A Recliner and A Bag of Chips

At High Falls

Last week Martin went to see his doctor. Referring to Martin’s bicycling and artistic endeavors, the doctor said, “When most people retire, they just want a recliner and a bag of chips.” I don’t think he’s talking about the people who can’t get around, but the ones who can and choose not to.

Admittedly, Martin is more physically fit than I am. He’s out on a 23 mile ride as I write this. His best time for that route is one hour and four minutes, so basically twenty miles per hour! Bicycling is a lifelong hobby he started in his late twenties. He wasn’t stopping it when he retired. In fact, he looked forward to having the time to do it more often. And, he does.

While I don’t own a recliner and only buy chips once or twice a year, I’m just not that motivated to work out in our modern way. We have a home exercise room complete with a BowFlex, Power Block weights and, of course, a stationary bicycle. There’s a TV mounted on the wall for my viewing pleasure while working out. But…I can’t even motivate my little self to walk through the door.

On the other hand, I also know aging well means continuing to move your body. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Neither too much recliner time or chips does anything good for a body. And, if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?

Stone Steps

My lifelong hobby is gardening. I’m not a putterer. I remember Martin coming home one day to find me on the front bank with shovels, hoe and pickaxe amid a large curve of orange plumbers’ flags.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“I’m making steps to split the bank. It’s too wide. It needs something to break it up.”

“What’s going on top of the dirt?”

“Natural stone slabs.”

Admittedly, such strenuous projects are few and far between. I compensate with activities like hiking, walking my neighborhood and cutting down dead pines on my property. Martin and I spent a morning this week taking out a dozen or more pines, cutting them up with chain saws and dragging them about 400 feet to our burn pile. Whew! In our South Carolina summer heat, that’s a workout!!!

The week before we hiked three miles at one of our favorite destinations, DuPont State Forest in North Carolina. Just getting to the foot of Triple Falls is a workout. Then, you have to climb back up. Oh, my aching thighs!

Whatever you do in retirement, if you aren’t already, get moving. Keep moving. You know the old saying, “Use it or lose it”. Walk, run, golf, tennis, hike, bicycle, swim, yoga, badminton, bocci, weights, ping pong, paddle board, anything at all. Just use your body. The recliner and chips will be there when you get home.




23 comments on “A Recliner and A Bag of Chips

  1. Amen!!!!! What a thoughtfully written and accurate piece. Thanks for being there to inspire. I say this as I lay curled up on the love seat reading the early morning hours away. 🤗


  2. Staying active in mind & body is wonderful…and to find ways to do both with purpose & meaning …well gives meaning to aging gracefully….yard “work” is not work…it’s a way to be active with purpose: beauty, bounty & building …mind & body. Great post on alternative exercise!


    • Kim, Be sure to have your path curve, have a solid base…my soil is clay and some still eroded under the stone slabs. That brings me to another point, keep in mind that thousands of gallons of water can run down a slope during a rain storm. Water is one of the most destructive forces of nature. Be sure to use heavy stone slabs so they don’t wash away, curve the path, put lots of plants (lilies, iris, liriope…depending on your garden zone) around the path to help absorb and stem the water. Talk to your local Master Gardeners at your agricultural extension. I hope this helps! K


  3. Use it or lose it. Tending to my physical well-being is on my to-do list in retirement. I live in the country and have a huge yard that takes 4hrs to tend to when I put my head down. People wonder why I use a push mower to cut the grass; there are lots of reasons: #1 I need the exercise #2 I like to walk; why would I get off a tractor mower then go for a walk? #3 it’s very meditative #4 I can see the results of my efforts immediately.


  4. To a point. . .in my experience 80 isn’t the “new 60” and I’m reasonably healthy. I do the best I can, but the keep-moving exhortation is a lot easier to obey at 60 than it is at 80. Although I was never an athlete, I was always on the move doing one thing or another until fairly recently. Now I have no functioning rotator cuff in my right shoulder and have developed several painful spinal conditions. Unfortunately, pain saps one’s energy and motivation. Although my husband (age 87) and I live independently and maintain our household mostly without help, I can no longer do much gardening or the physical tasks of cat rescue/rehoming. I still walk most days although I can no longer walk long distances. You do what you can.


    • Elizabeth, You sound like a woman after my own heart…especially with the cat rescue/rehoming and gardening. I’m 65 and notice I do not have the stamina I once did and do have more aches and pains. It takes longer to recover from over-exertion than it did when I was younger. So, I try to measure my activity and not overdo. Yes, we do what we can. Walking is one of the best things you can do, so keep moving for as long as you can. K


      • Thank you for not chastising me and those like me! So many 65+ columns and blogs seem to focus on elder mountain climbers, airplane jumpers, marathoners, etc.. Kudos to the super-athletes among us, but they aren’t me. I feel badly enough about the once-routine physical abilities I no longer have. I don’t need to be lectured or scolded to “get out there”.

