My Irish Grandmother Minna Dominica was tiny and quick like a bird. She had long silver hair coiled in a bun - she was fit and she was feisty. But the thing that stands out most vividly in my childhood memories is that she was still climbing olive trees in her 80s.
I've been thinking about this lately, why climbing trees is generally seen as an adventure for an eight year old but very uncool by the time we hit our teens - and how often have you ever come across an adult up a tree?
In these days of a multi-billion dollar fitness industry - think expensive designer brand workout gear, scientifically designed runners and equipment, and gym memberships - why hasn't someone stopped to talk to the trees? Instead of bootcampers dragging car tyres and thick ropes up inclines or through soft sand at the beach, why not head out into the country or to a park with old established trees and get among the branches.
Think about it - it's a workout just waiting to happen. If it ever caught on trees could be rated with different levels of difficulty - beginners (I'm there!), intermediate and challenging. Guaranteed to work core, arms, legs and balance - and with the chance of an occasional adrenalin rush.
But climbing trees isn't the only exercise that doesn't usually make it to the other side of childhood - there are plenty of others. One of the highlights of summer was discovering an off-the-beaten-track bay with an assortment of holiday shacks and small fishing boats - and with thatched shelters and swings at the water's edge. I didn't want to leave. And along my city foreshore a forward thinking council has painted yellow hopscotch outlines on the walking path - a chance to hop and jump now and again rather than just doing it the dignified way.
Wood-heaps were big in my childhood - we used to scramble over them looking for lizards, blissfully unaware how good they were for developing our balance. It can be quite tricky to scramble over rough-hewn logs of different sizes, shapes and angles,some of them perched a little precariously. But if you really want to amp it up in the balance stakes then head for your local skate park.
Skateboarding - I've never seen a kid who didn't look like they were having fun on their board. So I borrowed one from the proverbial eight year old and had a go. Managed to stay vertical for a brief moment or two before the board skated out from under me. Next time you see a kid on a skateboard give them a respectful salute! And if you are looking to hone your balancing skills, then I reckon skateboarding would be right up there with tightrope walking!
So why pay for a personal trainer or all the other paraphernalia when you can take your cue from kids? Instead of doing it like an adult all the time, instead of having a big day out, why not have a kid day out? Go on a quest for your own personal Faraway Tree and start climbing. As well as the feeling of achievement you will maybe bring a smile to someone's face when they see an adult doing it like a child. Who knows - you might even give them the confidence to have a go!
Why should little kids have all the natural fitness fun? And when it comes to Grandma Minna, while I'm sure she wasn't climbing those long-ago olive trees purely for fun and fitness, we can still take a leaf out of her book - and while you're at it, don't forget to hug your tree.