I’ve been thinking about health and fitness recently. I long ago concluded that if every time I had some minor ache or pain I stopped exercising I would soon end up doing very little. Instead I adjust what I do to suit the ache-of-the-day. At the moment it’s tenosynovitis in my elbow, a sort of ‘tennis elbow’. I’m back humping rocks, gravel and concrete around the garden again so the pain-in-the-elbow has been a bit of a nuisance but it’s really just a matter of adjusting how I lift things and it hasn’t really held me back.
Apart from the fact that the work needs doing and I enjoy the creative side of gardening, four of five hours working to the pace of a cement mixer is also a very good way of maintaining strength, stamina and flexibility. There was a move a few years ago to leave behind expensive gym memberships and instead join a ‘green gym’, working on countryside and woodland projects as a way of keeping fit. I have my own green gym in the garden with stone walls to build, slabs to lay, trees to prune and fell, and a vegetable garden to dig. Weather permitting of course.
Though the weather hasn’t been very exciting in recent days, as well as the gardening I’ve been trying to walk as much as possible partly to maintain a general level of fitness but more specifically in order to make sure that I’m fit when I get to Greece. I go up the mountain a couple of times a week but I also walk, or combination of walk and train/bus, to most places so the miles covered in any given week is reasonably high, though nowhere near as high as when I’m in Greece. For example, in July last year I averaged 10 miles a day in the mountains on Amorgos.
This year in Greece will be more challenging as I will be starting off on the mainland in the Pindus Mountains and then going to the Taygetus. In the Pindus I plan to spend time in Meteora and then go up to Metsovo at around 4,000 feet, a ski resort in winter and apparently good walking in summer. The Taygetus have the reputation of being especially barren and challenging and go up to over 7,000 feet. How do you get fit for this in claggy Grey Britain???
That’s fitness, what about health? Part of the way to stay healthy is to eat properly. I do my best. The ‘5-a-day’ policy is very good even though the original concept of it significantly reducing the incidence of cancer has been disconnected (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8605270.stm). However, my general diet goes well beyond 5-a-day. I enjoy meat, a very good source of protein, but tend to eat only modest amounts. It’s generally reckoned that nuts and seeds are also very important, so virtually every day I eat a lot of both: onion, poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower; and also some or all of walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazels, pecans every day. I eat only wholemeal bread (which I make myself with added seeds) and for decades have eaten potatoes with their skins. I eat foods high in flavolins like small plum tomatoes and blue/purple fruit and veg high in antioxidants including large amounts of blackcurrants, blueberries and red cabbage as well as, more exotically, blue potatoes. I put a lot of bacteria in my gut, eating copious amounts of Greek yoghurt and I drink real ale, rather than chemical keg, or red wine. It’s a diet which keeps me on the go.
However, trying to live as healthily and keep as fit as possible is no guarantee of continuing well being. A friend of mine who did all this very sadly died of bowel cancer just before Christmas basically because it wasn’t diagnosed early enough. So I am more than happy to play Welsh Poo Sticks every two years. It’s a game with no connection whatever to that played by Winnie the Pooh or by AA Milne and his son Christopher Robin. (for which see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poohsticks)
Scatalogophobes should read no further
All you need for Welsh Poo Sticks is a special kit and list of instructions and then you can play. It’s a kind of Grey Game as the kits are only sent out to those aged between 60 and 74 (though by 2015 all those aged over 50 will also be invited to play), the key term is ‘in-convenience’, and it requires both ingenuity and skill. ‘Ingenuity’ because the test sample must not be taken from the pan, and ‘skill’ because it requires a good backward aim. The kit consists of a cardboard score card with 3 sealable flaps and two recording points under each, and a set of 6 cardboard sticks …… hence the name of the game. It is played on 3 separate days over a 10 day period, presumably to cater for those lacking in daily motions. The score card is sent off in a prepaid sealed envelope, aluminium-lined to prevent any tampering with the scores, to specialist umpires. It is certainly not a game for the squeamish but the reward is potentially life-saving. At the moment it’s only played in Wales though the English authorities are apparently thinking of introducing it so there could soon be a new Four Nations Championship .
I played it for the second time last week and have to admit that I was a bit naughty as I deliberately ate a pint of beetroot soup the day before my first day’s play. That was to check that the score-card is assessed by a proper pathological test rather than a quick scan against a colour chart. After all, it’s a very serious matter.
For details see: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/home.cfm?orgid=747