        We have 3 senior rescue kitties, and I volunteer for 2 cat rescue/rehoming nonprofits. Although I can’t do rescue work now, I still serve as an adoption counselor and make signage for fundraising events, also for a “Lost Cats” search-and-rescue group.

        Thanks again. Your stone path looks great.


      • You are welcome…I’ve learned a lot writing this blog and one of those things is we are all on a different journey. My path is not the same as anyone else’s though we may have similar experiences or beliefs at one time or another. I’m no super-athlete either although my husband borders on being one. I’m so happy to hear you are doing counseling and helping with fundraising. Thank you for the compliment on the stone path…I had some help from my super-athlete husband! K


  5. Thank you once again, Kathy! I look forward to your inspirational articles every week. I appreciate your perspective on just find a way to move that works for you! I love walking my dogs! In order to stay in shape to walk them there are strengthening and stretching exercises I do. If I don’t do those every other day or so I tend to get knee, back or hip pain. I am 70 and this problem, which didn’t used to be as prominent, is now a definite and ongoing message from my body to work out so I can walk!!! Not only is this for walking but so that I can keep good balance, climb stairs and all sorts of daily activities. I feel so much better overall when I exercise!
    Your writings remind me that all of this is “normal” , that I don’t “have” to be in a class to accomplish what I want and to keep on going with these efforts!!! Best regards! Melody


  6. I agree with this, Kathy. I walk, hike, swim and do Pilates. When I ride my bike I just enjoy riding on our paths. Living in CO one can easily feel lazy as we have so many high class athletes. I’m not one of them. Just someone who is moving in some way every day.


  7. Oh dear Kathy,
    I am not as fit as Martin either. It sounds like he is a ‘machine’. But I do agree it is up to each of us to keep ourselves as fit as we possibly can, so a ‘recliner and a bag of chips’ might be an option but it is far from the best one for us.
    The other side of the coin, on this issue, is the best use of our time and resources.
    I’ve seen elderly friends pushing themselves to painful and unhelpful exercise. Surely, our sunset years should be pleasant, happy and fulfilled.
    I, personally, would have to question too much physical exertion. Even if that physical exercise could be shown to prolong my life by a few days or even months, I wouldn’t believe it was worthwhile at all, if the process detracted, even a little, from my life’s enjoyment and happiness now.
    All the best,


  8. We live close to the sea with a wonderful beach, cliff top walks and beautiful countryside. Having two dogs we have to walk at least twice a day. Our property has three levels and so accessing all parts means stairs. Being active with research and learning courses plus gardening means lots of activity every day. Add that to the fact that most food products from a factory taste of very little and tv has very little to offer the very idea of sitting for any length of time is a waste of life. The only activity to sit for is reading. Excellent blog, keep it up.


  9. Hey, Kathy! Great read, good looking steps! Headed to DuPont State Park in November. Anything else you recommend in the area?


    • I don’t know how much time you have, but after your hike, go to Brevard for lunch at the Falls Landing Restaurant. Some interesting shops and galleries downtown, too. Flatrock is about 15 miles away. If you like history, visit the Carl Sandburg home. It is a step back to the 1960’s. If you have time, Hendersonville is right next door to Flatrock and has lots of trendy shops and galleries on their historic Main Street. There is also Chimney Rock (Last of the Mohicans filmed there) and Lake Lure (Dirty Dancing filmed there…take the lake tour). AND, of course, Asheville is probably 15 minutes north of Hendersonville…tons of art, shopping and breweries…check out Sierra Nevada brewery…I hear they are requiring reservations these days. Before you get to Asheville, there is the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is a do not miss if you are in the area…spectacular views! If early November, you may still get some fall color, wildflowers and viburnum to add to the sights. Have fun! K


  10. Dang it Kathy! So now, I have to MOVE too? LOL…thanks for the very timely reminder — doctor told me to get off my lazy butt and do something other than sitting and reading a book. Enjoying your blog! Okay, okay, I’ll get up now! Cheers! Hazel


  11. I am glad I am not the only one with exercise equipment that never gets touched. We debated moving it to new house even….moved 2 of 4 things…hubby said he would use them. Me, I finally admitted I never would.

    These days I am packing, moving and unpacking. We’ve agreed to move ourselves…no movers. So far, a few things required another stronger person than me, but I’m definitely in the similar space to your hard-scraping mode…some strenuous activity going on!

    One of my retirement mantras is “move everyday”…do something to get off the couch. That self-talk works about 75% of the time. 🙂


  12. Those stone stairs are an impressive accomplishment. Like you, I prefer exercise that takes me outdoors than working out in a gym. In summer, I like to go for a walk (2-4 miles) first thing in the morning and do 1-2 hours of gardening in the afternoon. (I no longer have the stamina nor the joints for the 8-hour gardening marathons of my younger years.) In winter, shoveling snow and hauling in wood for my woodstove keep me active (although I’d also like to get back to doing some cross-country skiing or to take up snow-shoeing).


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