sure to read it.

I'm happy to say Dad got out of the hospital and is getting stronger each day.











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