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Pearl Barley aka C M Donaldson

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The 44 Steps
By Pearl Barley aka C M Donaldson
Monday, April 20, 2015

Rated "G" by the Author.

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I don't blog as regularly as I should, but every now and again I have something I wish to impart, and during the throes of my most recent dieting efforts, I thought I'd share my experiences in trying to get fit ...the easy way?

Only someone with a death wish would attempt what I’m attempting. I would even put it down to 'self-harming' if that concept didn't sound so extreme.

To say I've let myself go these past few years is an understatement in itself, and now has come the time to tackle the untackle-able, to my mind anyway such is the difficulty as has been chronicled in detail in my first book (The Fat Bag never became more apt, let me tell you), so I have decided to do something about it long last.  Loyal readers will recall that in order to lose a little bit of weight I simply have to practically breathe in low-fat air to stand a chance at achieving the loss of a few ounces (you know I can exaggerate).

It might be a simple undertaking to the fit and healthy among us – some fitter and healthier than others and definitely, unfortunately and ashamedly fitter and healthier than Your's Truly. 

But for someone like me, tubby and rotund, who you might politely call 'plump' while lying through your back teeth, carrying (a lot of) extra weight I became unfit to the point of wheezing while walking on a straight flat road, so this is no mean feat, and I put myself down with good reason for all the above reasons, it's about time I took myself in hand. 

" A few extra pounds" it says deceptively on my online dating profile no doubt because it doesn't have an option in the drop-down menu entitled Porker of the Year or Strong Contender in The Sumo Wrestling Championships.

The task in question (and the torture I've put myself through) is that of walking up the steps to my office at my place of work - all 44 of them.  I counted every single one as I heaved myself up those stairs the very first time I tried it, and I nearly keeled over when I finally reached the top. 

Now given that my place of work is a good 15 minute walk from the station (10 minutes in flat shoes if you power-walk or 5 minutes if you’re male - they do move faster than us women), and then it’s up a couple of floors from the street entrance, through a set of double doors and down a corridor),  there's a fair mile (almost) to trek before I even reach my desk and my office swivel chair into which I collapse each morning (hot and out of breath).  One, it seems, must have at least a basic level of fitness and it was this feat (on my feet) that could shape and make-or-break my daily resolve to get a great deal fitter and a whole lot less fatter, in the light of the fact that I've now held onto far too much weight lately and it would be nice to lose some of it, preferably before next Christmas which is 8 months away. Surely I can make inroads in that time.

I used to occupy a basement office so this issue never came up before, and there is a lift but it's one of those olde worlde metal cage-like gated monstrocities that could take off a couple of fingers while you're just trying to shut the thing, but it invariably fails to turn up (someone's left the gate open on another floor) or if it does come and you get safely inside, it doesn't glide to the required floor as completely as it should so you can get trapped between floors and endure a half-hour wait to be rescued. 

So once we had been moved up two floors, like I said, I counted those steps before I ventured onto this mini Mount Everest. Believe me, I felt like I could do with a pulley and a harness, crampons and a pickaxe, a pair of sturdy walking shoes, and a couple of helpers either side holding onto an arm each and effectively dragging me up those stairs, but no, this was a to be a solo effort.

I actually got half-way up before the serious wheezing started, as I held onto the rail-grip cursing myself for starting something I didn’t feel I could finish, powering myself on by sheer determination (or sheer stupidity, depends which way you look at it) utilising what little will-power I possessed - a miniscule amount, trust me -  and a plaintive plea to The Almighty ..."Dear Lord, please don't let me die on the stairs like this, the embarrassment would just finish me off, so please show mercy, Amen". 

And there I stood, too far up to go back down again, and yet too far down to abandon the task, so, taking in gulps of air, I stood there trying to catch my breath covered in sweat as I resembled someone who had had their head under water too long, and with bursting lungs simply had come up for air.  In short, I looked a mess! And this for a mere 44 steps!

Please note that this is the woman, then a girl, way way back in the day, in my twenties when I used to run for a bus in four-inch heels ...and catch it!

