Surviving Winter: Ski, Eat, Read, Repeat.

Ski, eat, read, repeat. That has been Hubby’s mantra for weeks now. He skis daily, sometimes with a friend, sometimes with me, most often alone. On track-set trails, on lumpy skidoo trails, on no trails at all. I tell you, that man is a force of nature. At 76 years of age he shows no inclination to slow down. He says he doesn’t have the strength he once had, or the endurance. But I sure can’t tell. To me he is the expert on staying fit as we age. And on surviving winter. And I’ve been looking to him for inspiration for years.

surviving winter by getting out on skis, with a blue sky and pure white snow,
Breaking trail across a farmer’s field

That’s not to say that Hubby has floated his way through his sixties and seventies in perfect health. Since I retired in 2013, he has had open-heart surgery, two hernia operations, and a complex operation to try to repair a shoulder injury incurred while playing hockey. Each time, he grumbles and predicts the worst. He’s not a Pollyanna like me.

But he always, always works arduously at whatever rehabilitation he needs to do. And eventually he bounces back. He gave up hockey because to not do so would be foolhardy. You can’t control what others are doing on the ice, and one collision could result in a fall that would reinjure his shoulder. The surgeon said that a reinjury would not be repairable. So he sacrificed hockey to ensure that he could still carry his canoe, play golf, wield the chainsaw. And ski. Seems like a good trade-off to me.

Aging is a slippery slope for us all. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to hang onto whatever is important to us, as long as we can. Hubby knows he’s been lucky. Even in the midst of his bad luck he acknowledges that it could have been worse. But he gets angry when people tell him to relax, slow down, put his feet up. When he saw the surgeon about his shoulder, the doctor first asked Hubby how old he was; then he said due to Hubby’s age he was reluctant to operate. Hubby explained how active he was and how important physical activity was to him. But the doctor merely launched into a lecture on how lucky Hubby had been to have been able to play hockey, and canoe, and ski as long as he had.

Ha. That did not go over well. Hubby lost his patience and shot back that of course he knew he’d been lucky, but that he’d also been “busting his ass for years to stay fit, and that wasn’t luck.” You know, I’ve always thought maybe that burst of temper was what persuaded the doctor to go ahead.

So yeah. He’s been pretty inspirational for me. I work hard at my own fitness, if only to be able to keep up with him. And even though I am a couch potato at heart, I’ve become pretty diligent in my fitness routine over the years. I’ve learned to set reasonable goals for myself, and stick to them. And that’s partly because Hubby has always been my biggest fitness cheerleader. Of course I should go to the gym, he’s always said. Or go for a walk, ski, ride my bike. When I was working, the first question he’d ask when I came home at the end of the day was if I’d been to the gym. I wrote a post about that a while ago, all about trying to ignore the siren call of the couch. Especially in the winter. And how Hubby’s nagging is my secret fitness weapon. Ha.

A few years ago when I was struggling to stay motivated, he fashioned a wooden lectern that fit onto my exercise bike to allow me to better entertain myself and thus stay on the darned thing longer. So now I listen to my audiobook and scroll through Pinterest on my iPad, then I read my book for a bit, then plug my headphones into my iPad and watch YouTube videos. And I need to do these things. I can’t stand exercise for exercise sake. If I am distracted, I can walk or pedal forever. And if not, I count every step, every revolution.

beautiful winter's day, blue sky, and a perfect ski trail
Sunday ski, homeward bound.

Hubby’s dedication to exercise and getting outside every day is his secret to surviving winter. If it weren’t for his persistence in getting me out on the ski trail with him, I’d miss out on beautiful winter days like last Sunday. Sunny, -8°C, with no wind. And the snow. The snow was soft, and new, and eminently ski-able. Perfect for kicking, and perfect for gliding. What a wonderful ski we had. Across the golf course near us, up a hill and back through the farmer’s fields beyond. Blue, blue skies, and perfect snow.

That was not the case earlier in the week when we packed a lunch and set off early for a woodland park, with groomed cross-country ski trails, about a 50 minute drive away. At first the trails were wonderful. We chose our route from the big map board at the first intersection, and shushed away. At every intersection, where one trail crossed another there was a big signboard and a picnic table. Our chosen route would take us about an hour and a half, Hubby estimated. We’d eat our lunch after we skied. That sounded perfect to me.

