I am the least sportive person on the planet. I spent my secondary schooldays working out creative excuses for getting out of physed (the teacher did notice if you "had your period" every two weeks) and I managed to completely avoid all non-compulsory team sports (though I did have to take part in the traditional lower sixth team marching display). Why go rushing around a muddy field when you could be reading instead?
I can at least speak cricket - I find that saying "I see the middle order's collapsed again" is almost always relevant for the NZ team - but not rugby. When Harvey was watching, I used to wander in and ask which teams were playing and what the score was, but as he started talking about loose forwards or getting offside, I would say "you're losing me" and wander off again. (He played as a child, but broke his collarbone, twice, and got told he was a wuss for going off the field. "How old were you?" I asked. "Six.")
I know exercise is good for you, especially as you get older, and when we lived in Northland and Harvey was well, we used to go for pretty regular walks. At the age I am now, he had a very demanding full-time job, but in fine weather he usually walked down to work on the Terrace as well. Of course he gardened, and when he retired he went to his club's gym, and liked it.
I have never set foot in a gym. For several years, in both Northland and Karori, I went to a nice local exercise class for over-50s, but as Harvey became more frail his morning routine made getting there on time more difficult, and it was all too easy for me to give up. I know I'm not fit, I thought, but I'm actually really healthy, so too bad.
But then I heard Kim Hill interviewing Barbara Strauch about her book, Secrets of the Grown-up Brain, and Strauch came up with the first compelling reason I've come across for making myself get more exercise. She said you need it to keep your brain working well, because the brain needs oxygen. Obvious, really, but I just hadn't heard it put so clearly before.
So now what do I do? Unless I'm on holiday with the strong inducement of seeing new things, I seem to have been born without whatever gene it is that drives people to Get Moving, or whatever the latest health-promoting slogan is. Walking on my own, unless there's a point, like having a coffee or visiting a friend, feels boring and futile. I have the Strong Women Stay Young book, and the basic equipment, but every attempt to stick to the undemanding 30-minutes-twice-a-week routine has failed. Friends have offered to take me to Scottish Country Dancing, and it's true that dancing is the only kind of exercise I've ever liked, but my inherited funny feet have now introduced me to the wonderful world of orthotics and the clumpy shoes that go with them, so I don't think that will be a goer.
If you're like me and have found something that works for you, please let me know. Meanwhile it's a lovely day, so later I'm going to park far enough away from my afternoon appointment to get in at least a short walk, with the inducement of tea and cake to come.
The greatest writer of our time showed us that a large and generous heart is no impediment to genius, says *Peter Carey* Peter Carey -The Guardian, Satur...
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