The next time I tried it, some two weeks later (seems it took that long to recover from the first attempt) I was determined to make it to the top come hell or high water.  Fitter folk passed me on the stairs on a trot with that pitying look as if to say “Don’t bother love, just use the lift”, as I went step by step as slowly as possible, but I wouldn't relent. 

Basically I took it easier so as not to knacker myself out too quickly.  So I crawled up those stairs one at a time with about a 30-second pause in between each step.  It meant I finally got there, but (exaggerating aside) it could have taken me till midnight. Yet still I persevered and I did it every day.

Three weeks after that I was walking up those stairs as easily as if I’d been doing it all my life and I could still breathe relatively normally  when I got to the top without choking or retching like I had done before ( …oh, didn’t I mention that bit?).  And I felt pretty proud of myself. 

The ultimate goal, as nonsensical as it might sound, is to run up those 44 steps, two at a time if I can, making it onto the floor where my office is (it’s still some way down the corridor mind you) in minutes (instead of half an hour) with a recovery time under 15 seconds, and no more flopping into my office chair exhausted like I've just run a four-minute marathon (don't worry, not even Usain Bolt could run a marathon in four minutes; my exaggerations are in overdrive).

So what do you reckon?  Do you think I’ll manage it?  Well, what I thought might kill me hasn’t done so as yet - I used to say what don't kill will fatten and now I've changed my stance to what don't kill you makes you stronger, and I think I’m going to conquer this thing just to be bloody-minded ... and because I’m rebellious and stubborn.  And also because my fitness levels are going through the roof since I’ve now lost 12lbs in total this past three months (diet and deprivation), and I’m still going strong.  

I do hate stairs, I really do, but strangely, when I've visited my Dad’s place lately (and he lives on the sixth floor) I've found myself running down the six flights of stairs instead of waiting for the lift (and no one around with a Smartphone to capture the evidence on film), so I feel like setting myself another challenge as I eye those flights of stairs. 

A few months ago I would never have dared imagine such a thing, and now I’ve conquered The 44 Steps,  the next thing on the fitness agenda would be climbing up those six flights at my Dad's place, hopefully being still able to walk without having to borrow my old Dad’s Zimmer frame once I’ve done it - I do have 56-year- old knees and a jippy hip after all. 

With that said, I think I’m going to count those steps the next time I visit and work out whether it would be do-able, bearing in mind it’s possible to kill oneself with too much ambition. So if you don't hear from me again, you'll know I've done myself in, but at least you've got the idea that some of us fatties do heave our huge carcasses off the sofa now and again and attempt the impossible - by our standards, not yours.


Don't ever let it be said that fat people never try; some of us need a lot to be motivated and it takes strength, resilience and courage, and all this exercise milarky is a killer (that's why I'm not riding my bike anymore).

Watch this space!











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Reviewed by Ronald Hull 4/21/2015
You know how to tell a story very well. While agonizing in your effort, your humor shines through and make someone want to read everything you write. That's very good. On the other hand, how you let yourself get in this situation, is a concern.

I just looked at my health stats from my annual physical. All are normal. That is very unusual for a person of my age. What is also unusual, is that I have been paralyzed, partially at first, and now nearly totally, for over 50 years. Before paralysis, I was extremely fit and healthy. I took a 50 mile walk "for fitness" for President Kennedy and learned that I could out walk almost anyone of my peers. I arrived an hour earlier than the 17 young people who started the walk (only nine finished… mostly women).

But then, I was paralyzed in spinal surgery. I immediately changed my diet because I wasn't as active as before. By 1990, I was consuming many calories just to be able to walk, but by 1993, I was in a wheelchair and changed my diet again. Most of my friends with paralysis like mine are long dead. Most of my friends and relatives start having medical problems at 50 or so.

There is no excuse for ill health. We all can learn about our diets and do things to be fit like walk and climb stairs. It's only natural. Too many fall into traps of eating and lack of physical activity.

Your story helps in that regard.


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