I was told I would never lift weights again and told to never ski or run, and I was given a diagnosis with a possibility of being wheelchair bound before my fortieth birthday. I was thirty-eight years old at the time.
To Be Continued…
I immediately started thinking of things that I could do for work and activity if by chance I would lose much of my mobility, and at the same time being single and self-employed I had to keep going and couldn’t miss a day of work! I was accepting of what could be, but at the same time tenacious and determined to regain strength in my upper extremities by imagining holding invisible dumbbells, and soon started lifting actual weights at home until I moved onto five pounds and up. I eventually regained 75 percent of my strength and I skied cautiously as tolerated, and accepted not to do the activities that weren’t tolerated such as sea diving, whitewater kayaking, and at the time underwater swimming, in general, was painful.
In my early forties, I moved to Essex, CT located near the Connecticut shore at the mouth of the Connecticut River. It was a new lifestyle, and new activities to venture out to. I built a new home, office and nutrition and fitness practice where I had a large industrial home gym all in one location. Although I missed my old activities, I immediately wanted to emerge myself into this new area and explore new passions to be learned and I wanted to learn what my future clients might be doing for their activity. I took a few days of sailing lessons and later discovered many of the shoreline bike trails, but my real passion became sea and river kayaking without the Eskimo rolls; it was absolutely incredible! I found my new love! At the time, I was still having problems road running, although I did run one race and decided road races weren’t for me, just not all that fun to me. Instead, I learned of the many trails near where I lived and the softer ground was the way to go. Not only was I connecting with nature and animals, but it was easy on my neck, back, legs and feet. Trail runs and hikes were fun and stress relieving, not at all like exercise or work. After moving to Essex, I decided that driving to Vermont to ski on a regular basis was a bit too far at three hours away and opted for snowshoeing. It’s not quite the feel of downhill skiing, but it was a good compromise that gave me a challenge in the snow and it was free! Therefore, I accepted, adopted and loved the new activities brought into my new life. And then there was gardening… massive gardening in the new two plus acre house I built! It was another new discovery that was fun and active, but it wasn’t in anyway exercise.
Now in my fifties, I have moved onto Waterford, Connecticut, leaving many Essex adventures and my former practice behind, and while discovering new activities along with playing music again, I spent two years researching to form a new practice based on the special nutrition needs for musicians, particularly active and touring musicians. While living on the mouth of the Niantic River that opens up into Long Island Sound, it gives me the ability to paddle in my kayak frequently as the water’s edge is in front of my cottage. In the winter, I resort to using my indoor rower and I discovered beach running is more enjoyable than the wooded trails, yet soft on the spine. And this year I stopped using a landscaper to mow my yard and bought an electric push mover that’s become an enjoyable weekly ritual following a weekend beach run.
Music helps with activity along the way. I’m always plugged in and have portable speakers for the Kayak, and yes, sometimes Steve Vai is playing, along with my many other selections of music.
As for today, I will continue to kayak, beach run, meditate, and lift weights in my small cottage gym because it is not like work or exercise, it is only a way of life, and an extra forty to seventy minutes a day that takes the place of what could be wasted time otherwise. Being active at whatever it is you enjoy is important. It’s only a bonus that fun activity keeps your body and mind fit while staving off arthritis, preserving muscle mass, preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and increasing endorphins all while reducing stress, enhancing immunity, memory, and quality of life. Activity keeps you younger than your chronological years.
So as this evening falls when many people are sitting on their sofa watching their television and I’m a bit tired after a long day of activity and work, I turn off National Public Radio that’s playing in the background. I sit down in silence and at first, turn toward my piano but instead, I pick up my guitar to play before I go to bed, and then think Steve Vai has never worked a day in his life, and I an exercise specialist and dietitian nutritionist has never exercised a day in my life.
I encourage you to find your passion- a new activity, get out and play or learn a new musical instrument, and remember to eat well, stay healthy, happy, and active because the benefits have endless rewards!
Kathy LaBella, RDN, CDN