This is what 55 looks like
When my mother was 55, she had shrunk into a grey-haired little old lady.
Vera had always been active, working on the farm, looking after my grandparents, and chasing us kids, but her 50s hadn’t been kind to her.
After my grandparents died, Vera was reduced to taking a back-breaking job at a factory and developed severe back problems. By the time she reached her mid-50s, she could barely walk, had emphysema and had already begun the slow slide to oblivion. She was dead by aged 68.
If I follow her path, or the path taken by many of my friends, I will only have 13 years left to live, and undoubtedly, I will live those years in infirmity.
I thought long and hard about this over the past year. Last birthday, my 54th, I could barely walk thanks to a nasty inflammed foot. Every tendon in my body was seized and Scott had to spend at least an hour every evening giving me a massage. My weight had swelled to 220 pounds, my blood pressure was up for the first time ever, and I barely had enough energy to get off the couch. I began to realize that I would suffer my mother’s fate — a future of infirmity and depression — if I didn’t get off the couch and do something.
So in March, I joined The Athletic Club, a state-of-the art facility which opened two locations in Ottawa earlier this year.
At first, I was really apprehensive.
I could barely do twenty minutes on the stationary bicycle and had absolutely no flexibility. I met with a personal trainer who gave me some great tips but I knew I was going to have to find a routine that worked for me. Classes, as great as they were, were out of the question thanks to agoraphobia I’ve developed over the last five years. The pool? Not at my weight, nuh-uh.
And so I noodled around the gym, trying this and that. Finally, I came up with a routine that worked for me. When I started, I could do only five minutes on the rowing machine. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been successfully pounding it for an hour. I’ve also started on the elliptical machine which is fairly easy on my foot.
I do this nearly every day. Believe it or not, I followed Ryan Seacrest’s example. Ryan used to be a fat kid and he found success by scheduling exercise into his routine, as if it were a business meeting. That’s what I do.
Before anything else, even blogging, I get up and take myself to the gymnasty and do a workout.
Nothing comes before it, nothing.
I’ve changed my diet but there wasn’t much adjustment needed, as Scott and I have always eaten healthy foods. We just got rid of the nightly chip run (not an easy task when living next to a convenience store). I also substituted an ice cream bar for that bowl of ice cream I always loved at the end of the night.
I know I could do better in the eating and drinking department, but life’s too short. I still love my glass of wine or three at night and the odd sausage or steak on the grill. I’m not planning on becoming a size six. I need that extra weight in case I ever get sick, or at least that’s what I’m told.
My goal is to be a healthy size 14 and I’m getting there.
This has been a difficult journey, a lonely one, but every day I try to visualize the Rose I want to become. Sometimes I think about the dozen or so friends I’ve lost over the past few years who stubbornly refused to change their lifestyles. I’ve been to a lot of funerals recently and visited with some very sick individuals.
It’s definitely enough to scare a person straight.
Besides, I feel better than I have for a decade. Panic attacks are gone, so is the light-headedness. I sleep better, too.
I’m so proud of my progress, I asked Scott to take this picture.
I want to thank The Athletic Club for giving me a place to find myself again — under all that flab.
It took a long time to get fat, and hopefully, I won’t be making that mistake anytime soon.
Thanks also to my friends and family for their patience and support.
I’ll raise a glass to them next Saturday when I turn 55 years old.
I realize now that Freedom 55 means more than just financial freedom. Freedom 55 is about refusing to live like caterpiller and finding your inner butterfly.