When you think of the years spent in retirement, what kind of glossy images do you get? I personally see a life of travel, hobbies and family time. No matter the destination, the activity, or the individuals involved, all of these require a healthy, working body to capture all the joy these have to offer.
I often share with my clients and friends that I spent about three months training a woman who wanted to be as prepared as possible for her trip to Barcelona with her grandson. She was 91. This inspiring woman thought ahead to the challenges her excursion would hand her, and she humbly acknowledged her weaknesses that would act as a barrier to her goal. She was concerned for her endurance with how much walking she’d face, her balance on old and broken, cobblestone walkways, and “having a little extra” to carry around with her when each day she’d spend in a foreign country required all the energy she had to give.
We spent the majority of our time walking, as this was the very test she would take once she got there. I encouraged her that stopping momentarily to catch her breath was allowed. In those moments though, no time was wasted. We took the opportunity to practice ankle rolls and other exercises that would keep her mobile and ease her balance fears. We utilized her in-house gym equipment and practiced many a squat to strengthen her legs for steps. She befriended lunges like a champion.
After our time together was complete, she thanked me and proceeded on her adventure. I was pleased to hear from her when she returned that she felt fantastic throughout the entire trip! The group was all grandparent/grandchild pairs, and she was the oldest one of them all. Despite that, I felt her beam when she told me many of the others younger than she could not walk the distances she did. The group offered rides for the grandparents from one site to another, which she declined and opted to walk. This allowed her more time with her grandson.
I love this woman’s story. It puts into perspective what that trip might have been like without all her preparation. Would she be sitting on a bench catching her breath instead of engaging in conversation? Would she be too far behind to spend adequate time seeing each of the sites before it was time to get up and go again? Would she miss out on precious time with her grandson as she caught a ride? What areas would she have missed completely due to inability to go up steps? What if a lack of balance on the cobblestone had caused a fall? Not only did she avoid all of this, but she put her mind at ease by doing the best she could to feel strong and capable ahead of time.
You may be wondering how a spouse fits into all of this. Do you think she would have been able to take this trip to begin with if she had an ailing spouse at home that required her care? What if her spouse wanted to go on the trip too, and couldn’t do all of the things that made the experience so wonderful? Take the view of the hypothetical spouse. How painful would it be to see your significant other take off on a journey you weren’t fit to join them for? That could feel defeating, frustrating, and lonely. No one wants to be the reason their spouse is held back from truly living. No one wants to watch their spouse carry on without them. No one wants to miss out on opportunities because their spouse’s fitness level limits them, despite how well they themselves have maintained their own physical fitness. Of course, illness is an unpredictable circumstance, and it’s nice to stand by the side of your husband or wife, but don’t let a little age dictate what your physical body can and can’t do. Take care of your fitness, and it will enrich your life.
How can you ensure you travel, spend time with active members of your family, and enjoy your hobbies? Make sure you are in better shape than your spouse. It’s a contest; Win!
**Don’t have a spouse? Keep up with your other loved ones and friends!