All things considered, I reckon I am as vain as the next person. Vain, as in, wanting to look good in my own fifty-three year old skin while also wanting to keep a healthy lifestyle. About this time last year I started to realise the ole metabolism just wasn’t what it used to be and I decided to embark on a new fitness regime. I have to admit I am one of those people that as soon as I sign the dotted line on my gym membership, I instantly find every reason not to go. I like the idea that I can go work out and be that fit person you see strolling out of a gym but when it comes down to it I am not very disciplined and need a definite nudge and some accountability on rocking up to work out. Luckily, about this time last year, I was assigned a personal trainer, Hannah, at the Better Body Gym. Getting a ‘better body’ is no mean feat and I soon learned it didn’t just involve walking briskly on the running machine plus throwing around some hand weights. No ma’am. My six week better body programme included before and after shots (not for embarrassment but to demonstrate muscle weighs as much as fat so if I toned I might not see the scales shift lower), registration with a calorie counting app to track my food intake (I found I had to find the right balance of dropping daily calories while still taking in protein to build muscle), and of course, a fake Fitbit strapped on to my wrist (didn’t go for the real thing as I wasn’t sure I’d keep it up!) so I could count my steps to make sure I was moving sufficiently on a daily basis. Apparently time spent actually working out is really only a small proportion of what you need to have for effective toning movement. I was already loving my new routine even before I walked into the gym appreciating I was gonna get credit for loading the dishwasher, walking Winston and trekking the laundry to and from the utility room. At any rate, the programme sounded so good, especially with Hannah leading the way not only knowledgeably but even in an inspired fashion, I roped Megan and Christy to joining me for the six weeks if nothing else than to give us something to do together doing last summer’s “staycation”.
I tell you all of this now as I’ve gotten into the groove and been assured by Hannah I’ve definitely made a ‘lifestyle change’ and starting to come to grips with this fitness thing. During the process I had to learn all the workout lingo to raise my game to push myself through something that went against the grain for me. I am naturally more a cheerleader than an athlete so this is a big deal for me. At any rate, a year on, I’m feeling pretty good for myself even now as I find I’m having to apply my fitness knowledge to another family member – none other than our laid back nine year old cat, Natalie a.k.a Fatalie. Turns out, the stress from our house building works really took a toll on her and although she’s never been too slender a girl (never having lost the post pregnancy fat after giving birth to her four kittens in 2012), her metabolism is off (stress induced hormone to blame) coupled with her successful hunting campaigns supplementing her diet food from the bowl, Natalie has gone beyond her voluptuous, much loved, downright Rubenesque body to one which limps a bit from having to carry too much weight.
Natalie is not vain like me, instead, she is on the edge of Type 2 diabetes and we need her to drop some weight to be healthy again. So I’ve been told by the veterinary nurse I need to take a photo of her from above and the side to see where we are starting sizewise (just like I did at the BBG), feed her four small portions a day to hopefully get her metabolism working as it should and, finally, I need to exercise her as much as I can. Here’s where my real challenge begins… I wonder how do I exercise a cat who can barely do a yoga ‘cat posture’ let alone ‘downward facing dog’. Dogs…that’s easy I can walk ‘em, take ‘em swimming, get ‘em to fetch – a dog, I can exercise. 6.3kg (13.8lbs!!) of cat is not so easy. String, catnip toys, a foil ball perhaps? I’m just not sure it’ll do the trick. The nurse wants me to monitor this daily in a notebook and I’m wishing there was such a thing as a ‘kitbit’ to track how far she’s meandered from her food bowl to roll on the warm patio stones to loll in the sun on the brick garden wall. I keep picturing Natalie trying to do a Zumba class or some stomach crunches or how about a side plank, but to no avail. She doesn’t even care. She’s just so happy to spread out her luscious white belly to ponder the clover or a butterfly or two.
As I admire Natalie’s oblivion about her weight issues while intending to do all I can to ensure she gets to a healthier size, I’m finding her nonchalance sometimes mirrors too much the lack of ownership for health, in general, we can bear witness to these days. I keep reading about issues people have about wearing masks in public, for instance. And I just don’t get it. These people try to bring in a request to wear the protective masks as a violation of their civil rights, but this seems a bit of a stretch for me. In my mind, wearing a mask seems akin to wearing a seatbelt or even sunglasses.
I am totally dating myself nevertheless I remember back in the ‘80s when legislation by state started to make seatbelts obligatory in the US and people protested the requirement arguing it violated a “right to bodily privacy and self-control”. I always thought that was a bit of a push especially now as I consider the subsequent dramatic decline in road deaths since those laws were introduced and I feel their point is moot. My quick wikipedia search claims that from 1991-2001 lives were being saved in the following chart.
