An African's Anecdotes and Accoutrements
|One of my goals this year was to try and shift a bit of weight - I’ve gained around eight kilograms in the almost seven years I’ve been away from home. Unfortunately I just love my food far too much to ever undertake a rigorous diet, so at the beginning of the month I decided to start with exercise.
Back in October last year we bought a Voit exercise bicycle, more for Ivan to use than me. Ivan has an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, which disappears when he exercises. Shortly before we bought the bike he had a routine check on his heart, and was advised to get a bike and use it - regularly.
Three years after my 1988 car accident I was told to go to gym to maintain the muscles in my back. My through-knee amputation means the muscles on my left thigh and up the left hand side of my back do not get to work properly - amazing what muscles your knee works! Without that knee my muscles had started to weaken, a problem made much worse by the fracture of three of the vertebrae in my lower back in that accident - something nobody was aware of until my back pain got so bad I went to see an osteopath in 1991. Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, had also started, and gym was the only thing that would help.
So three times a week for around three years I went to Aquarius Gym in Harare, which was run by a guy named Rob who specialised in sports injuries and disabilities. He designed an entire circuit for me, beginning with cycling as a warm up. I was dreading trying to cycle with one leg, but when he started me off on five minutes I figured it might be okay. I was more worried about my artificial foot on the pedal, but since it was placed under the strap on the pedals the leg didn't slip off mid-cycle! It was a long five minutes; I thought I was going pass out - that’s how unfit I was. He told me I should work up to twenty minutes... I thought it would never happen. But I increased my cycling time by a minute each week, eventually reaching the desired twenty minute ride.
But back to the present...
Ivan is like me - he doesn’t really like exercise, but both of us began cycling, albeit intermittently. Five minutes was the Holy Grail, but I got there. This new bicycle is an instructor - not only does if offer me a choice of programmes it has a manual option and I can design my own program. It also measures my heart rate during the cycling session, tells me the distance I’ve travelled, my speed and how many calories I’ve used.
I’ve been cycling every day, walking around the complex with Jabba - only one kilometre, but then Jabba is 11 and I am a monopod - and exercising on my gym station which was so surprised to see me after a year sitting in the spare room it made me struggle on the lightest weights. I’ve also been doing sit ups on my sit up machine. Sad that I’ve just left all these “toys” gathering dust while the pounds pile on.
I haven’t lost any weight, but I have lost some inches, and can wear jeans I haven’t taken off the hanger in a year. My flabby tummy is firming up, and - most importantly - my posture is improving. I also feel great, and have quite a bit more energy. It’s quite hard, and I do have to force myself to get on the bike every morning. While I’m pedalling away I watch the Crime and Investigation channel on TV - in my dream life I’m a forensic scientist...
Maybe the weight will shift with my decision to give up chocolate for Lent. It was a tough choice - a couple of years ago I gave up coca-cola and suffered appallingly during that first week with caffeine withdrawal. I recently discovered Kinder chocolates, which are even nicer than Cadbury’s IMHO. I have left a Metro bar (Turkish Mars bar, only more delicious) in the goodie basket on our coffee table as a temptation, and so far it’s failed to seduce me. I didn’t leave any Kinders around, though - cannot trust myself around those chocolates!
Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.
Terry Pratchett, English Author