Barbara: Functional Fitness, English Edition

Last week, I had to make a fast trip back to the UK to support my beloved CR in the settling of his mother’s affairs, including her house. There was a funeral, too, of course, but funeralsthe abandoned abbey at Battle don’t seem to always require a lot of physical strength.

What did require stamina was two 12-hour flights (including lay-overs) in less than six days. It also took a lot of strength and stamina to unload and unpack and sort through all the things that were in the house.  It was not unduly cluttered or overwhelming, only the simple, sweet, ordinary flat of a retired woman with many pictures and plants and kitchen gadgets.   We had to bring down the detrius of two childhoods from the attic, which involved a ladder and passing things through a hole in the roof.  The days whooshed by, packing, sorting, packing, walking up to the village for a meal, walking up to the village to get more trash bags, walking around Cranbrook to buy a shirt (because….uh…someone might have washed a lipstick with her beloved’s white funeral shirt). One day we took a lunch break and drove to Battle (the site of the famous Battle of 1066, which really did change history) because it was only a few minutes drive and I’d never been there.  (“What?” said The Brother when I tried to puzzle out where the battleground was after realizing a church by the lawyer’s office was Norman, “you’ve never been there? It’s right by the tip (that would be the dump. I think). I’ve been driving there three times a day. Let’s just have a break and have lunch there.”)

So we did, and it was muddy but fresh and not raining, so we all got some fresh air and a bowl of soup and a tromp around an ancient battleground.

At times like this, I am grateful for the ordinary routine of ordinary exercise. Not to burn off fat or get a six-pack or give me a great ass.  No, just walking the dog every day to keep my body functioning.  Swimming sometimes to keep the shoulders loose and arms with enough muscle to be useful.  Lots of gardening (oh, does spring ever seem further away than in February??) to keep the body flexible and ordinary sorts of muscles working smoothly and strongly.

That ordinary sort of exercise, the sort I’ve been urging here so much, meant that it was possible to do all that flying, hauling suitcases and adjusting to jet lag, work really hard for several days, do all that was required for life.  I could simply do it.

A sudden upheaval of any kind is an extreme example, of course, but it’s also realistic.  Things happen in all of our lives that require ordinary, daily fitness. But functional fitness is important in all aspects of our lives.  You can not only show up when there is an emergency, but you can do things on your own to keep yourself moving and independent long into ancientness. You can carry a bag of cat litter or a bag of soil, shovel snow (at least light snow) and clean windows and pick up a child.

Regular routines create regular fitness.  How are you doing at building those ordinary routines into your life?  If you’re still struggling, what’s standing in your way?  Maybe it’s a mental block, maybe a physical one. 

20 thoughts on “Barbara: Functional Fitness, English Edition

  1. Today, for me, it was snow shoveling. So grateful for my strong 60-year-old body that allowed me to work hard and help Husband clear away the new snow this morning. Arthritis can sometimes really get me down, but if I keep moving, keep the joints going, I will win. I do exercise at least 5 times a week–swimming or the treadmill and in the summer, biking, but you’re right Barbara. The everyday movement of going up and down the stair or gardening or mowing or snow shoveling–daily fitness is the key. Thanks!

  2. Kelly S. says:

    First, my condolences Barbara to you and CR and family.

    Second, I have a walk from where I can park my car to the building on campus where I work. Twice a day, 8 minutes each way, plus stairs usually on both ends that I sometimes climb. I want to get back to making it a standard to always climb the stairs. I work on the 4th floor of my building and often am forced to park on the 4th floor of the ramp. I am also looking forward to spring so my walking meetings can start up again.

    Third and somewhat off topic, for those in Michigan and I believe there are more than a few of us, there is a lecture on Feb. 20th at Michigan State University given by Matthew Jockers who did macroanalysis on plots within stories. I thought some may find it interesting. The details are at

  3. So sorry to hear of your loss, Barb. Big hugs to CR. Even when we are prepared it still hits hard. Going through the personal effects is equally as difficult because each item carries with it a memory.
    Glad you were physically fit to undertake the travel, because when you aren’t and then the emotional stress overtakes it can play havoc.
    Living alone causes me to be physically active every day, because if something needs doing there is only me. I like to think I’m strong, but I know there are things I won’t take on any more. Some days it pays to pay for what I need done.

  4. Carol says:

    I was thinking of this subject this very weekend, while I was pruning the rose bushes and the brugmansia, and squatting to weed the flower beds, and lifting and moving pots. I believe my exact words were “this is why I work out.”