And if saving a life isn’t enough reports note that “mandatory seat belt use and enforcement of seat belt laws results in substantial social benefits. For example, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2010 non-fatal injuries to motor vehicle occupants cost the United States $48 billion in medical expenses and lost work.”
Furthermore, Wikipedia told me that “Studies of accident outcomes suggest that fatality rates among car occupants are reduced by between 30 and 50 percent if seat belts are worn. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that death risks for a driver wearing a lap-shoulder seat belt are reduced by 48 percent. The same study indicated that in 2007, an estimated 15,147 lives were saved by seat belts in the United States and that if seat belt use were increased to 100 percent, an additional 5024 lives would have been saved.
An earlier statistical analysis by the NHTSA claimed that seat belts save over 10,000 lives every year in the US.
Finally, according to a more recent fact sheet produced by the NHTSA:
“In 2012, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives among passenger vehicle occupants 5 and older. […] Research has found that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45% and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%. […] Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54% for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars.”
In short, seatbelts save lives and I think masks could to.
I remember feeling so self conscious getting into the car in high school and bemoaning the fact I felt so strapped in as I pulled the belt across my lap and shoulder. I remember actually complaining that I couldn’t move around in my seat. Now, the seatbelt is such a familiar part of riding in a car, I sometimes forget to unbuckle when I arrive at my destination. I actually watch old films or tv shows, marvel that the car occupants aren’t strapped in and worry about the actors’ safety. (as I said I am 53 and these are things I think about at times)
I know masks feel awkward and unfamiliar, but in using them as a regime for entering out into the world I ask – aren’t they worth it? Isn’t the protection they can provide yourself and others worth the risk to your vanity (if that’s what’s causing your hesitation) to mask up and head out safely?
Summertime is here and we are all definitely seeking the pleasure of separating from the likes of school or lockdown routines to go out into the season. With COVID there’s been so much time together at home it feels odd not to start to find ways to stop separating and start integrating however, because I don’t want this to go on any longer than it has to, I’d argue we need to do it with some level of responsibility. It is unsustainable to keep us from each other even for our own good so why don’t we take some of the simple precautions being advised to us to allow us some of that freedom to take the steps safely outside? Of course I, too, would far rather be blowing bubbles then working out who I can form them with, yet to be able to engage with the world again and begin enjoying, in person, the people I care about; I think the masks are worth it.
As I said I think of them like a seatbelt or even the Maui Jims I sport daily to protect my eyes from the sun. Simple really. I know scientifically that radiation can damage my sight so dark glasses on a bright day, even though others can’t always see my eyes, seems to be worth the shielding of my eyes. Wouldn’t it be great to raise the profile of a mask so to speak so that people wore them like they sport sunglasses? Again the dating, but most Americans raised in the 70s would have to agree that they thought Barbara Eden’s Jeannie was one of the most gorgeous girls on the TV; her genie veil looks a heck of lot like a mask in my mind and a look I’d definitely be happy to try to pull off. These masks have so much scope for a Dragon’s Den/Shark’s Tank product. There’s the the bog standard one-use disposable kind or an Etsy or homemade cloth one (as long as you are sure to wash it afterwards). If universities are going to be able to go back this autumn (that is if people can integrate sensibly, responsibly this summer!) then whose not going to design ones with school colours or funny quips? In America – the land of the t-shirt – I can’t believe no one is cranking out masks with catchy sayings or cool designs. Maybe I need to jump off the Wikipedia and check out Amazon for choice, but I’m just saying these masks could have some personality as they protect us. I’ve even heard how people are going to make see-through ones so that people can see your smile (if your eyes crinkling isn’t enough) or better yet people with hearing disabilities can lip read. These masks do not need to to inhibit our interaction they can help it to take place safely. I’ve even found people look me more in the eye with my mask on so we can be sure to understand each other which to me is always a good thing.
It could even get to the point we just get used to them so you don’t feel so aware of them. I started writing this blog wanting to reference how much I love the scene of Risky Business with Tom Cruise dancing in his button down, tightie whities and his Ray Bans (so as to make the cool sunglasses reference) only to watch the YouTube clip and find he’s not even wearing sunglasses in the scene. I kid you not. Maybe the habit of mask wearing could be the same. We wear them so much we forget whether they are on or not – the main thing is we are getting a chance to be together.
And when its all done and the masks can be chucked for good. It will be great to see how many more lives were saved by this simple, generous gesture of service to one another.
Finally, because I know mask or no mask, it can be scary taking tentative baby steps back out into the world, I share a poem read by Feral Keane from John O’Donohue’s Benedictus: Book of Blessings which hopefully gives you courage to carry on:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
If the poem doesn’t work, one last photo of my girl…now off to get her to try a sumo squat or something…