Thursday 3rd August - Strength of Body, Strength of Mind

52@50 no 27: Travelling Alone in Austria Part 2, plus My Daughter's Graduation Ceremony

Well I made it! I found my way to Innsbruck Airport and onto my flight home. And it was completely ok. And then I went to the Graduation Ceremony and then I went back from London to Gatwick and from Gatwick to Salzburg and from Salzburg back to St Johann. All in the space of about 30 hours! Phew!!


Innsbruck Airport is in the most beautiful setting and I can honestly say that I enjoyed being there - it certainly beats Heathrow! The flight was short and I was met at Gatwick, enjoyed a quiet evening at home and then got ready for the event the next day. I've never been to a Graduation Ceremony before (I didn't go to University) but lots of my friends and my husband have so I sort of knew what to expect - lots of clapping as hundreds of students dressed in their gowns and mortar boards file onto the stage to 'receive' their degree. (I didn't know that they don't actually receive anything though - it's just a handshake - the scroll is just a prop for the photos.)

Rachel was already in London so when we arrived at Goldsmith's, University of London she was already there, dressed in her gown and looking fabulous.  First 'proud mummy' moment! We went to do the photos (expensive!) and then found our seats in the impressive Goldsmith's Hall. The ceremony was, indeed, as expected. Some speeches from the Chair of the University and his colleague and then the students' moments of glory. I clapped for them all.  All their hard work over 3 years had been leading up to this - the effort, the angst, the doubts, the fears and, almost inevitably, the tears were all culminating in this moment of recognition of their work. It was uplifting and I was filled with a mix of delight and just a little bit of envy as I thought about these young adults with their lives ahead of them with all their possibilities and potential. 

A champagne reception followed and then a nice meal rounded the event off. I changed back into my jeans in the loos, gave my posh gear to my husband to take home and embarked on my return to Austria. A direct train ride from New Cross to Gatwick, a straightforward flight to Salzburg and then a taxi took me back to the hotel in St Johann. I'm sure some of the members of our tour group didn't even notice I had gone!


And now I'm back from my holiday in Austria. It's good to be home to see my family, my dog and my garden and I'm looking forward to a relaxing month ahead. I'm doing a reduced timetable of classes over the holiday season so, although I'll be teaching a few classes each week, I have space and time to do some other things... and hopefully have some more 52@50 adventures too. 

To offset my carbon footprint for the flights from and to Austria, I've 'bought' 2 tonnes of carbon to stop it being released into the atmosphere. The organisation Stand For Trees works in vulnerable and valuable forests across the world and funds projects which safeguard these areas from deforestation. They work with local communities to educate them on the need to keep the forests and to show them how to make trees worth more alive than dead. One tonne of carbon is the equivalent of a flight from London to Tokyo so I am hopeful that I've paid my dues and lessened my impact on the environment. Click here to go to Stand For Trees' website and read how it all works.

A Bit About... Strength of Mind 

I'm currently listening to an audio book that I have read and heard before but I enjoyed it so much that I've decided to listen again. It's called Big Magic and it's by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. It's a self-help book about living a creative life and I found it very inspiring when I first read it. Early on in the book Gilbert writes a letter to her Fear. It seemed very appropriate after my solo journeys and the thoughts and concerns that accompanied me then - I thought I'd share it here as you might find it helpful (and amusing) too. She writes...

"Dearest Fear, Creativity and I are about to go on a road-trip together. I understand you'll be joining us - because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I'm about to do anything interesting and may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means keep doing your job if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road-trip, which is to work had and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing it's job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There's plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us so make yourself at home. But understand this - Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognise and respect that you are part of this family so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still, your suggestions will never be followed. You're allowed to have a seat and you're allowed to have a voice but you are not allowed to have a vote. You are not allowed to touch the road maps, you're not allowed to suggest detours, you're not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you are not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear, old, familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.


Then we head off together - me and Creativity and Fear, side by side for ever. Advancing once more into the terrifying but marvellous terrain of Unknown Outcome.