We were able to ski side-by-side much of the way and fell into talking about trips we’d been on, and favorite travel memories. Our top five favourite day trips, top five most scary roads we’ve driven, top five favourite people we’ve met in another country. Time sped by unnoticed. Until I began to get tired. Quite tired, in fact. We’d been skiing way longer than we should have been. We checked the signboard at the next intersection. What? We still had kilometres to go. Hubby tried to persuade me to sit on the picnic table placed near the signboard for a minute. But I was afraid that if I sat down I’d never get up. So we stood for a minute and then carried on.

Then fate intervened, as fate is wont to do. The sun disappeared, the trail was in total shade, and the ski conditions changed abruptly. I had lots of kick, but absolutely no glide. None. Usually when cross-country ski conditions are good, you kick and pole, then glide for a second or two, then kick and pole again. You get into a rhythm, and can cover many more kilometres of trail with less effort. The precious second in between each kick and pole allows you to rest a bit.

But when the conditions changed that afternoon, I lost all of my glide. I muscled my way along the trail. Poling and kicking hard and feeling as if I were skiing on velcro. I was sooo tired. And getting crankier by the minute. Hubby switched over to my track to ski in front of me, hoping to smooth the track and give me at least a bit of glide. And he was annoyingly chirpy, trying to distract me from my fatigue with conversation. “So, which trip in the last five years is your favourite, Suz?” he asked. “I don’t KNOW,” I barked. “I do not have the energy to think or to talk.” He said nothing after that. And we carried on. At one point my right hip began to throb. “Oh, crap,” I thought. “That’s all I need.”

Than just as abruptly as before, the ski conditions changed again. Suddenly my glide was back. I kicked and poled and was able to benefit from my effort with a beautiful long glide. Oh, it was heaven. Skiing was immediately easier, faster. And thirty minutes later we reached the car. I was freaking exhausted. I’m sure I looked like a damaged ship limping into port. But I made it.

I was tired, and thirsty, and starving. I tell you, that egg-salad sandwich tasted like the food of the gods. Hubby apologized and said he’d miscalculated the time it would take us to do the route. Our ninety minute ski had turned into almost three hours. I haven’t skied that much in one go since the last time we skied in Algonquin Park years ago. And back then we stopped for lunch at the halfway point. On the drive home, Hubby was full of admiration for my doggedness. “You did really well, Suz. I’m pretty tired too.” Well, that was high praise indeed.

When we arrived home, and changed out of our ski gear, I was so ready for my reward for all my hard work. I put on the kettle and started the fire in our sun room, where I retreated with a cup of strong tea, for a half hour of quality book time, and a long, luxurious nap. Later I woke up when the sun was setting and the snow on the river was that odd shade of almost blue. I heard chopping sounds in the kitchen and knew that Hubby had arisen from his own nap and was starting dinner. That’s my favourite time of day, you know, lying on the couch in the sunroom, in the dying light, pretending to still be asleep, and listening to the sounds of Hubby cooking.

Ski, eat, read, nap. That’s Hubby’s routine, and mine too when we ski together. Ski, eat, read, nap. It’s a pretty good formula for surviving winter. Especially a long winter, during a pandemic. The difference is of course that he will get up tomorrow and do it again. And I won’t. Ha.

talking a few practice putts on the rug
Squeezing in a few putts before nap time.

You know, as I said before, aging is a slippery slope. For all of us. It’s hard, as we age, to hang onto aspects of ourselves that we value, whatever they are. And we all need a cheerleader sometimes to motivate us. Someone to get us off the couch. To get us out the door. And to give us permission to choose to do something for ourselves, for our own wellbeing. Instead of something that we feel obliged to do. Like work, or taking care of others.

That’s why Hubby always asked about my going to the gym when I came home from school. He knew that if I got stuck into marking or admin work after school was out, I’d end up not going. And he thought that work, while important, was not as important as my staying fit and healthy. So he gave me an excuse in a way. I knew he’d ask if I’d been to the gym. So I always went.

I guess he’s not only my inspiration for surviving winter. He’s my wellness conscience. Ha.

What about you my friends? Do you have a wellness conscience? Or a cheerleader? Not just for surviving winter, but for helping you to choose to do something for yourself? If not, maybe we can be cheerleaders for each other.


