Can Pensioners Improve Their Fitness?
Everything you read today implies a negative correlation between age and fitness. Muscle declines from the age of forty, as does bone strength and sexual performance. The brain cells diminish as the foot arches collapse. However, when we moved to Derbyshire, in our 70’s, I did ask myself whether it was possible to reverse some of these losses. My real interest was whether we pensioners could replace some of that lost muscle? There was some logic in this question. In Derbyshire we would be running or walking uphill or down dale on a daily basis. After a eighteen week period, the question can pensioners improve their fitness is now easily answered. Yes!
Stairway (not) to heaven
In the past few weeks I sensed a change when I climbed the stairs. It was not exactly easy but there has been a positive increase in leg strength. That’s it, that’s all I can report. Well, not quite all. In bed, my pulse has settled to a nice even 47 beats per minute. However, that is a little fast compared to my 38 beats when I was 40 years of age and at my fittest. Nowadays, I ache all over most of the time. Ann, the second half of the team, reports the same. However, we sleep well and, fortunately, take no medication. Occasionally, we both feel cold towards evening and this suggests that our blood sugars are low. I take that as a good sign. The question remains, of course, how much exercise has been necessary?
We have run an average of 15 miles each week. That is about 4 miles every other day. The glorious 4 mile run is best described as a trail run. However, it includes 671 feet of climbing. The run is in the morning and we usually walk every afternoon, on average 18 miles each week. That walk is equally hilly. Overall, our climbing amounted to just over 2000 feet each week and my programme doubled that to 4000 feet after 12 weeks. In the 18 weeks, that had amounted to 56,000′ or over two Everest climbs. This is about 2.5 hours exercise each day. At 4000′ feet each week, we can become very tired and this indicates we are close to our limit. Our walking is really about bird watching and wildflower spotting, so rarely vigorous.
Can pensioners improve their fitness?
There is a target for all this training. In July 2020 I suggested to Ann that I would love to run over Kinder Scout once more before my demise. This is a tough ten mile run on peat bog and unforgiving gritstone boulders, as in the photo. I didn’t make that wish because I was feeling vulnerable. My diagnosis of leukaemia was only occasionally depressing. The real reason was because in 1981 I won my first fell race, the Kinder Downfall. Who would not want to relive such wondrous moments? However, before Kinder we need to run over smaller hills like Mam Tor and Shining Tor. That requires leg strength plus a warm, windless day. We, two decrepit though still prancing pensioners, under the warm sun, will pause for a moment and look upon the downfall, with beaming smiles.