Why it's worth it - It isn't always comfortable or easy, carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road-trip. But it's always worth it because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting. And that would be a pity because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous, and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you're still here. I know that's what you want for yourself because that's what I want for myself too. It's what we all want. And you have treasures hidden within you - extraordinary treasures - and so do I and so does everyone around us and bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion and the clock is ticking and the world is spinning and we simply do not have time any more to think so small."

A Bit About... Strength of Body

You probably know that as we get older our bones become less dense and more fragile. Some of us will develop osteoporosis in later life and all of us will experience some muscle loss (known as sarcopenia). Bone is living, changing tissue that renews itself but this process starts to slow down after the age of 35 and this happens to our muscles too. However, there are things that we can do to keep our bones and muscles healthy and, indeed, increase their strength and density. 

We can eat a healthy diet, not smoke, reduce our intake of alcohol (go easy on the prosecco cocktail recipe below!), make sure we get enough Vitamin D and ensure that we do enough exercise - in fact, the best treatment for sarcopenia is exercise . All types of exercise are good for you but some are more useful for our bone and muscle health than others. Weight-bearing exercise, where we support our own body-weight on our legs (or arms), helps the renewal process within the bones. Running, walking, dancing, tennis and yoga are all examples of weight-bearing exercises. High intensity exercise, where we do short bursts of high-impact work such as skipping and star jumps, 'loads' the bones and encourages them to grow stronger in response to the impact. Resistance training increases the strength of bones and muscles with the use of added weight, such as in weight-lifting or rowing.  Stronger muscles help to support the joints and improve posture too. 

Lots of yoga poses are helpful for increasing strength. The standing poses work the legs - think holding Warrior 2 or Chair Pose for a long time! Doing standing balances increases the weight-bearing capacity in each leg and helps to strengthen the core muscles that wrap around the abdominal area - think Tree Pose and Warrior 3 pose. This core strength in turn helps to prevent falls which are especially dangerous for people with osteoporosis as their bones are fragile and more likely to break. The arm balances work our often weak arm muscles and again strengthen the core - think Plank and Downward Dog.

Government recommendations for adults are to do 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (that means any activity that makes you feel warmer and slightly out of breath), with muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercises on at least two days a week. A regular, varied yoga practice can provide a lot of weight-bearing benefits but you could also add in resistance training to your usual routine by using some hand-weights. For example, you could do Warrior 2, some High Lunges, Chair Pose and Tree Pose holding light hand-weights and you've got yourself a little sequence. And if you don't have any weights use small bottles of water instead.

The latest Thrive Yoga online class is a 50 minute flow done holding 2 bottles of water for added resistance. It's a slow, steady sequence that can be a useful addition to your regular practice. Do check it out if you are a Thrive Yoga member - it's a bit different and you'll feel strong and empowered afterwards.  If you'd like to do this class but are not yet a member, come and join for access to lots of different classes all aimed at encouraging you to get on your mat and move your body and feel good. You can subscribe for a small monthly fee by clicking the 'Join Now' tab at the top of this page.


This Week's Recipe... Lemon and Prosecco Cocktail

As I write this, looking out at the rain on the window, I'm dreaming of summer.  Sigh... This week's recipe is a little different from the usual healthy, veggie ones that I share. But it's delicious and easy and it tastes like summer in a glass!  It's from a book called Lemons and Limes by Ursula Ferrigno. Enjoy in moderation, and hopefully whilst sitting in the garden on a sun lounger in the not too distant future... 

You will need:

2 tablespoons of Limoncello


A slice of lemon

A sprig of fresh mint



And here's how to make it:

Pour the Limoncello into a large wine glass and top up with Prosecco. Add the ice, lemon slice and mint and serve at once. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy...


This Week's Musical Offering... is called Transformation and it's by Bahramji and Mashti. It's got a strong, repetitive rhythm, making it a good one to accompany your strength workout or some Sun Salutations.

This Week's Video... Having spent my holiday with my elderly mother, this video resonated with me. It introduces us to Fraser age 20 who takes elderly care-home residents out for cycle rides to get them out in the fresh air and expanding their usually small world. It made me appreciate the fact that my mother is still active and independent and I appreciate Fraser for helping to change the lives of those who aren't ...

Until next week dear friends...

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Suzanne Smith (Bookham)

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