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49 thoughts on “Surviving Winter: Ski, Eat, Read, Repeat.”

  1. Stu is such an inspiration! And not only as a cheerleader,but an intellectual as well,so interested in a lot of things,from history to the world around us. And he cooks delicious meals!
    Brava for you Sue,you did perfect on your ski expedition
    Luckily ,I have cheerleaders,too,and they helped me indeed,especially during last months,to help me get from read,eat,repeat routine 🙂 and start exercise again

  2. It was interesting to learn more about your type of skiing . I guess Stu’s background in sport has taught him a great deal . Not just about his own fitness but how to motivate reluctant , even cranky people 😉 He’s certainly very fit for his age . Max is not far behind him but having a sedentary job didn’t help . He loved tennis but had to stop years ago after a knee op & he has an old back injury that complains at times . Nevertheless he is pretty fit . Yesterday he moved a huge piece of limestone weighing 250 lbs from the front to back garden , 35 yards over gravel , on his own . It involved wooden poles laid on the ground & a heavy rope . He is very stubborn, which helps . He does try to motivate me on our ‘ mountain ‘ climbs but there’s usually some cross words when I’m flagging , which seems to happen quicker than it used to do . So we try our best but of course there’s a dollop of luck in our fitness too . Genes & upbringing . The health lottery .

  3. Another wonderful post. What an absolute treasure you have in that man! And how precious are those cheerleaders in our lives – both for what we can accomplish, and how we feel about ourselves. I’m lucky to have one as well, and who care enough about his health (and our future) to keep fit. I have to remind myself of this as he’s doing laps around the living room at 8:30 at night to “get his steps in” – aughhh! But it’s the price we pay for being fit enough to do all the travel after retirement – and y’all are my role models here (4 years and 2 mos to go for me – can you tell how much I’m looking forward to it?)

  4. Such a good philosophy for staying fit and active through the years. My husband is very disciplined as well. Walking, golfing and lifting weights. I am less so but my one year old Labrador requires frequent walks. I’m out with Lucy every morning as soon as the sun comes out no matter what the weather. She is my fitness coach!

  5. Wonderful post. You are the perfect pair! My husband and I are 73 and realize how important attitude and exercise are to healthy aging.

  6. Great post, Sue! Yep, I have a cheerleader/coach here cut from the same cloth. If we lived where you do, Paul would be out on the trails daily as well. As it is, most mornings he cycles down to the marina where we store the kayaks — I’m a fair-weather paddler, but he cheerfully pulls on his rain gear and pedals to his paddle. We both try not to think of the day when he can no longer heft the kayak up over his head to carry it down to the water, but so far so good. Soon the weather will be decent enough for longer bike rides and I’ll join him more often, but meanwhile his enthusiasm inspires (or shames? 😉 me into my own workouts. . . I have to say, though, that I could do without that chirpy positive voice when I’m cranky and our finish line (car, cafe, whatever) turns out NOT to be around the corner. No comments about how great it is to be moving outside in the beautiful weather or scenery. . . But I guess at least now I know I’m not the only one whose cheerleader does that!

  7. Wow, what a trek that was, and what a role model your husband is. I’m 74 and not half as fit but I do have a cheerleader and role model for me, it’s my Pilates teacher and I have 2 classes a week via Zoom of which one is a 1-2-1. I work hard with her and then attempt to do at least another 2 sessions on my own with weights. So I’m trying to keep fit as yes, indeed, it can be a slippery slope.

    But again, just wow, that you managed that 3-hour ski trip. Great post – thanks 🙂

  8. I think I am my own cheerleader. In the early days of retirement I met a woman at my fitness club who was also retired. She told me that after she retired she made it her “new” job to take care of herself. I liked that focus and I work on that premise each day. Since we can no longer go to the gym I do 10 minutes of Yoga by following Yoga with Kassandra (she is in the Ottawa area and her YouTube channel is very good ) followed by at minimum a 75 minute walk. I also fit in a Pilates class each week (online) and some other fitness classes that I like. Mornings are for me. Afternoons are for chores or housework etc. My routine has helped me keep my sanity and fitness level up during these times. I love your outdoor photos! I can feel that sunshine and crisp air.

