Swords Orthodontics
17 Main St, Swords, Co Dublin, Ireland

Never too late to change: a walk in the mountains

A couple of weekends ago, I met up with some friends I used to share a house with the year after I graduated. At the time, I used to head off at the weekends and go scuba diving or walking in the mountains or cycling and my friends got up late, had BLT sandwiches and watched the Grand Prix on TV. 

I watched the Grand Prix once and concluded that I needn’t ever do that again. I had watched some cars go round in a circle, very, very fast. At one stage, one of them overtook another, and one of them broke down, but Sunday afternoon had disappeared and I didn’t feel any better for it.

On our get together last weekend, we went to see a band called Tony Villiers and the Villains at The American Bar in Belfast. They do an afternoon show, and they’re worth watching – sound a bit like Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline era if Bob Dylan had a voice like Van Morrison. Unsurprisingly, the set includes a cover of a Dylan song, a Van Morrison song and a rather cool Lou Reed song. One of the members of the audience was celebrating a birthday and Tony Villiers brought a cake over to her. Clearly there is an important communication lesson for us all.

But we’re all grown up now and everyone had to go home to their various responsibilities at quarter past eight in the evening. That night I got a text that one of the guys was going walking in the mountains the next day and I should join him – so I did.

Thanks to late night Tesco, I was able to get supplies and a new thermos flask at 10pm. He wanted to kick off at 08.00 on a Sunday morning. I set the alarm for an earlier time than a normal work day and made a simple breakfast, packed my hiking gear and drove to the mountains. I arrived at 08.08 and he was ready to leave without me – that ruthless punctuality was the first sign of a changed character.

It was about 2 years since we’d last met. He lives in England now, but when I lived there, I’d call on him and his family whenever I was going up and down the country, but then I left the UK and then so did he for a few years, so it was a long time before we met up again - and that only happens in Belfast.

We started talking about his new hiking habit – judging by his preparations he was taking it seriously. Normally you shouldn’t hike in the mountains alone, so he takes extra precautions:

“I have my map, my GPS on the phone. Route and way markers in the phone. I have a spare phone. Waterproof cover for the rucksack. I have spare batteries, spare cable. First aid kit. Energy bars. Water. Spare X, spare Y, spare Z….”

He’d looked at the mountains, planned a route, planned the intermediate points, taken on board the weather forecasts from different sources – it was very like planning an orthodontic treatment.

“Well, Steve, I turned 50 last year and I decided I wanted to get healthier. I was getting pains in my legs just from walking from the car to the office. I had to sit still for 10 minutes before the pain stopped and I could start work. I needed to lose weight as well. So the first thing I did was sit down and think about it. I reckoned the best thing I could do in my situation was walk. So that is what I did.”

“Do you do the 10,000 steps a day thing?”. I'm a bit guilty here, because even though I walk to work I do about half that number.

“I do 20,000. I take walks, walk around the office, and when I’m at home, if I’m watching the TV then I’m on a treadmill. I also decided I would walk up the highest peak in each part of the UK within 12 months. So over Easter I’m going to do the West Highland Way - I’m aiming to do it in 7days, and on day 8, if there is anything left in the tank, I’m climbing Ben Nevis.”

“Fair play to you.”

“Steve, I’ve lost 25 kilos.”

Now, I know I hadn’t seen him in a while but it never occurred to me he was a man with 25 kilos (that’s about 60lbs for my American readers) to lose.

It’s rarely too late to change. Even if you can’t change completely, you’ll almost certainly change for the better.

Work, life, health...even teeth.

What needs to change?

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