This week, two seemingly unrelated events came together and created a thought in my head. One: I bashed my toe in the middle of the night (don’t ask but thanks for your concern), and it now is the shape of a watermelon, the color of an eggplant, and feels the way Batman must feel after a tangle with The Joker. In order to get around, I’m using a cane borrowed from a neighbor, Annice—a cane that belonged to her husband Franz. This connects us to event number two: the first anniversary of Franz’s death, at the age of 100.
As I hobbled off to teach my morning Nancercize class, thoughts of Franz swirled around my head. Just around his 100th birthday party, I had written an article about him, “Fitness Secrets of a 100-Year-Old Man.” I interviewed him and his wife for the article and, even though we had been neighbors for 10 years, discovered new things about him.
I had known him as a hiker—a longtime member of the Appalachian Mountain Club—and as a walker in our neighborhood park. I didn’t know he was an avid skier and rock climber (up to 6,000 feet high!) and had a few comical yet hair-raising tales to tell. One of my strongest memories is of Franz negotiating a huge snowdrift, as a matter of course. Another memory was of him gradually making his way back to hiking and walking after heart surgery.
Franz had his share of accidents too, and one he told me about involved giving himself “some handicaps” – hobnailed hiking boots instead of hemp-soled rock climbing boots, a heavy backpack, and a downward climb instead of upward. He landed in the hospital, “but that didn’t stop me,” he said, “it made it more interesting!”
The thought in my head that tied together Franz, the cane, and the bashed toe is how often we let “obstacles” get in the way of being physically active. Franz never stopped—although over the years he gave up skiing, rock climbing, and even hiking, like the Eveready bunny, he kept walking as long as possible.
In that sense he and I are kindred spirits. I’m using his cane to get to the park to conduct a modified version of my usual class … one where I do everything with the group except the walking. After I lead the warm up, I perch on a bench doing additional Nancercizes while they walk on their own, making a large circle in park and returning to the row of benches for a set of leg Nancercizes; then they do another walk, returning for abdominal & core work; a walk, then lower body Nancercizes; a walk and then finally our stretches. The pattern is the same, but the feeling is different. The toe situation, like Franz’s hobnailed boots, “makes it more interesting”—I need to be creative and teach something other than my usual class, but not so different that everyone freaks out!
Whether we handicap ourselves deliberately as Franz did to increase the challenge, or whether we feel the effects of age or of an injury, we need to keep going and be creative about it.
How are you handling aging or an injury?