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A Fit Bottomed Dad’s Take: What I’ve Learned

Posted Mar 23 2011 2:00pm
ragbrai

Credit: PseudoGil

Today’s post for is by no other than my father-in-law, Greg Walters . Continuing the theme of coercing our loved ones into writing about their fitness experiences , we are thrilled to showcase his evolution of fitness. —Jenn

When Jenn asked me to write a piece for  on FBG, I was flattered. I also wondered what topic a guy in his mid-fifties could write about that would interest 20- and 30-year-old women and men in the prime of their lives. After a little thought, all I could come up with was to show a road map of my experiences so you might have an understanding of what to expect as you—man or woman—age.

Because this is a fitness site, you should probably know the following about me: I am 56 years old, my weight is 185 pounds, I am 5-foot, 10-inches when I stand up straight, and I’m in pretty good health. Below is my fitness story.

My Teenage Years: Like everyone else, I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Partied too hardy and picked up some bad habits like smoking cigarettes. Blessed with a high metabolism, I never had a weight problem and was always full of energy. Life was good.

My 20s: I met a beautiful red-haired girl with a French name and fell in love with her. We got married, had a baby boy. Then I noticed the first sign of aging. I was starting to gain weight. To point of fact, I began to get downright chunky-looking.

My Early 30s: One sunny Saturday afternoon, I decided to do something about the extra weight. I did some casual research into what type of exercise was the best way to lose weight and determined that swimming and running were at the top. Since I did not own a pool and, though a good swimmer, never really enjoyed it that much, I decided to take up running.

So I pulled on nylon shorts, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and started pounding my way up the street. I went two blocks and had to stop—I was out of breath! It scared the hell out of me. Here I was, only 30 years old, and unable to make it around the block! I went home, threw away my cigarettes and decided it was time to make some lifestyle changes.

I made a point of running every day. At first it was somewhat painful, but as my body adjusted to the stress I was putting it through, it became better and better. The extra weight seemed to melt off. I started to get serious. My wife bought me books on running. I began to have thoughts of running a marathon.

After realizing I would probably never run a marathon from start to finish, I created my own goal of running a marathon on a weekly basis. It worked. About three to four miles each day of the week was my marathon. I was satisfied. So for about five years, I ran.

Then the knees and feet began to hurt from the constant pounding on pavement. I changed to running on a rubberized high school track near my home—majorly boring. Eventually, I drifted away from the sport.

My Late 30s: A time of transition. We had added a daughter to our family. Both kids were athletically inclined, so I took up coaching them in soccer, baseball/softball and my favorite sport to coach, basketball.

I also took some time to explore new ways of recreation. I took a week off for a trip to Canada for a week of mountain hiking. The place I stayed at introduced me to something I never dreamed I would do: yoga. Every morning started with a natural breakfast and a one-hour yoga class, followed by hiking all day in the mountains, a massage, more healthy foods and a nice night of rest (alcohol, caffeine and tobacco were forbidden). Then the next day, I’d happily get up and do it all over again.

I had never done yoga before, and I will never forget doing the pose Upward Facing Dog for the first time. My spine felt like it popped in about eight places. Kind of frightening at first, but it felt soooo good! It set me on the path for my next decade.

greg-walters

Greg Walters at present day—wiser and fitter.

My 40s: When I came back to civilization, I was so impressed with yoga that I went to the library, checked out some VHS tapes and began practicing on my own. My sister, who was somewhat of a gym rat at the time, invited me to her gym to try out some of the classes.

Yoga remained my favorite, but it was not always easy. For the first year, I was the only guy in the class. But the changes I noticed in muscle tone and the healing of my old sport injuries was encouragement enough for me to continue.

My Early 50s to Present Day: In need of something more challenging, I rediscovered bicycling. Summertime riding is very relaxing. Spin classes and cold and inclement weather go well together, especially when you do yoga afterward as a way to cool down and stretch. Now, I don’t ride as much as I used to, but I do take the time to participate in RAGBRAI , a weeklong bicycle ride across Iowa. If you ever have the time and chance to participate in such an event, I highly recommend it.

My diet has also changed over the years. Servings of meat and dairy have declined, while fruit and veggies have increased, though I doubt I will ever go the way of a full vegetarian . But then again, had you told me 30 or 40 years ago that at age 56 I would regularly practice yoga and ride a bike for hours at a time, I would not have believed you.

Lessons Learned: Well, I did all the “guy things” a guy does throughout the years. The sports, weight lifting, the work-in-progress on my yard and home, but I have found that a consistent regimen of exercise is essential for weight control and good health.

Our lifetime is a journey of experiences and discovery. It is a lot more enjoyable when you take the time to actively manage your lifestyle—especially when you try a few new things along the way. —Greg Walters

 


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