Here are three tips that helped me.
Confession. I just got out of the hospital.
I was there for three days with an acute heart problem.
So let me see if these three tips might be useful to some other old dodderers who aren’t ready to quit.
Tip Number One — Easy does it.
I was checked into the hospital for “unstable anginas.”
The doctors put me through several tests to determine the extent of my problem.
They concluded that it’s still something of a mystery.
Some tests indicated my heart is not well. Other tests say it is in good shape.
But in the presence of a half-dozen cardiologists (The hospital is a teaching facility) the head cardiologist said, “and don’t go hiking . . .”
My instinctive response was, “What! I’m a hiker. I want to die while hiking!”
He laughed and said, “Go for walks. Not hikes. Just for a couple of weeks. Get yourself back into it gradually.”
That was two days ago.
Today my wife Joy and I went “for a walk” on one of our favorite trails.
We walked maybe a mile. But we took it easy. The grades are gradual, the toughest being stone steps right at the trailhead.
And, while we dawdled a lot, and all the other hikers passed us by, I enjoyed my trail walk as much as I’ve enjoyed just about any hike I’ve ever taken.
There’s just something about being on a trail that is so enlivening and beautiful.
Tip Number Two — Just do it!
I didn’t try to do more than I should. We know when we get to that point.
Listen to it.
Stop too, and listen to the breeze in the trees.
When I was in my late sixties I had a brain hemorrhage that just about killed me.
One effect was my inability to walk across a room.
Though I kept trying I had such difficulty that the muscles in my legs atrophied, shrinking to strings that could barely hold me up while standing.
I went to all sorts of doctors, but none were of any help.
In the end, I found a Chinese acupuncturist who reduced the pain so that I could walk a bit further each time.
And a chiropractor who gave me a long therapy regimen that enabled the muscles to regain their strength.
In the course of time I was able to get back to my full form on the trails.
But it did take years of persistence.
Tip Number Three — Meditate.
I have meditated daily for the past sixty years.
While I don’t claim any great spirituality, I do believe that the serenity from meditation did much to lower the stress level on my heart during my prime working years.
I believe it also gave me a “moderation in all things” attitude.
I always participated in sports with people who were far better than me.
I skied with far better skiers, hiked with far better hikers, rock-climbed and mountaineered with far more accomplished guys and gals.
And when not going with champs, I skied, hiked and climbed by myself, so that i could go at as moderate a pace as I liked.
So, it was rather easy for me to be “moderate” in all these activities. And to be happy about it.
The head cardiologist said, “I’ve never seen an 89-year-old with a heart like yours!”
Meaning of course, my being in as good condition for the condition I’m in.
Whatever my heart condition, I nonetheless have a good, low resting heart rate, what they expect of athletes.
And I also have good blood pressure.
I am not an athlete. I’m just an ordinary guy who is moderately good at hiking.
And I sort of believe that it is never too late to try developing good habits.
Approaching the big Nine-O, I’m still trying to overcome some of my old baddies.
The Alternative Ain’t So Good
I had a friend who had about the same hiking and climbing skill level as me.
At sixty-seven he decided it wasn’t worth the effort to go down slowly.
So he decided upon a suicidal exit on a frosty morning on top of his favorite mountain.
I’ve had twenty-two more years on the trails than him.
And I’m deeply grateful I’ve had the opportunity to make the better choice.