I’ve just got back from the gym. “So what?!” you might say.
As I can barely lift my arms to tap out my thoughts, you need to know that you are hearing this from a man who, until today, had never lifted a weight in anger, in a gym, in his entire life.
It may come as a shock to some to know that I am fast approaching 60 (it’s a shock to me!), and have relied thus far on apparently good genes, good luck and high hopes. I have been lucky, and for that I am deeply grateful, as we are all encouraged to be by every single wellbeing guru in the world, it seems.
Facing the twilight of my fifties, and relishing the new lease of life that Portugal has gifted me, I realise that I need to be more than merely hopeful and do more than simply live in gratitude when it comes to my health. I can’t rely only on good luck from hereon in.
I have realised that the time has come to proactively invest in my body’s vitality and chances of longevity. Following on from my recent thoughts here that our retirement years may be the best resourced and most longed-for, there can also be the pang that they may not be our fittest or healthiest.
Seeing a cross-section of migrant life and recent arrivals, I note in others that this is either a proactive matter, where a plan is in place, or an enforced realisation where sudden ill health brings a wake-up call for better self-care.
How poignant then that these golden years might be a bit rusty too. That said, we do have a choice to be a neglected old banger on the highway to heaven or, alternatively, a well-serviced and elegant classic, top-down, perfectly oiled and firing on ageing but all cylinders.
The choice is ours to a great extent, notwithstanding the curveballs of genetics and drastic changes in our collective environment. And there is only so much we can do. But – serious question – are we doing any of the things that we could and should, which we know are ‘good’ for us?
This journey began for me, to be fair, with the help of Good Morning Portugal! listener and now resident inspiration Ian ‘Coach’ Turner. He had the cracking idea that we could create a ‘gentle fitness for bon viveurs’ resource that encouraged those of us who like a cold beer, glass of wine, ‘bifana’ or even ‘francesinha’ to become more active.
A couple of years later, we have a great set of insights online, AKA the ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ or GOD Squad programme, which anyone can implement at www.learnaboutportugal.com
You can thank Ian Turner later for his contribution to expat health, but ONLY if you heed his suggestion to become active, doing something you love, with the intention of enjoying more of this new life that you have worked so hard to create.
And what of those of us who want to take it to another level? Those like me with young kids still at home, grandkids around the world, as well as bellies we’d like to flatten – realising it might be the last chance we get, before peak-sag?
I have been moaning about my man boobs for 15 years and have been carrying a gut that I have always had the best intentions of shifting for even longer. And that’s ironically why I am sitting here with arms and legs that feel like jelly, albeit awash with feelgood chemicals within, having performed (is that the right verb?) my first gym workout EVER.
I have decided to build upon ‘gentle fitness for bon viveurs’ and am delighted to have accepted the help of a UK-based trainer, now thinking about Portugal as a future home, who thinks he, or “we”, can transform my body, fitness and vitality in just eight weeks.
Henry Jeffries, along with wife Nina, are the co-creators of the fully-supported, distance-learning approach called ‘StreekPro’ that promises to “help you lose 10 kilos in eight weeks” and what’s more “reignite your MOJO!”
“One client in our development phase lost 50 pounds, or 23 kilos for you in Portugal!” says Henry. “This guy got his life back using our two-month timeline, getting comments like ‘what have you been doing, I want some!’ from friends and family.”
With Henry’s help and all-in-one app, I am using my local gym (shout out to Dino’s in São Martinho Do Porto!), reporting my vitals to him morning and night, receiving the next step and the guidance I need on workouts, nutrition and other supportive lifestyle changes.
It began in earnest yesterday as the ‘50+ Shape Shift’, launched on my morning show, and today I experienced that other-worldly atmosphere in a gym, as a newbie. A nice lad called João showed me the ropes, introducing me to strange metal machines made of seats, switches and other people’s sweat. And, of course, the weights. Weights everywhere. In fact, a warehouse of weights and the devices that connect them in infinite ways to human beings, who grunt like constipated babies and stare into the middle-distance between their efforts.
Today was like the first day of school, where everyone else was a big kid, cooler than me and knowing more than I do. I think I can fit in, however. Thanks to the routine given to me by Henry, I quickly felt like a cool kid, enjoying the only time when it’s OK to watch videos on your phone in class.
As I pushed and surprised myself, I wondered if each hour I spent there would give me an extra hour with my children and grandchildren on a beach. I am sure it doesn’t quite work like that, but I did get a sense that this self-inflicted and well-supported disruption would reap rewards in the future. “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” I wondered, just like those who say the same about moving to Portugal.
Death, and the ageing that takes us there, are, of course, like taxes and being asked for your NIF, inevitable. Going to the gym and taking better, more mindful care of myself is no guarantee of longevity. But what this process is showing me already is where I have been working against myself. I now have a chance to stop it, and create new, more helpful habits.
This isn’t a superstitious fight against the inevitable, it’s an affirmation and embracing of life itself, such that I might be blessed with more of it and in the best possible shape to do so.
Routine completed, I sat like a cool gym guy pondering that the only time to start is NOW, and the only place to start is HERE. So, I invite you to join me in whatever life-enhancing, vitality-enriching activity you know you SHOULD be doing but have been putting off for months or years.
Let’s do this together and make these the best years they can be in Portugal, where the living is easy (or easier) and so conducive to wellbeing and a long, healthy life.
By Carl Munson