Tuesday, May 30, 2017

On balance

For a variety of reasons, I keep finding myself in "how to retire well" seminars.  My church is organizing one of these as one of our regular adult Sunday school classes, and my college reunion likewise had a session that a bunch of my buddies decided to go to.  All of a sudden, I'm surrounded by people who are starting to think seriously about something I've been thinking about for decades . . . it's sort of fun.

At any rate, the topics range over subjects that I pretty much expected. There's discussion and philosophizing about finding purpose, about staying socially connected, about dealing with extra time, about dealing with decreasing health.  There's not so much talk about money: I'm not sure whether that's "politeness" or because for most of the people in the room, the money part is assumed to be what it is, or what.

On the topic of health, I've actually learned one new thing.  Amid all the discussions of dealing with dementia and decreasing mobility and other joy-killing topics, the presenters keep returning to the wonders of exercise ("the fountain of youth", one physician described it).  Praise of exercise is not the new thing to me.  What was new was that each of these docs said that a good exercise program has four components -- more than the three components I'd always heard of so far.

The three exercise aspects I'd been schooled to work on were aerobics, strength, and flexibility.  To this, the doctors added balance.  Cool!  I can totally see why working on balance is important, watching how my friends and family and I move differently as we get older.

At any rate, these discussions make me extra glad that I started doing this one additional drill (described below) a couple of years ago.  I picked this drill up as a way to keep the muscles around my knees strong; I've discovered it actually helps strengthen my knees and my ankles and my legs .... and (drum roll . . . ) it's super for working on balance.
Here's the drill.  Stand on one foot.  Imagine there are four handkerchiefs on the floor in front of you: one each at 9 o'clock, 11 o'clock, 1 o'clock, and 3 o'clock.  Squat down (bending knee and hips to keep your knee over your foot) to pretend-pick-up each one of these, one at a time -- so you do four squats.  Then do four more, to pretend-put the handkerchiefs back.  Do the same pick-up/put-down routine again with the other foot.

I do this three times through -- once with my left hand, once with my right hand, and once with both hands.  (I switch hands mostly so that I don't have to keep count, because I hate counting things; the hand I'm using tells me how far along I am). This exercise takes a lot of concentration, a lot of balance, and it really does help to keep those valuable ankle and knee joints stronger.  It even works my lower back a bit.

This is the part where I am supposed to write a clever conclusion to the post -- something about "the balance of life" or some such.  I don't have a clever conclusion.  I just wanted to write up a post about this drill that N-son's squash coach taught me a bunch of years ago, and that I've liked doing, and that I now know has been even better for me than I had originally thought.


  1. Love your balance exercise - yoga is great too. But what really struck me about this post is the idea that anyone would possibly need help "dealing with extra time." It's a sad commentary on the state of our society when people are so used to being busy and harried all the time that they see free time as something that needs to be "dealt with!"

    1. Yeah, interestingly the "dealing with extra time" description that most struck me was from a guy I really like who said, "long ago, I watched my dad retire, and he didn't retire well. I saw lots of people who didn't retire well, and I decided I was going to be different." This guy wasn't talking about money or even necessarily filling the day; he was talking about what I think is a sense of purpose.

      He described reading a book called "Half Time" that I now want to get my hands on; he said it influenced the way he thought about his pre-retirement years just as much as, or maybe more than, his retirement years.

  2. That's an awesome balance activity. An intermediate one (for those who might find yours hard) is to pretend to reach out with each foot and slide the handkerchief underneath your body. You stay upright but still have some balance challenges. You only do the N, W, and S ones with your left foot and the N, E, and S ones with your right foot (hopefully, the reasoning is obvious).