An Encouraging Word

On Monday of this week I did an interview with Patricia Pauley for her radio show Get Active on station KKNW in Seattle. Anyone who may have known me back in the old days at Greenway Elementary School or later at Bisbee High School are probably rolling on the the floor laughing. Judy Busk Jance being interviewed about physical fitness? Are you kidding? Get out of here!

Regular readers of this blog may remember the entry I posted some time in May about our having had a “coming to God” appointment with our physician who shook is finger in my husband’s and my faces and told us “lose weight or else.” In my husband’s case, “or else” meant the possibility of ending up on a scooter. That counted as a death threat because, as Bill told me on the way home, he’d “rather die first.”And so we launched off on our walking routine, and it was no easy task. For one thing, neither of us had walked very far in years. I often said that my only form of exercise was “jumping to conclusions.” So changing 70 years of bad habits wasn’t … well … a walk in the park.

First a little background. I was usually the tallest kid in my class—the middle of the back row—in those old group shot school photos. That made me gangly and clumsy. My mother used to say that I was never in a school or Sunday school program of any kind without a scab on one or both knees. I wore glasses starting in second grade although I should have started earlier. I had a serious astigmatism. That meant I had no depth perception—another reason for all the scraped knees—and I never saw a ball coming until it literally hit me in the face. Recess was hell. PE was worse. The only sport I tried with any consistency but little skill was golf. I was sidelined from that last year with a debilitating case of bursitis.

All of which brings us back to May. When Bill and I first started walking, we did so in little spurts because we couldn’t last for longer spurts. A thousand steps mean stopping to catch our respective breaths. Walking made my still-ailing shoulder ache. And getting started walking each day was an agony for Bill’s bad back. The doctor had told us that walking would make his back feel better, but out of the doctor’s earshot we both rolled our eyes and said to each other, “I don’t think so.”

But walk we did. Bill walks 2.5 miles a day now and I usually walk five to seven. MILES!! A DAY!! And if it’s getting dark, I can go 4000 steps without having to take a break. I’ve been at this for months with the notable exception of the weeks I was on tour. For one thing, there was no time, and when there was time, there were generally no good places to walk. City sidewalks with speeding traffic next to me didn’t seem like safe places for walking when I could see the all skid marks where cars had jumped the curb. And then there were the cars that dove into cutout driveways without seeming to notice there was a pedestrian on the sidewalk. In addition, allow me to I admit straight out that I didn’t make 10,000 steps on Sunday when the SeaHawks lost. That day was only good for 4396. But I’ve walked with enough consistency since the middle of May that my daily average is 9982 steps or 5.26 miles. I’ve worn out two pairs of Skechers and am working on the third.

In the process I’ve lost 45 pounds. Bill has lost more than 50. That’s not all due to walking. Walking alone is not a magic elixir. A big part of the weight loss has to do with Bill’s cooking. He watches both the carbs and calories and tries to keep us right around 1500 calories a day. We’re not starving by any means. We eat two meals a day—a late breakfast and an early dinner. We do not have bread in the house. We do not have potatoes in the house. I’ve eaten more lettuce in the past five months than I’ve eaten in my whole life. (By the way, in the old days, Bisbee was the end of the line as far as produce was concerned. Lettuce from Pay and Tote was brown around the edges and limp in the middle before my mother ever got it home.) But the thing that’s important, is that learned to eat less. We eat smaller portions than we used to, and since it’s a balanced diet of carbs, protein, and veggies, it turns out we AREN’T hungry. And by the way, when we have wine, it’s included in the calorie count.

By July we were walking and eating right, but then we realized something else. Walking wasn’t the whole answer. I had thought that walking would magically make me stronger, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t reach my impossible dream of getting off the pot without using the grab bar. The doctor, the same one who had given us the first lecture, gave us another one: “You need to join a gym.” We responded in heartfelt unison, “No way, José!! Period!!!”

If you think I have a problem with lettuce, wait until you hear about my phobia of Spandex. Besides, a few years ago, one of our friends, a contemporary, followed doctor’s orders (the same doctor, by the way) and joined a gym. He was assigned a buff, young Turk of a trainer who promptly saw to it that our friend left said gym on a permanent basis with a torn rotator cuff. End of story as it were.

Fortunately, the doctor took our NO GYM stance as the gospel and found us an in-home trainer. We wanted someone who was more our less our age and who understood the foibles of the aging human body. Enter Dan Kritsonis. He’s available for new clients, and he’s worth it! On the face of it, our twice weekly workout sessions with Dan seem relatively innocuous. It’s only afterwards that we realize we’re walking away on rubbery legs. He’s been helping us with balance issues. (We’re improving.) He’s given us exercises to strengthen our butts and our legs—and yes, getting off the pot without a grab bar is no longer an impossible dream. I can do it. He’s also teaching us useful aging skills. Getting older doesn’t mean I’m any less clumsy, and on several occasions in recent years I’ve had those unwelcome I’ve-fallen-and-can’t-get-up moments. This week we’ve been able to fix that. Ourselves. From the floor. (By the way, as far as Bella and Jojo are concerned, that is their very favorite exercise.

So yesterday I was on the air talking about getting fit, starting at age 70.5. I turn 71 next week on October 27. What I said on the air was that if Bill could do it at his age with his two fake knees and if I could do it at my age with a lifetime history of non-walking, other people could do it, too. However old you are, it’s not too late. A LITTLE exercise is better than NO exercise. Wait, did I just write that? I can barely believe it myself. This morning a friend told me that two of HIS friends had heard the Getting Active broadcast yesterday morning. Last night they went out and started walking. All I can say is, “Way to go!” And if my classmates from Greenway School are still laughing, it’s fine because I’m laughing, too.

