When local actor and comedian Tim Plewman lost two friends who were both his age due to heart attacks he realised that if he didn’t start taking better care of himself, he could just as easily suffer the same fate.
Tim found himself in his mid-50s, overweight and recovering from knee surgery. He had also stopped smoking, which while commendable, had led to overindulgence in compensatory eating and subsequent weight gain.
“I managed to give up smoking after over 40 years of addiction. It was incredibly hard to do and required an enormous amount of will power (from my wife) and copious amounts of sweets, snacks, nosh and nibbles to quell the withdrawal symptoms. It was like a perfect storm, I had an excuse to eat whatever and whenever I liked to give up smoking, and I could do no exercise because of my recovering knee… needless to say I put on 8kgs in less than a year.
“Then the storm broke, and two friends of mine died of heart problems at the age of 57. I had a decision to make, take the risk of following your friends or try to do something about it. It’s a simple choice, you either do or you don’t. Having made a start at improving my health by giving up smoking, I decided to give it a full go by getting fit and changing my diet,” he said.
Hitting the gym
One of the first steps Tim took was to get back in the gym. He had been a keen sportsman at school and says he stayed ‘reasonably fit’ playing squash and dancing into my thirties.
“By 45, gym became necessary in order to be fit enough to perform on stage every night, six days a week, but time creeps up on us all and by my mid-fifties exercising had pretty much stopped and old fartness had become a reality.”
He enlisted the help of a trainer and although he found it difficult at times, exercise has become a big part of Tim’s daily life now. It’s also what inspired his new book Fitness for old farts.
“At first it was the discipline of actually going to gym on a regular basis whether I felt like it or not that was hard. Then it was about training within my limits – understanding how far I could push myself without causing injury, and then realising that 50% of the process of getting into shape takes place in the kitchen.
“I realised very early on, that in order for exercise to make a serious difference in my life it had to be done on a regular basis. As you get older, that does not change, it just becomes more challenging. In the end, it all comes down to choice. You either choose to do it or you choose not to do it - I chose to do it so I do – It’s that simple really.
A life-changing experience
Tim says there is no going back for him now, the effect that changing his lifestyle has had on the rest of his life has been nothing short of dramatic.
“I cannot stress enough how much giving up smoking and going to gym have changed my life for the better. I am stronger, healthier and happier than I was fifteen years ago. The backache and neck pain and shoulder problems are all things of the past, and I can breathe again without coughing and spluttering.”
So what advice does he have for others in his (former)situation? “Make the choice to do. Then, join a gym and buy my book, Fitness For Old Farts. The stories are funny and the advice will make going to a gym far less intimidating. And finally, try to maintain the three F’s in life – fitness, flexibility and fun, the rest will take care of itself.”
Tim Plewman, a South African actor, dancer, humorist, director, writer and producer who is well-known for his theatre role in "Defending the Caveman" and author of 'Fitness for Old Farts'. Tim is one of the speakers at the speakers at the Discovery Vitality Summit 2013.