The joy of directed exercise

I’ve always been a kind of get-up-and-go sort of person. Never thinking about stretching exercises, or anything that healthy, but rather just getting on with life, doing activities. Until I couldn’t, after an injury to my left hamstring, which grew progressively worse the more I walked about, the more I tried to ignore it.

After we determined that there was no pelvic fracture, something that had loomed dark in my imagination, the kind physiotherapist provided me with a range of exercises to try to gain pain-free mobility again. Apparently my hamstring was badly damaged, and while scar tissue built up, gentle stretching was de rigueur for a full recovery. I found the exercises almost impossible to sustain, but fortunately pain killers were also available, and after a while, after hobbling around with the assistance of a crutch, my leg returned to near normality.

But I returned to the exercises, prompted by my beloved, when I made a false step into a large-ish hole in the tarmac, and felt the onset of a familiar twinge in my right hamstring. The damage was not so severe, and the exercises seemed, remarkably to me, to be loosening things up, facilitating easier walking and getting about.

The other day I had a strange shortness of breath. My beloved has been reading Breath by James Nestor, which charts the recovery of the lost ‘art’ of breathing. She bade me lie down on the couch and practise four cycles of the first and simplest exercise: five seconds of breathing in through my nose; five seconds holding; slow and prolonged breathing out through my mouth. My shortness of breath felt remarkably alleviated!

John Crace, beloved sketch writer and satirist, has written a single column piece on ‘guided breathing‘ which with unassuming surprise he has found dramatically enhanced his mental equilibrium. He now practises this technique on at least a daily basis.

These anecdotal experiences of directed exercise are only observations, but It can do me no harm to practise, can it? And if I achieve, again, the joy of simply getting on with things, unencumbered by deep pain or momentary panic, then that will be double the joy.

Our son kindly suggests that for additional exercise, as I had done on my daily forays for beer down the cobbled streets of Goís, northern Portugal, during my prolonged recuperation from radio- and chemotherapy, I should get on my little folding bicycle and twirl around the streets of New Galloway, too. What a good idea!

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