When I retired in May 2020 in the smack of the pandemic lockdown, I was overweight and always had heel, shin, and knee pains after an hour’s walk. I began to have more time walking in my neighborhood with a group of morning walkers. Then, a very fit lady joined the group. Hoon, a 66-year-old grandmother of 2 who has cycled Penang round island as a form of morning exercise hiked with friends through difficult terrains, played golf, and tennis too. I was awestruck that she had so much energy; after the morning walk, she does the home chores and grows amateur vegetables. One day we both went for an easy hike and reality hit me that I was unfit. I was lagging behind and not very agile in my steps up and down.
So I started my own journey of discovering how to heal my body, the parts that ache, and the weak muscles. A fortunate prolonged lockdown for my daughter Helen en route to Singapore allowed her to examine my tight hamstrings and recommended some exercises to relax them. I was complaining to her about how I was able to hold the heels of my right leg to my glutes, but not my left heel. After looking at my feet for several seconds, she commented “Your hamstrings are tight – here, do this exercise. It will take you about 6 months for your left hamstrings to be stretched properly.” I didn’t want to wait 6 months, so 3 times a day, I diligently performed the exercises she recommended to stretch my hamstrings. 1 month later, I was able to bring each heel to the glutes without any problem. That was a eureka moment for me and I started to learn more about my body and my muscles. I researched which muscles when tight will cause pain in other areas that seem visibly unrelated, but muscularly interconnected. From there on, I was convinced that so long as there is no broken bone and one is not suffering from a terminal illness, the pain and aches can be treated if we knew what muscles are weak or need to be lengthened. I began to lose weight along the way, my shirt size dropped by one, my arms were more sculpted, and there were no chicken wing jokes about it. YouTube and Google became my advisors but I was cautious to cross-reference the suggestions, as some fitness instructors had more body knowledge than others and were able to explain what the exercises were going to do for the pain point or for the muscles.
But I still felt something was missing from my training as my legs still tire easily when going up and down the small slope in our neighborhood. A chance conversation with Hoon about how her son, busy with work, only trained going up the condo steps and had a hard time coming down from his Kota Kinabalu trip. Ah, another eureka moment about strengthening my leg muscles. I had always been wary of coming down the steps, thinking it was bad for the knees. My friend Hoon, commented that she would go up and down 35 floors during the 1st lockdown to ensure she kept her fitness. I decided to train at home on my 4 flight of 10 steps and I followed the YouTube series of TeamBodyProject for cardio exercises and general fitness.
Now, after 1 year, I am definitely fitter with a weight loss of 10 kg and have more strength and power on my legs. Everyone needs a role model to move to the next level. Thank you Hoon for being that role model. And yes, I hope to be able to accompany my husband on his more challenging hikes soon.
Phaik Gek Cheah is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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