  5. RanchGirl says:

    Living on our little ranch keeps me moving every day. When I lost my old mare I no longer needed to take the four-wheeler to bring hay and feed out to her, so it has been garaged ever since. I walk where ever I need to go. Between cleaning stalls at least once a day, spraying roundup along fences, etc., walking 300 yards just to get the mail, and all the other physical needs of keeping this place up, I get a lot of exercise. I have lost over 20 pounds since I retired from my office job, where I spent all day working at a computer. I too suffer with arthritis and it is really hard work getting up in the morning, but I usually hit my stride after about an hour of activity. Age is creeping up but it is not going to win without a fight!

  6. My condolences to you and CR and the rest of his family. It’s very hard, no matter what the circumstances are.

    My reasons for not moving seem to be psychological. I’m working on them. I think they are the same or related to the ones that keep me from writing and doing art. I feel like I need a bettering ram to get through to where I want to be. Because I want to be fit and capable until the day I die.

  7. I’m so sorry, Barb. I know how much you liked CR’s mom when you went to visit, and he must be devastated. She sounded so lovely.

    As for functional fitness, I’m shoveling snow and hauling firewood and dragging Wolfie’s ass back into the house when he decides to lurch into the road after deer (who are completely unimpressed). I’ve also been schlepping furniture and building supplies. I am woman, watch me collapse on the bed tonight and watch TV.

  8. Maybe a weather one. Though I admit, I could bundle up to walk the dog, but I’d rather not. Between snow storms (not as bad as many part of the country, but more than our usual share), rain, and freezing temps, the poor pooch hasn’t had a walk in longer than I can remember.

    I spent a short bit of time last weekend at the happiest place on Earth. Kiddo and I going back in 2 months for a full on vacation. Which will require lots of walking. After maybe 30 minutes this past weekend, my knees were unhappy. I have two months to build up some stamina or this trip is going to be slow and plodding and not very fun for the teenager.

  9. Deborah Blake says:

    Condolences from me too. (About the washing the lipstick with the shirt part, as well.)

    I am sadly out of shape, and keep swearing I’m going to move more. Then I sit and type…

    I do, however, heft 40 lb bags of pellets for the pellet stove, and go up and down the stairs a number of times a day, and today I got to shovel. So that’s something. Also, on Saturdays when I am cleaning the house (which counts as exercise too) I put on music and dance around like a crazy woman 🙂

  10. Maine Betty says:

    Yesterday I did not shovel, so today I must shovel, if I want to go anywhere, which I guess I do.
    All the things I always think I will do on a snow day, I did not do. In fact, I did most of them this morning, because the sun is shining and I got up early.

  11. Carol says:

    My condolences to you and CR and the family. A sudden passing is such a shock.

    Movement is a must. No snow to shovel here but it is forecast for Sunday. Sweeping the front driveway, laundry and cleaning house. Lots of movement today but sadly no lifting the sweet little granddaughters.

  12. Just stop and rest a lot. Let the teenager go on ahead. Or rent a scooter ahead of time. It makes all the difference. But then, my knees are almost bone on bone and even the little walking I did, from the scooter to a ride or a restaurant, had me in a lot of pain by nightfall.

  13. I went to the pool today. I really need to open up the DVDs I have — Yoga for Pain, Sit and Be Fit, Yoga for Fat People (it has a nicer name). That way I could get a little exercise in between.
    Spent more than an hour water walking and I’m tired!

  14. I am grateful every day for the weight loss work and the exercise effort I’ve done that make it possible for me to move, climb stairs, and do the most ordinary, mundane things with far greater physical ease!

    I took a cruise a couple of weeks ago and made it a point to be active. I took the stairs and up and down decks instead of the elevator. I enjoyed line dance lessons. Just walking around the ship to different activities helped me log lots of steps on FitBit.

    Here at work, I do so much work at my desk on the computer, that I could sit most of the day. Lately I make it a point to get up and walk around outside for a few minutes.

    Walking the dogs for longer periods and riding my bike do great things for me in both mind and body. There’s something that invigorates my brain and makes my heart smile when I pedal down to the beach or along the old Seven Mile Bridge while the sun comes up. Doing Tai Chi regularly has made what used to be difficult much easier because of my increased flexibility, leg strength and balance.

    My driver’s license says I’m older. My body feels younger.

  15. Thankfully, I’m not there yet. But I will be taking advantage of the benches. The good thing is that we have several days so no need to hit everything in one day.

  16. Trying to walk more. I used to walk EVERYWHERE in NorCal but SoCal is a car sort of city and I’ve fallen out of the habit. 🙁

    Walked yesterday, though, about 45 minutes. And today for same. I actually tracked distance today, too, did about 3.5 miles.

    I have all these grand plans to try things: a martial art, fencing, horseback riding…partly it’s money concerns, but I think mostly I’m scared of the “I suck at this” phase. I don’t do well at not being good at things. But if it’s something I’m fascinated by, something I’ve longed to learn then I need to grit my teeth and start. I did with swing dancing and that is one of my great joys.

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