Many ignore one of the most important aspects of not only retirement but day-to-day life, your physical well being. When you walk out that door you want to be up to the tasks at hand—whatever they might be. When I knew I was going to leave I scheduled a complete physical, blood work, colonoscopy, and my doctor insisted on a nuclear stress test because of my heart arrhythmia problem. I passed all tests with flying colors and thought I was ready to take on the world when I retired. I highly recommend you do the same to ease your mind and get a handle on where you are at physically before you leave. Another more practical reason I did this was to confirm that it was ok to reduce my FEGLI coverage when I left. If you discover that you have major health problems or as they say, have one foot on a banana peel and the other foot wherever..., when you go out the door it may be best to keep all of the coverage you have?
What I neglected to take into consideration was that my level of activity while I was still working was far less than what retirement had in store for me. I went from a desk jockey to constantly on-the-go, exercising, running my business, starting home projects that I had put off for years, and was on my feet all day working on anything and everything imaginable. I unfortunately treated each day like I treated weekends while working; running here and there and always on the go. Well......, if you read my early journal entries you know where that got me. I was off my feet for some time with back, knee and feet problems after just one month and it took about six months to get back on track.
Retirement is like opening Pandora's box. You see all of the possibilities and don’t realize you aren’t a teenager anymore or have the stamina you had in youth. It didn’t take long for the reality to catch up with me. Hopefully, those reading my column will learn from my mistakes. It’s also interesting to note that you can’t plan for everything. You simply don’t know what’s around the corner or like me didn’t think realistically about your physical condition at age 55. The quote “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray” makes so much more sense to me today. I don’t care how well you prepare and plan..... things can and do happen.
Retirement today is nothing like it was in the past. Most are active, healthy, and able to take on new challenges. To do that you must be in shape, able, willing and ready for the rigors of your new life style. I suggest scheduling the following check-ups before you leave and for retirees who neglected to do this before they left call and make the appointments NOW:
I obsessed about the colonoscopy exam for 5 years, from the date my doctor first recommended this test at age 50. I decided to go forward with it and to my surprise it was not the nightmare I anticipated.
If your job isn’t physically challenging or you are a desk jockey now, I suggest starting an exercise routine long before you leave. Start walking at lunch and on weekends, cut out the junk food, and consider less strenuous exercise programs like Tai Chi or Pilates along with light weights. I was walking on weekends before I retired but that was only two days a week and I did little else. After I made adjustments to my exercise routing after retiring things got back to normal and believe I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for years. I went from 187 pounds to 170, my blood pressure is now 110 over 70, my cholesterol is below 200 and I feel great overall. About the only thing I have to complain about now is that I still don’t sleep well, never did, and possibly never will.
The key is to find an exercise program that you enjoy, exercise in moderation, and eat well and take supplements to insure you are getting enough of what you need to function when exercising. I now walk every other day, just under 3 miles, and on the days I don’t walk I practice Pilates and lift hand weights for about an hour each session. That all adds up to about 7 hours of exercise a week, an hour a day devoted to restoring your energy and healthful pursuits.
Now you have my story. What will yours be..........? Only time will tell. However, if you take the time now to evaluate your situation— maybe look in the mirror after taking a shower, pause to consider if you are out of breath when you climb the stairs, and just sit back a moment and think about what you are feeling; you may be spurred to action. Then, make that phone call to schedule a physical and start exercising. It can only help and if you start exercising make sure you have your physician's blessing.
Go to Part 3 - Are You Financially Prepared for Retirement