Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cross Country Skiing - or - Why I Joined Weight Watchers

'Norse am I when the first snow flies...'

That's a line from a silly, sentimental poem we learned as kids in school.  It's about how much we, as Canadians, supposedly love the winter.  In my case it happens to be true.  I grew up on skis.  My mother was from Northern Quebec;  part of a 3% English-speaking population, regrettably, so I'm not bilingual, but I do know how to ski.  When I was a kid we skied every weekend all winter.  We had inexpensive wooden touring skis and we would head out to any nearby park, conservation area or golf course.  Resorts with groomed trails did not exist in those days.

Here is a picture of me with my Dad taken when I was eight.

Later on, in high school I took up downhill skiing for a while, but it never had the same appeal.  For me, skiing isn't about the 30-second thrill of a downhill run, but the constant swish-swish of your skis as you glide over top of fresh powder, winding your way through tree-lined valleys and following frozen brooks.

 I went cross country skiing this morning for the first time this season.  We had six inches of dry powder overnight and it was too good an opportunity to pass up, so we headed out to a little resort a 45 minute drive from our house.  I would still prefer to hit the local parks but my husband is a rookie skier so he prefers groomed trails.  We skied for two hours.  When we ski we don't ski-and-chat, or take breaks.  It's non-stop cardio activity.  However, I was forced to stop a time or two because skiing with Mark, my husband, is a bit like that bad old joke about the two guys who went golfing and one had a heart attack and died right after teeing off - " and it was , hit the ball, drag George..."  Skiing with Mark it can sometimes be 'Ski 500 meters, go back and find Mark', but he's getting better all the time and can almost keep pace with me now.  He only began a few years ago at my insistence.  He's a life-long jock though and he does enjoy it.

So what does a passion for skiing have to do with Weight Watchers?  Four years ago, while out skiing one Sunday I fell and couldn't get back up because I couldn't get back up, using my poles in the proper manner.  I did not have sufficient strength in my arms to lift myself at the weight that I was at that time.  I had to remove my skis and stumble to my feet red-faced with shame and exertion, ignoring all the passing skiers with their kind offers of help.  At that moment I thought maybe it was time I considered giving up skiing.  What was I thinking?  How can you consider giving up something that has always been a part of your life?  But I honestly thought that maybe I was too old to go on skiing.

Fortunately, more rational thinking prevailed  and I came to my senses when I reminded myself that my mother, also a lifelong skier, continued skiing into her late seventies and only gave it up after her third fracture resuting from a fall.  Her doctor told her osteoporosis was just too severe.  I don't have osteoporosis, nor am I a likely candidate for it, having inherited my father's body type.  My problem was weight, pure and simple. 

When I forced myself to be brutally honest I began to realise that most of the activities I enjoyed were becoming harder and harder to do.  I'm a real outdoors kind of person but day-long hikes had turned into half-day hikes and four-hour bike rides were now two.  My husband helped me more and more with the garden and even housework had become next to impossible.  I couldn't carry the vacuum cleaner up the stairs anymore without becoming utterly exhausted.  Somehow I knew none of this really had anything to do with the fact that I was in my 50's.

So, a few weeks later after the skiing incident, I followed a friend to a Weight Watchers meeting held in the basement of a local church.  As mentioned in a previous post, I didn't exactly embrace the concept at first.

Today, however, as I swished my way across new snow in brilliant sunshine, I give thanks for that wake up call and what returning to Weight Watchers has enabled me to go on enjoying in my life.  There's a deep connection to family and country for me when I ski.  I remember who I am and why I love where I live.  How could I bear to almost lose sight of that?  Never again!

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