Make your body your machine


It’s January and that seems to mean, for most of us, ideas for well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions. We (Susy and Abigail) both have various health issues. To spell these out: alarming signs of increasing belly fat and muscle deterioration (getting up from the floor, even getting up from chairs, can signal joint twinges and extra effort); weak pelvic floors, high blood pressure, signs of arthritis… With ice and wet weather, our balance is deteriorating, and we have friends of a certain age who seem to be falling over more. And, for one of us, recent blood tests indicating a few pre-diabetic symptoms.

We hear about the importance of gut health, but what does this mean for us and our diet?? Health plays on all of our minds too, given the media reports of delays getting ambulances, over-crowded emergency rooms and absent GPs. We really don’t want to get sick(er) and end up needing medical attention. So, we are experimenting with different ways to get ourselves feeling healthier, and to track our discoveries with you, our readers.

No more excuses. But on screen? Or off screen?

Covid lockdown stopped Susy from going to her local gym, and she still hasn’t returned to her regular trips to exercise. Abigail used to do Tai Chi and Pilates classes every week. We are going to explore on-line options, as well as site-specific places and people in and around Rye who offer health-giving products, services and team classes.

To start us on our health journey, we met with Susy’s gym manager, to discuss what kinds of programmes we could be part of if we join his gym.

Meet Gav and Kate, the owners of Rye Bay Fitness, based in the Atlas Business Park on Rye Harbour Road. Gav started the gym in 2017-2018. It has two floors and is packed with equipment, as well as mat areas for group classes. Members can use the facilities 24 hours a day, but it is Gav and Kate’s personal care and attention for each of their members which is immediately clear when we meet with them. During lockdown, Gav kept in touch with every member to explore what they were doing to stay healthy and how he could coach and motivate them. He remembered Susy from her attendance pre-Covid, and reminded her of the progress she had made on her balance, core strength, and movement flexibility under his regime. January is a busy month for all gyms, as existing members attempt to get back into a healthy routine. It is also a typical time for people like us to make a new effort to get fit. The gym offers all sorts of memberships, to ensure everyone, young, old, part-timers and even weekend visitors, can be catered for.

Does your GP talk to you about fitness?

A shock for us as we explored options, is the gap between fitness knowledge and care that Gav and Kate offer, versus our NHS doctors, who tell us to do something about our flab and poor health, but appear to have no direct diagnostic relationship with the fitness world. Would GPs consider working with Gav directly to coordinate a specific fitness plan for their patients, rather than leaving the planning up to us, their patients, to coordinate? Could this lead to better communications, and long term improvements in health habits all round?

Susy’s new motto:  Make your body your machine

Susy Limbering UpSusy begins her new gym routine on January 30, approved by her GP. She will be doing a personal training programme with Gav for two days a week for five weeks, based on her target health and fitness goals (to be achieved by her 85th birthday in August).

In addition to the gym, Susy will try to walk to a weekly Tuesday morning yoga class at the Elysian Centre with Sally Bayly, designed specifically for older and physically challenged would-be yogis. Weekly beach walks with Susy’s Nordic walking sticks and a 20-minute morning meditation will round off her routine. “Whatever the weather, barring gale force winds and hail, I will take my camera and walk more. Spontaneous photography always makes me feel better”, she says.

Abigail: Taking an on-line, at home, route to healthier living

Fitting in regular exercise is really difficult if we are still working. Abigail may also join Susy’s gym, as well as other health clubs and classes. But for now she is taking an on-line route. She has started to do virtual Tai Chi classes once a week with a teacher, James, she has known for many years. But once a week is not really enough. Her commitment is to try to do the classes three times a week instead.

Tai Chi is a slow martial arts form of exercise. It is incredibly popular in the Far East, but is rarely done here in the UK. Abigail knows that in the past, when she has done it daily, she has felt improved balance, joints loosen up and arthritis and joint pain subside. If you want to learn more about Tai Chi, Michael Mosley recently did a podcast called Just One Thing on Radio 4, all about its extraordinary benefits.

In addition, Abigail is going to try two other on-line apps to improve her health:

  1. A daily Mindfulness Meditation to improve her happiness. Two friends have challenged her to a 20-day, 15-minute medication course using an app called Ten Percent. It is supposed to help with thinking, blood pressure and, in general, help people feel calmer and happier.
  2. A daily on-line exercise class. It is another app, and this time is paid for. It is called Body Groove and each session lasts about 30 minutes. “I love to dance. And sing. But I have no rhythm or ability to hold a tune. So a free-form, energising routine in the safety of my living room is perfect for me. The app presents stories of members losing vast amounts of weight. But I just want to reduce my waist size and feel fitter”, she says. To have a go with the app yourself, look at YouTube for free, five minute sampler routines (see Learn the Charleston, Body Groove)

“With Susy driving me on, I have managed to keep to my schedule for four days so far. That’s a huge achievement for me”, says Abigail.

We will be updating you on our progress in the following weeks: including the changes in our health that we begin to feel, how we stay motivated, and other options we will try in our health safari. We hope Rye News readers will share your approaches to well-being in these few months of the new year too.

Additional ideas you have would be much appreciated.  If you have found ways that seem to work for you; personal challenges you may be experiencing, and ideas you have for how we can help each other, please tell us and we will add your comments and tips for others to learn from.

Image Credits: Susan Benn , Rye Bay Fitness Facebook , Abigail Cooper-Hansen .

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  1. I am fortunate to be fit and healthy for my age (78 in March) but, as I live alone since becoming a widow, I am aware I need to keep that way to not become a burden to my daughters & for me too!

    I am careful with my diet, walk regularly, eat all the beneficial spices, play bowls weekly and have just joined a gentle yoga class, both of which are at Iden village hall, and I found on YouTube a 10 minute work out for seniors. (Joe Wicks)

    I have no car so it’s difficult to get to classes elsewhere when buses are few and far between. I’m sure there are many others in the same situation.


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