Last week I wrote about wanting to improve my health and what the pre-World War II ladies magazines call “vitality.” I looked up “vitality” in the dictionary. The first definition is, “the peculiarity of distinguishing the living from the nonliving.” That’s telling it like it is!
So far my old-fashioned approach has been two-pronged: walking a lot and choosing fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible. In the May sunshine, walking is pleasant and I actually look forward to it, but making time for it can feel like a hurdle. Twice in recent days I’ve been stuck “in town” between appointments (“town” being about 15 miles away from our rural home) and have used that time to walk in a park. I told myself I didn’t need workout clothes or athletic shoes (although, note to self: keep a pair in the car). I was already wearing comfortable flats, so off I went.
Walking in the park is fun for two reasons: (1) the terrain is flat–a nice break from the steep hills around my home. (My husband figured out that walking from the bottom of our property to the top is like climbing eight stories!) and (2) there are people around! Baseball and lacrosse teams, kids and moms on the playground, tennis players, other walkers . . . such fun to people-watch. I love to nature-watch, too, and soak up the peace and solitude of the woods surrounding my home, but for a literal change of pace, it’s enjoyable to switch to the park. Bonus: I felt like that interval between appointments wasn’t wasted.
Feeding myself well is harder. It’s so easy to grab whatever’s at hand and call it a meal. I’ve made a deliberate effort to concentrate on protein and vegetables and limited carbs. A typical breakfast is coffee, an egg, and a quarter of an avocado on toast. Lunch is soup or salad and a sandwich (trying to limit to half a sandwich). Dinner is meat or fish and vegetables for me, plus bread or potatoes for my husband. And water, water, water.
So where does the “vintage” part come in? Eating fresh, minimally processed food and walking have been human activities since forever. I don’t need a gym or any special gadgetry (although I got a nifty fitness band for my birthday that tracks my steps and heart rate–definitely not vintage, but kind of useful). The foods I’m eating are not much different from what a woman would have eaten 100 years ago. My fitness is centered around typical human activities: walking, bending, stretching, putting some muscle into housework and yardwork. Drop me into 1916 and my food and activity wouldn’t look that different. Except, of course, from jumping on the Internet to talk about it!
First week’s results: two pounds down, high energy, and rosy cheeks from being out in the sun.
Autumn is the perfect time to take a walk, whether through the woods or down a city street lined with colorful oaks and maples. Walking is good for you! In Personality Unlimited (1941), Veronica Dengel says, “Walking is good exercise for the legs, and when indulged in out of doors, encourages deep breathing and better circulation.” While Miss Dengel agrees that strolling on city streets is “better than nothing,” she goes on to say, “Hiking should be done in as clear, fresh air as you can find. . . . Exercise will help to improve the digestion of your food and promote better assimilation of it, so that you get more nourishment from everything you eat.”
I’d say a walk in the woods nourishes more than the body . . . it nourishes the mind as well. When I walk, I let my mind wander where it will . . . to think, to pray, to work out some knotty problem in my novel or my life. In Younger By the Day, Victoria Moran recalls a particular walk she took one October day. “In the company of squirrels and skateboarders, toddlers and Scrabble players, students and lovers, the arch and the fountain, I walked through the park. I read a plaque about Garibaldi, bought water from a guy with a cart, and then sat on a bench and watched and listened. I felt more alive than I had in a really long time.”
The deep woods may not yield quite the same things as a city park does. The squirrels are there in force, but I see no skateboarders or Scrabble players. Just a chipmunk and some deer, perhaps an eagle if I’m lucky. But what Victoria Moran says next still resonates with me. “Sometimes, to remember when you’re old and revel in right this minute, walk in the part–or something on that order. Do it before the winter comes. Once you get in the habit, you just might want to do it then, too.”
Lace up your walking shoes. There’s a world of wonder out there.