  9. I’m another self-cheerleader, my preferred mode. Classes are not for me, and I like being able to just go with my own thoughts when I am walking or running or on the rowing machine. The latter has fallen out of favour at present but no doubt I will return to it at some point before it has to be returned. My golden rule is: no rules.

  10. Having known you over the time of a couple of those ops, I know how determined and dedicated Stu is to maintaining his level of fitness and then working hard to get back to it again, post op! He really is an inspiration! Love that he asked you about the gym each day! “Fairly” subtle, but effective!
    I’m so pleased that he responded to the surgeon in the way he did. Such a condescending attitude… suggesting that he just be grateful for his fitness, as though it was a gift!! Rather than something attained by consistency and sheer hard work.
    My family have been my cheerleaders this year, encouraging me to start running. I’ve never been a runner … hated it at school! During lockdown I’d started incline hiking on the treadmill. I then started to wonder if I could run. Even if I should? Due to back problems … I’d always been told to incline walk but not run. I decided to try Couch to 5k a try. The cheerleading was definitely effective as at one point my knees started to hurt and I was like, oh no … I’ve never had problems with my knees! My sons who both run, told me this was quite normal and encouraged rehabilitation/recovery type exercises and who knew?
    I can now run without the aches and pains. Although I’m continuing with 5k … maybe 10k as a new goal one day but I’m certainly not accompanying my son on any marathons!
    Also the look on my husbands face when he walked in and saw me running! We’d tried together in our 20’s and I was hopeless! My words not his! He’s so proud that I’m doing it now.
    You did so well with that Ski excursion Sue. I bet it was blissful to get back in the car though and even better, that hubby cooked dinner!
    Rosie xxx

    1. Good for you, Rosie. But maybe look into what’s going on with your knees. Years of running, even with Stu’s coaching, and good shoes, ruined my knees. I left it too late to get them checked by a sport’s medicine doctor and it took her two minutes to tell me that I pronate very badly and needed orthotics. They really help with walking and hiking but running was over for me.

  11. My current fitness cheerleader is my iWatch! Hubby gave it to me as an early Christmas present after my Fitbit died, and it’s really encouraged me to step up my game. It has 3 “activity rings” that it nags you to complete daily: standing and walking around for a minute once an hour for 12 hours, an exercise ring (mine is set for 30 minutes, but I generally do 60), and an overall activity ring (mine is currently set for 650 calories). Early on, I discovered that I hated failing to complete all three rings over the course of any day, so I’m on a 2 month streak. I generally ride my recumbent bike for an hour, but if it’s been a crazy packing/getting rid of stuff day and my calorie burn is already high, the ride might be a little shorter. 🙂 Between the concerted activity and moving stress, I’ve lost 14 pounds since the beginning of the year, so it’s working!

  12. I love reading your blog and the gentle flow of your thoughts. You create a vivid visual of your struggle which I can relate to when it comes to working out…ah dreaded exercise. I prefer my recliner, iPad and books. However I always feel better after I exercise. My daughter is my cheerleader and keeps me moving. She is the first to ask if I managed to get my steps in.

  13. Another inspiring and touching post. You make me smile and make my day brighter and I always read your posts first. Thank you for sharing you life and your thoughts.

  14. I had become very sedentary and isolated until my husband started an arduous cancer treatment that ended up killing him late last summer. Since he started that treatment, I have spent 1.5-2.5 hours almost every day vigorously whacking at and clearing the jungle our big back garden had become. It has been and continues to be necessary for my mental and physical health, particularly since Scott died suddenly and unexpectedly. I realized how important it had become when I was confined to the house for a couple of days during our recent extraordinary snow and ice storm (for which I and all of Portland was woefully unprepared). My husband was always very active and loved the outdoors, and I feel his Spirit nearby whenever I am working or playing/exercising there.

    1. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear about your husband, Leslie. I can’t imagine how difficult it’s been for you. I know that platitudes don’t help, so I’ll just say that I’m thinking of you. And wishing you well.

