After I got over the shock of the diagnosis that my baby had a degenerative brain disorder that would mean he’d have multiple disabilities and probably die soon I started to think about what I could control.
One thing that came to mind was my fitness.
With a baby and a two year-old to care for I had to find something I could do at home, settled on stationary biking and hired an exercycle.
The baby died the day after I hired it but I figured fitness would help with grief and began pedaling the stationary equivalent of 20 kilometres most days.
A year later I returned the hired bike, bought one myself and kept up the cycling through another pregnancy, a second diagnosis of a degenerative brain disorder and life with a profoundly disabled child.
About seven years after I started, around the time our second son died, the routine of biking nowhere was beginning to pall. By then the older child was at school which left me free to exercise away from home and I began jogging instead.
Going somewhere was better than staying still but after a few months recurring joint pain was taking the edge off the enjoyment. As the pleasure of increasing fitness gave way to niggling injuries, I had to find an alternative exercise I didn’t dread doing and began walking instead.
There’s a reasonable hill not far from home. I began walking up it and kept that up most days for several years. Every now and then I’d get a bit slack about it but the purchase of a Fitbit about three and a half years ago keeps me motivated to exercise most days.
I’m built for distance rather than speed and have no aspirations to race.
But the knowledge that regular exercise is better for both physical and mental health and the determination not to be the one who says “you go, I’ll wait here” when an expedition is proposed keeps me walking.
I sleep better and feel better when I’m fitter and I’m grateful I have both the time and ability to exercise.