I am delighted to introduce to all my readers, a woman who is forging her own path as old age beckons. Nancy Liddle is an author, speaker and coach and founder of the excellent website www.walksit.com.
Nancy has set herself challenges which help block out the voice of Old Man Time. As part of these challenges she recently completed a walk in Spain called the Via de la Plata, a mammoth journey of almost 1,000 kilometers. I caught up with her recently and was excited to hear all about it.
Tell us about the Camino walk you did..
Last year (2014) I finally committed to walk the Via de la Plata which is a Camino (journey) from Seville in Spain to Santiago de la Compostela in Galicia, a distance of 970 kilometres. I walked it alone every day and I stayed at every type of accommodation offered along the way.
What prompted you to do the walk?
I had always wanted to do such a challenging walk since I was very young but until last year, I seemed to lack the self-confidence and courage to do it.
Last year, I also had suffered a blow work-wise, so I took a sabbatical and drew down some super and gave myself financial permission to do the walk – namely, plane fare, living and luxury expenses.
It was marvellous to be so financially liberated. How serious were you about training for the walk? I thought I was quite serious by walking up to 8 kilometres every other day but by nature I don’t have a lot of self-discipline so my training was sporadic over a 2 month period. It was only in the last 2 weeks before I left that I actually practised walking with the rucksack and the sticks.
But I am happy to share the message that even a little bit of practice will get you over the finish line. Do not give up. Your body is a workhorse and loves the activity and the freedom of the road. Believe me. Even as the first week is hard, you get so much stronger along the way. By the second week’s end, you’re on fire!
What is your attitude towards getting older?
As I get older I get more intelligent, more able, more real – less angry, less stupid. But that’s because I work on myself.
People who sit in their comfort zones and don’t strive to improve or people who sit in their comfort zones and don’t strive to improve or broaden their outlook should not expect too much from getting older. And yes, the aches and pains happen but so what? That’s life!
I did my Camino with severe arthritis in my lower back – which is now much improved by that long walking!
Hollywood and western values would have us believe that we lose capacity and strength as we age. We are almost doomed by the culture to get feeble. But it’s NOT TRUE. It doesn’t have to be that way. I learnt on the walk that I was one of the youngest ones out there. The oldest pilgrim was 94 and I was young at 56.
Every one of us, in the normal range of health, is really capable physically of walking up to 20 kilometres a day – and the amount of food we eat also is too much in our sedentary lives. On the second half of my 50 day walk, I was eating a light continental breakfast, fruit for the day’s walk and water, and then whatever I wanted for the evening meal.
Do you feel that there would be a point when you are too old do the walk?
Why do you hate the idea of anti-aging?
I hate the advertising campaign of “anti-aging”. I love aging. I wouldn’t relive any part of my life – always go forward! Get smooth like wine or stones in the river.
The campaign of anti-ageing shames women into feeling ugly or useless or invisible as we age – the Youth Cult tricks girls into believing their major attribute and contribution to society is their appearance. When that fresh young face shows laughter/worry lines then the new campaign is to spend money on cosmetic surgery to keep up their youthful appearance.
Women waste so much of our lives worrying about how we look, we judge each other so harshly according to these rules (look at the flack that Serena Williams has just gone through about her appearance, not her tennis prowess).
Men are allowed to age. In movies, men who are actually quite ugly now in their 60s and 70s, like Clint Eastwood (a personal favourite) and Arnold Schwarzenegger, are still very visible, given great face time on screen, are still possible romantically (look at Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment). The whole anti-aging thing in the western world is immature and unrewarding. I could go on but I’ll stop here.
How has your attitude to fitness changed since you have done this walk?
I wish I could say I am a completely fit and wonderful example of a super fit woman in her fifties but I cannot. I’m just an imperfect woman who is part wonder-walker, part couch-potato. But I do know from personal experience that it’s a myth that we get feeble as we get older. That’s a bunch of hoo-hah! If we keep using our bodies, they keep going.
What we do as in exercise, and what we eat, how we sleep, how we stay happy and keep involved with others – these are the jewels of life.
What did you get out of the whole experience?
What I got out of my walk along one of the Caminos nearly a year ago is still with me today, fermenting. I got a sense of empowerment that I never had before. That I was capable of things I didn’t know I could do. Before I left for Spain I was so terrified every day for about a month that I felt I would throw up at the drop of a hat. On the plane I was calm and on the train from Madrid to Seville I was rather excited and then once in Seville, it was all upon me.
I dilly dallied for a couple of days and then took the bull by the horns and… caught a bus to the next village. I’d avoided my first 20 ks. But then at that village, I really had to start my walk and I did and I got lost and I got a friend and I found my way and the rest is history.
Do you have a new physical challenge on the cards?
I don’t have a new physical challenge at the moment. Of course I’d love to go on another Camino in Spain but it’s a huge financial and time commitment for an Aussie and I’m presently in a place of deciding what I want to do “with the rest of my life” (at 57!).
I think the best thing for me and anyone else is to get some exercise most days of the week by hook or by crook. But even if you don’t get any exercise, don’t thrash yourself for it – which is what I do a lot of. Amongst all the exercising is a great need to forgive yourself for NOT exercising. Just being gentle on yourself is a positive thing, which I must improve on.
What advice do you have for other baby boomers thinking of doing a big physical challenge?
Get out and do it!
It will bring so many rewards amongst all the challenges that you will come home with so much invisible baggage that is not only free but invaluable. It will change how you feel about yourself on a very deep level.
Just achieving a big physical challenge (like a 50 day camino or a 10 day camino) will introduce you to a self you may not have known existed OR you knew existed and so longed to meet. I knew I could do this camino. I picked one of the very hardest ones in Spain to do and I had never walked 10kms in my life before and I still knew in my heart of hearts that I could do it. And I did.
Veteran pilgrims said it was rare to meet a first-timer on the Via de la Plata. Just get out and do it is my advice, as nervous as you may be. And may all your efforts be rewarded (which they will).