Elderly Athletes

Most Mondays and Wednesdays I attend a cardiac rehabilitation class held in the Sports Department of a local school. There are about a hundred members and on each of the five sessions every week about twenty of us go through what has become a familiar routine. For the first twenty minutes we walk around the perimeter of the gym, called by our instructor to exercise our arms and legs, sometimes stopping and stretching muscles in a variety of positions, reverting to our perambulations before being released to use the several machines available as we work on our own. The final twenty minutes we are usually lying on mats for another sequence of movements.

Almost all of us are men and we have suffered some form of heart illness, responding to the suggestion of the local hospital that we should join a group that has now existed for over twenty years, the brain child of a nurse in the cardiac wards, whose commitment remains an inspiration to us. She is one of the instructors all of whom have a medical background.

There is always a fibrillator on hand in case someone over exerts themselves and suffers a heart arrest. But in my experience that has never happened.

Six of us are over eighty and I am ambitious to join them one day. We are a
friendly lot. We talk a great deal to each other- sometime so loudly that we can’t hear what we are being told to do. It’s a social occasion and whilst it’s important for us to know that our colleagues are well – raising the question has more meaning to it than the mere formality than is normal amongst friends.

In another part of the complex there is a serious gang of body-builders, and we have to walk through their room to get to our own. They smile on us in a kindly way and certainly we lack their serious dedication. Compared to their youthfulness we must look a funny lot.

But unlike them we are not into muscular perfection, but have the more critical purpose of protecting our lives, after nearly losing them.

This has become a regular discipline for me, and I go to our sessions with reluctance sometimes, but always come home feeling better for it. And at the same time feeling rather pleased with myself : for getting there and doing what all of us should do as we get older, namely looking after ourselves.

Never much of an athlete, in my old age I have by necessity, become one!