Hi there – I am Diane Harper and I am thrilled to have been invited to join in as a regular blogger. Sam suggested I start out with an introduction about my fitness journey. I think it can best be summed up as
Though I tried a few sports as a kid, most were for just one season or summer camp program. Nothing stuck except swimming and a joy of hiking in the woods (I credit Girl Guides for the latter). Even those dropped off in university and into my 30’s. However, when my kids were both young (9 and 5), I decided it was time to be a good role model and get active myself.
I started out modestly. A year earlier I had read an article about adult ballet classes, so after registering my daughter, I called back and asked if they offered lessons for fat old ladies. The nice young man responded “we prefer to call it adult ballet, but yes”. I went almost weekly for years, until sidelined by an injury (I am back at it now). A year later, I started a weekly swimming program at a nearby pool, because it was early enough on a Saturday that I could be showered and home before the kids woke up.
From then on, things got a little wild as the kids became convinced that being active for life was normal. My son is a natural athlete who, at one point, was playing on five teams in three different sports all at the same time. As an adult, he is fulfilling my hockey mom dream of being a weekend hockey warrior and still plays shinny whenever he can (he will return to an adult league when COVID conditions permit). He also golfs, runs, lifts weights and does yoga. Meanwhile, my daughter continued with her ballet, completing a pre-professional program and getting herself accepted into several professional post-secondary dance programs before deciding her ambitions lay elsewhere. She discovered ultimate frisbee in high school and played on the university team. She hopes to return to playing post-COVID, but until then she keeps busy with cycling and skating, plus riding her horse (we started taking lessons together when she was eight, and I bought her a horse that we share when she was a teenager).
While all this was going on, I added belly dance, open water swimming, and commuting to work by bicycle. I took up cross-country skiing and skate whenever I can. I even got my son to teach me to downhill ski. I am back to taking long walks with friends. I ride my horse at least once a week. Thanks to COVID I am now doing two ballet classes a week, plus yoga almost every day, and powwow workouts or other dance classes whenever they are offered. Most recently, I have joined a local swim club for dryland training and learned about HIIT (that’s where the “but I’m not dead, so that’s a win” part comes in). I have gone from couch potato to athlete over the past 20 years, and my kids have become lifelong fitness advocates. All this far exceeds my modest expectations when I made that first nervous phone call to the ballet school in 2003.
One of the things I have loved about this blog has been a shift from just getting fit to confronting aging and injury. I’m almost 60. So far, aside from bunion surgery following a badly-landed jump in dance class, I have had no major injuries, but I need time to recover and I get very stiff, so I like to switch cross-train in order to keep as limber as possible. As a result, my posts are likely to cover many activities, as well as thoughts on being an aging athlete. As I work on international development issues, I also have some reflections on fitness, exercise and sport in that context. My regular spot will be on the fourth Wednesday of every month. I hope you’ll stop by for a read.
Diane Harper is a public servant in Ottawa.