Some time ago I mentioned a phrase I first came across when I lived in Scotland – ‘Old age does not come alone’. At first, I could not get my head around the phrase but when it was explained to me it seemed to make sense but I was still not convinced. However, as I have grown older, I can now see the significance of the phrase.
It does not refer to the need for company as you get older, as in not being alone. Nor, as someone once suggested, does it mean having a split personality as you grow old. No, what it refers to is, in addition to the growing number of years, you are also accompanied by a growing number of ailments, illnesses and infirmity.
Age is not just an ever growing number, but also an ever growing number of medical conditions
The past two years have not been good for anyone however, this year has been a particularly frustrating for me at an outdoor level. If fact, I am reminded of a second saying – ‘you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once (or more!)’.
The year got off to a great start with plenty of walking in and around the South Downs National Park. I was putting away the miles and feeling really good, despite the cold, wet miserable start to the year. Even with my usual collection of maladies – arthritis, herniated sciatic disc, herniated cervical disc and worn and tired knee joints, the body seemed to be holding up.
Then on the 16 June it all went ‘pear shaped’
I had planned a favourite 6 mile walk around Northchapel when about 1.5 miles into the walk, I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my right calf. Completely out of the blue, I had pulled a muscle in the calf, no warning or suggestion it was going to happen. The walk was not even strenuous in the slightest!
This laid me up for two months and I was starting to struggle mentally as well. The weather had improved and I should have been out walking, not cooped up at home nursing a sore leg.
Eventually on the 15 August I was able to return to walking and getting back outside again, and of course I chose the Northchapel walk where it had all gone wrong. I felt really good again, the body was working properly and my head was in a good place.
Throughout the remaining summer and into autumn I started racking up the miles and feeling really good, when a slight twist of my foot on wet leaves agitated an old knee injury that I had originally got descending from Cadair Idris five years previously.
This was the 3 November, and I was laid up once again! However, on this occasion, I felt I could manage a walk three weeks later. This went well and all was looking good for the rest of the year and into the winter. It was, however, to be my last walk of the year!
Part way through this walk I had felt a slight soreness in my right groin area. I didn’t take much notice of it as it never persisted. But then the morning after our first and only snow fall of this winter to date, I was getting out of the car to clear the windscreen when my right foot slipped and there was a sharp stabbing pain in my groin.
After two Doctors appointments, scans, x-rays, and blood tests I was diagnosed with a ruptured Adductor Tendon with a potential lay up of 1 to 3 months! However, that was not all! Over the past two months I have also been diagnosed with Gout in both big toes and a cataract giving me only 50% vision in my right eye!
So, there we have it, I am officially falling apart at the seams. But will I let this get in the way of getting outdoors, hell NO! 2022 is a busy year for me adventure wish and I am not going to let a few minor ailments get in my way.
I have suffered injuries and ailments throughout my life. I have fallen from rock faces and trees, abseiled off the end of a rope deep underground, broken bones, twisted ankles, damaged cartilage and much much more. But have I ever let this stop me from getting back up and out again, no!
However, given the frequency of the injuries I have collected this year, I needed to analyse why they were happening and what could I do to prevent them happening again.
Weight – this is the biggest contributing factor. Over the last two years of working from home and lockdown confinement, I have put on 1.5 stones (10 kg) and on an already overweight body. This extra weight puts a huge strain on the body, especially when I analyse some of my other statistics.
Walking Pace – I track and record all of my walking statistics using apps on my phone. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was happy to maintain a 15 to 20 minute per mile pace. When I looked at my statistics for the latter part of this year, I am averaging 18 to 21 minute pace! I needed to slow down, I should be looking to a 24 minute pace.
Warm-up exercises – I have always played ‘lip service’ to warming up and stretching before a walk. However, I suffer from night cramps in my calves (something else that is age related) and I think the pulled muscle in my right calf was due to the muscle already being in a state of tension due to the cramps.
Diet and Drink – following a consultation regarding my gout, it was felt that a major contributory factor was drinking too much alcohol! I am a big lover of wine, whisky, brandy, and port and will have a drink every evening, I think it is time to slow down or stop.
So, what is the way forward?
Well, the answer is fairly simple and straight forward and something that a lot of people can benefit from as we move in 2022.
- Loose weight through a calorie controlled diet – no fad diets, quick diets or expensive plans – just count the calories and maintain a balanced healthy diet.
- Reduce or stop drinking alcohol. The initial plan is to stop drinking altogether and take it from there. I have done it once before when I went tee-total for 10 years.
- Stretch and warm-up before every walk, especially the legs.
- Slow down my walking pace. I have to remember that I am getting a little older and the body does need to start slowing down a bit.
However, over the next couple of months, I need to continue to work on my physiotherapy in order to get the adductor tendon strong again. Slowly increase the distance I walk on a daily basis. At the moment I am using a walking stick, but this will soon be replaced by my trekking poles. I have the advantage of a walking/running machine at home, so can still exercise on the cold and snowy winter days.
I am fortunate to have a doctor who understands the importance of exercise as a means of healing and recovery from injury. The outdoors as the best place to be for both your physical mental health, and I will not let a few injuries stop me from getting outside again.
As I said earlier, 2022 is an important year for me and I have many things planned. In January I am due to announce my retirement celebration tour, I have walks to lead and map training to give at a new walking festival. Hopefully, in early spring I will acquire an allotment in order to become organically self sufficient and spend even more time outdoors.
Remember, as we get older, we need to spend more time listening to our bodies. Injuries are and will be easier to acquire and harder to recover from. However, we should never let age or infirmity be a limiting factor in getting outdoors.