  15. If it wasn’t for my hubby, I’m sure I’d be a saggy old lady by now! He was a phys ed teacher and I, the girl who hated phys ed! Somewhere along the line, however, his example wore off and exercise became an integral part of my life. Thankfully, we have our in-house gym in the basement with treadmill, exercise benches, and a large supply of free weights. He hasn’t been able to lift this winter because he’s recovering from platelet rich plasma treatments on his shoulders to promote healing of old sports injuries, but he cheers me on. Sadly, we’ve had very little snow this winter, which is most unusual, so we’ve hardly been out on our snowshoes. Before we took up snowshoeing, I used to cross country ski and can totally identify with your gruelling ordeal on the trail. I could feel it when you lost your glide!

  16. You and Stu are a good match…even when he annoys you juuust a tad. But must say I’m with Annie (above). Have to be self-motivated to exercise or I would be a crank. However, today you motivated me. Before I commented on your post, I completed an cardio-sculpting exercise video. I’d been putting it off as I didn’t feel well this a.m. But, done and dusted. Time for a cuppa.

  17. The only thing my husband ever asked of me is that I exercise. Like you, I was a high school teacher for most of my career, so always had meetings, papers, cheerleading practice, newspaper and yearbook deadlines…something to make me feel like I just couldn’t exercise. So I (mostly) failed to honor that one request. After I retired I decided that daily exercise would be my new job! And you know, we MUST do our jobs. Happy to say that I’ve lost 30 pounds (took years…but that’s OK) and weigh less than when I was married. I feel STRONG.

  18. Wow, impressive ski! I am lucky my husband is an exercise cheerleader. He loves the gym and the night before his open heart surgery was there getting in a workout and was back on the elliptical 7 days after surgery. He has obesity in his family and works very hard to stay in shape. We love to bike and walk, but had to buy some layers and adjust our clothes for fall and winter walking in MN as no gym since 3/13/20. We miss it, but do our yoga and stretching to stay in shape. My parents are 80 and 87 and rake leaves, mow lawn and shovel snow. Thankful for their example.

    1. I’m finding myself exercising outside more since covid. I could sit on my exercise bike and use my weights every day, but getting outside in the fresh air, and sometimes the sunshine makes me feel so much better.

  19. Christine Cascadia

    My horse, Tobbi, is quite happy to accept his new title as my personal wellness conscience/cheerleader, and sends his thanks!

  20. Thank you for cheerleading! I read this while procrastinating about going on a walk (which I’ve been doing for an hour every day since this whole circus began and the streets round my house are getting boring now). So I went straight out and there was the most beautiful pink and turquoise sunset going on; I’d have missed it but for you.

  21. My Husband and I have a home gym that we use religiously five days a week. We exercise first thing in the morning for an hour and then get on with our day. There are mornings though when one of us (usually me) will grumble about exercising. Thankfully those times are infrequent and always one is motivated to cheer the other on. We also enjoy going for a nice long walk. Exercise and getting out doors can’t be beat for both physical and mental health. Since we normally would have been on a trip at this time, we find our daily routine has allowed the winter months to be unexpectedly pleasant. Sue, you and Stu don’t need to be travelling to have some great adventures. I can’t imagine a ninety minute ski turning into three hours. You both deserved that nap. By the way, we made the ‘Tuscan Chicken Quinoa Casserole’ and it was delicious. We used chicken but next time will try it with sausage. Thanks for the recipe! 👍

    1. Getting outside to exercise has become more important for me during the pandemic. And now that the sun is so lovely, even though we have tons of snow, walking is a joy again.

  22. Omg…3 hours! The air would of been blue over here. Ha!
    My husband is my biggest cheerleader as is my youngest son. We all try to all stay active and I really do feel better afterwards..I’m just happy to get it over with. 😉
    But it’s frustrating how quick things can change when you age and then learning to take that in stride.

  23. I am 77 years of age and addicted to first light walks everyday for at least an hour. Last week, I walked when it was -11 degrees. Yesterday I strapped on snowshoes and headed out after a snowfall. Today, the moon was out and bright and it was a warm 23 degrees. The Colorado sun came out yesterday and melted a lot of the snow but it was still beautiful.

    1. That sounds wonderful, Sarah. Took me a minute there to remember that you’re talking Fahrenheit temperatures; -11 is a whole other thing in Fahrenheit. Ha.

  24. You and Stu make a good team. I am fortunate that way too. My husband is very active and strong. I do not enjoy exercise, unless hiking or walking outside. But since the pandemic, every day we play music together (me on piano and he on his double bass) and after we finish, I go exercise. This ritual has helped get me through this tough year.

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