I didn’t feel like working out this morning. Work and other commitments made me decide to skip the gym today. After all, I reasoned, I did work out yesterday. But my plans to have a take-it easy day changed when my puppy, Xena insisted we go out for a walk.
Now, when I say puppy, I’m not talking about a dog that’s less than 2 years old. My puppy, Xena, is actually 14 (about 88 years old in human years), but to me she will always be my puppy. Even though Xena is considered to be in her geriatric years, she doesn’t let age stop her from enjoying her life. Her sight may not be as sharp as it used to be but she can still spot the perfect spot to sniff or pee from blocks away. She may have some stiffness in her joints but that doesn’t deter her from jumping down the set of deck stairs, ready for her walk. No matter how much I try to make her take it easy on those steps, my dog thinks she can’t begin her walks without that preliminary jump in the air. It’s something she has done since she was a real puppy and she refuses to accept that her 88 years has put a halt on all that jumping. The amazing thing is that when she takes that jump, she not only for the most part lands the jump perfectly, but also tends to look back at me afterwards as if to say, “I’d like to see you do that when you’re 88!”
We don’t run anymore but we still take long walks, at a little slower pace and most of the time I’m the one that tells her it’s time to go back home. Once we get home, she drinks her fill of water, takes a nap and one hour later she’s nudging me, ready to go out the door again! You know how when your kids are young and they’re running around from day to night without getting exhausted and you’re wishing to yourself that you had that kind of energy? Well, Xena reminds me of that. It’s a wonder to me how she still relishes being out in the open air, happy for the chance to move her legs and relish the feel of the dirt under her paws, the grass tickling her nose and the chance to sniff all those good smells that every neighbor’s yard is hiding.
Here are 5 healthy tips to stay healthy after 40, courtesy of my puppy (the warrior princess):
- Never give up: Even though Xena may be an older dog, she still loves her walks. It doesn’t matter that she had her walk yesterday; she still wants to have her walk today too. She takes joy in exercising and playing as much as she can. Just because we’re reaching our 50s, 60s, 70s and more doesn’t mean that we have to give up on enjoying the wonders that our bodies can experience, even if it’s just a long walk with our dog.
- Jump into Life: Xena lives in the moment. It doesn’t matter to her that yesterday she was able to run faster than many people; today she can still jump and she does so with gusto. It doesn’t matter what we were able to do years ago; what matters is what we can still do and what we will still be able to do in the future if we take care of our health now.
- Try New Things and Have Fun: You CAN teach old dog new tricks. If there’s a new yard to explore or a new tree to sniff, Xena is game! In our later years, we have the opportunity to explore new foods and recipes that will help us live healthier lives. How about adding quinoa to your meals or Napa cabbage to your salads? You can even once again try a healthy food that you didn’t like when you were younger. I currently love celery and add it to most of my salads. When I was younger, I rarely ate it, but in the last couple of years, it has become one of my favorite foods. Even the smell makes my mouth water! If you’re bored with your workouts, change them every few weeks or try a sport. Masters divisions in various sports such as triathlons are seeing increases in participants each year.
- Stop and Enjoy the Grass: Xena is thankful for the present. She works out, plays, eats well, drinks fresh water and sleeps soundly. She shows me the importance of taking the time to relax and breathe the air.
- Go Ahead and Make a Fool of Yourself: Xena, and all dogs really, don’t care if they make fools of themselves. You think they look like fools when they run after the ball you toss? They don’t care; they’re having fun! As we get older, we may think the same thing. Like not wanting to go the gym or try a new sport because people will look at us and think we’re acting like fools for our age. But who cares? If we’re going to have fun with our bodies and live healthier lives, we’re the ones that will have the last laugh. As Samuel Butler said: “The great pleasure of a dog is that you make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, he will make a fool of himself too.”