Saturday, November 8, 2008

Learning The Ropes

Lorenzo The Magnificent and his Ropes - in action

The weather has continued to be kind so we have managed to fit in the squirrel/groundhog/bison walk each morning. But in addition, we have taken the oportunity of being here to get Lorenzo to teach us some bad weather exercise routines.

I have mentioned Lorenzo's Ropes before so I had better explain what they are. We first met Lorenzo when we were all passengers on a ship. An enormous cargo ship, designed to carry 3,000 cars, but with a few passenger cabins. I once worked on ships and during this trip I was able to confirm what I already knew, which is that to travel as a passenger on a cargo/passenger ship is an exceedingly splendid way to get around the world. Officers on a ship eat very well - part of the plan to encourage them to stay - and passengers eat with the officers.

We and our Toyota Camry were travelling from Cyprus to Italy, via an unexpected detour to Israel, on the Fides. Our disembarkation point was near Naples, but first there was a call to unload and load cars at Palermo in Sicily. A lone cyclist came aboard with his bicycle. We met him at dinner in the officer's dining room. He was Lorenzo, who had sold up his business in America and was touring Europe on his bike. He had already spent several months in Italy, and was aboard the Fides until it reached Barcelona, where he intended to disembark to cycle round Spain.

The ship spent a couple of days in Palermo, instead of a few hours, because it was a public holiday and the alternative would have been to pay the dockers enormous sums of money. So with that and the trip onwards to Naples, we probably spent 3 days with Lorenzo but we became firm friends and have stayed in touch ever since. We have visited him and his wife Jane at their previous home in Florida and also here in Evansville. They have been to stay with us in France. They are lovely warm, kind and generous people and are among our best friends in the world.

Lorenzo was not only spending several hours a day on his bike in Europe, but also had a daily exercise routine which took about an hour. I think he will not mind me telling you that he had previously been very overweight and in bad physical condition - so much so that his doctor had given him a short life forecast if he did not do something about it. Lorenzo took this seriously and turned himself into a fit man. At the time we met him he was about 57 years old. In the picture above, taken this week, he is approaching a very fit 70. Each day on the Fides we would see him going through his routine, which involved quite a lot of hauling around on rubber tubes such as those you see him exercising with in the photograph above. We dubbed these "Lorenzo's Ropes" and have known them as such ever since. They are extremely portable but are a very good substitute for a set of weights. Virtually any movement you perform with weights can be reproduced against the resistance of these ropes. I have used them extensively. They are excellent.

However, he has since moved on to a routine of Pilates exercises using what is known in some quarters as a Swiss ball, an inflatable sphere big enough to sit on (there is one in the picture, behind the Steven Spielberg lookalike) . All very gentle, not too many repetitions of each exercise, the ball is used both for resistance and support. Having spent a week doing 40-50 minute sessions, I can highly recommend it. Good stuff for when you are prevented by the weather from going out for a run or walk, but also good, supported, non-impact and non-strain exercise, especially for the more mature body.

A key objective of Pilates-on-the-ball is to strengthen the core muscles, which of course in turn leads to strength in the back and hopefully being less prone to back problems.

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