Now I need finish my laps, marching at full speed around the top of the driveway. I’m at 5934 steps right now which means I need to do forty laps, give or take. At a good stiff pace my 10,000-step goal is within reach–only about half an hour away.

Time to go outside and get ‘er done!!

15 thoughts on “An Encouraging Word

  1. Thanks so much for writing about your experiences with getting more fit this past year. What an inspiration. Since getting back into a regular routine of yoga, walking, and consciously taking better care of myself, I feel so much better. The sedentary life of a writer (for the last 10 years) requires that I do something above and beyond. I recall reading Brenda Ueland who at the time was in her 80s say she walked 8 miles every day. I thought that was amazing until I realized it simply requires setting the intention and then doing it. I am so inspired by your experiences. Thank you.

  2. God Bless you, if you can walk then I can at least try. I am 67 with a new hip .. I walk from the house to the car, from the car to the store and back. you have inspired me. Right now I have Sciatica and have been flat for 2 1/2 weeks…It is so stupid I can now use the manual wheelchair so I am building upper body muscles. You and your husband are my HERO’S. Your blog is a special Friday morning treat for me.Thank You…Jan

  3. Bless you, Judy. Another “senior” here; gads that still seems strange, but I’m 67 now. Still recovering from having my lower back reconstructed this past December, with excursions into complications. Fighting with persistent muscle spasms and my inclination to lie down ’til it stops hurting. But movement is the only solution, that and massage to get the spastic muscle to behave itself. I’m nowhere near 10,000 steps; I consider 1/4 mile or so to be a really good day.
    You set a good example, you and Bill. Much respectful affection to you both, and of course the pooches, too.

  4. I am thrilled to hear your exercise story. We saw you at Cannon Beach so heard part of the story in your presentation. I have now started walking, joined a gym and changed my diet so I have lost 13 lbs. this month. I am also 70 years old so just wanted to thank you for the great stories about your successful lifestyle changes.

  5. Congratulations! Walking is terrific exercise and really enjoyable, too. I’ve read that the best exercise is natural movement and lots of it. Thanks for sharing this & showing that you don’t have to kill yourself to get fit, and that little changes can make a huge difference.

    We want you, and your books, around for a long time to come!

  6. I’m 66 and was given the same talk by my doctor. I’m doing well with walking and low carb eating. One of the very best things I did was trade cabbage for lettuce. It has way more crunch that I like, more flavor, and takes longer to eat. Salads used to be just meh…I wasn’t too enthused. I make my salads like I always have, only the lettuce has changed. I really love eating salads now. I also grew up with brown, wilty lettuce so maybe that’s part of the problem. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

  7. You continue to amaze me-70 must be the new 40?
    However if we can have a woman running for president who is as alert at our age…anything is possible..
    Keep writing and giving us hours of great great stress-free reading time. I discovered your books in 2015 and devoured them-that sounds like such an unhappy word-let us say as an avid reader, I enjoyed enjoyed enjoyed!!! You are the most gifted writer one can discover!!! Thank you!!!

  8. Congratulations on your exercise program and weight loss. I’ve read that people over 50 have trouble losing weight, but they may not be trying hard enough.

    I agree with Pamela that cabbage makes a good substitute for lettuce. I buy it shredded for cole slaw and eat it like that or cook it in various dishes.

    I also grew up where a leaf of Iceberg lettuce was put under a serving of Jell-O. The Jell-O was the salad. Most folks didn’t eat the lettuce.

    You and your husband are a good example to others. Bet your doctor is happy, too.

  9. Love your blog! I try to do the right think like eating and walking but walking bothered the ankle so took up bike riding. Can’t do the bike right now because was in a car accident coming home from your book signing in Sun City West Az. So maybe in a few more weeks can get back on track.

    • Diana, I’m so sorry to hear you were in a car accident on the way home from the signing. Hope things are getting better and you’ll be back on your bike in no time.

  10. Ms. Judy, I would like to know if you have noticed if your mind is sharper about things since the exercise & weight loss. Things like recall, if you retain facts better or even your moods? Just curious…..rita

  11. Happy Birthday from CT. It looks like it will be a perfect fall day here and there is a full moon tonight. What more could a person want on a birthday? Hope you have a very happy day. If you decide to have a bite of birthday cake, hope it is chocolate!

    Carolyn

  12. My birthday is Oct 28 and I’m 77, and I understand the challenges of ignoring any kind of fitness for an extended period. I have been enrolled in an exercise program for the past five months, sponsored and conducted by our local hospital organization, and I’m in improving physical condition for the first time in my life. I feel that encouraging an improved healthy diet and regular exercise, you have done a real service for your fans.
    Thanks.

  13. I envy you. I was a runner, minimum 4 miles a day, often up to 10. Then my knees gave out and I had to lay off for a while. Eventually began walking in a local park and was doing 3-5 miles per diem until my doc told me I had to have a knee replaced.
    OK, when do we do it? Well, after your heart surgery. What?!? It seems I have a fib (no lie) which is relatively common, but along with that I have aortic stenosis, which is more serious and requires replacement of a valve inside the heart. That means that not only do they crack my chest, but they have to slice open my heart to get at the defective valve. I have been depressed since my beloved wife passed away last Christmas season so have been putting it off, but now I have been informed, in no uncertain terms, that as of December 8, I am having an angiogram (sic?) in prep for the procedure which will take place in January.
    I am 80 years old, so there is considerable risk. Problem is, if I continue to procrastinate the risk is about the same, plus quality of life starts slipping. Recovery takes 2-3 months, but if all goes well I supposedly will feel better than I have in a long, long time.
    I’ll be in touch next year to let you know how it turns out….or not.

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