I’m always surprised when my health improves, as it did suddenly two days ago, enabling me to walk to our car parked a mile away up a steep hill. OK, it took me ages and loads of folk of all ages and shapes and abilities overtook me, but I did it! Three days ago a quarter of that would have been impossible. And yes, I paid for it - yesterday was a wipe out but today I’ve woken, suitably late at 8am, feeling stronger! Yipieee! With those extra ‘e’s….
Those lugging home hefty bags of beach gear, had also been on the beach as the fine weather had drawn the crowds from their homes or their rentals to lovely Lyme Regis. Unlike these people, shaded from the sun’s intensity, most of our day had been spent upon the town’s tumbling lawns under a tree. That alone was sufficiently engaging and as the day cooled at 4pm, we dropped to the golden sands and found a spot amongst teenagers arriving from school. They looked so trim and fit and alive which is amazing in these days when 47% of Brits are over weight.
And I found out why as I climbed the steps to the promenade, and gave way to an athletic woman descending. Instant liking her face and demeanour I told her her tan was superb. Startled by my most unEnglish honesty, which usually has the effect of turning Brits off me, she laughed, said she was outdoors all day as she was a PE teacher and so we began chatting.
The youth attending Lyme’s school do lots of PE, hence their superb physique and palpable cheerfulness. I’m sure it also explains the natural smiles they have always returned as we’ve smiled at them over the years. Exercise increases the flow of serotonin in the body, it makes you feel good about yourself because you are in a body which is fit for purpose and hence makes you feel content. Hmm, despite the rain this morning, I’d best get exercising (stepping up&down our 40 garden steps 5x). I’m back ten minutes later and after a rest, am tired but feeling mentally more alert.
The PE teacher and I had got on so well that she sat with us after she had done her swim and I told her how fine her style was. It turns out that she ran for England, cross-country, and that aged 11 had known she would do so one day. “I came from a really poor family which meant I never had the money to train for the Olympics.” Yet, on her own, with determination and grit and constancy, she got to represent our country. Aged 52, she has the body of a 30 year old, the stamina of a 20 something.
That I’d had the chance to swim in the 1968 Mexico Olympics was nothing to do with the determination and character this woman had, but sheer luck. My athletic achievement was nowhere as good as her remarkable attainment, I was simply lucky to have had an exceptional body, to have had a tempestusous river to train in at the foot of our garden - which made swimming pools calm and easy havens and to have honed my superb teenage body through play-fighting with the young warriors of the extraordinary Nandi tribe whom we lived amongst.
Exercise is vital. It enhances your life what ever age you are. It is this wondrous body enhanced by exercise which saved my life several times recently and those young fit people in Lyme will grown up with that advantage. To paraphrase the words of several medics: “Resilience built up throughout your years of exercising, has paid off!”
And, as the rain fades to sunshine, I’m going out again to do a wee bit more, not too much, as one must listen to one’s body. “Think of Seb Coe”, I often say to others but forget to apply to myself. He trained through a bout of glandular fever and it ruined his chances of attaining even greater greatness….
On that note, bye bye for a while…