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Two convocations and some unsolicited non-expert advice

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I’ll be away for the next two weeks, though education will remain the focal point of the trips.

Child the younger convocates next week in Peterborough, and with fortuitous timing, child the elder has his second convocation the following week, this time in Victoria. It’s child the younger’s first convocation and likely not her last, while child the elder starts articling in Vancouver in September, and no further degrees currently in sight.

It is such a hardship to go to these two beautiful cities, what with two of the most gorgeous campuses in the country, to watch my kids show every sign that they’re turning out beyond OK.

I’m especially looking forward to running along the Pacific from the inner harbour — Victoria, not Peterborough — out the 800 metres along the pier to Ogden Point lighthouse, then along the treed paths of Dallas Road with the waves crashing below, the ships out on the water, the mountains of Washington state dominating the horizon... OK, I’ll stop.

But that segues into a couple of other things sure to set off the vitriol of the anonymous trolls out there.

One is that I’ll be wearing a hat and lots of sunscreen. I’d have a hat on the soccer field if I was allowed, but I certainly use lots of very heavy-duty sunscreen. The piece of ear that the doctor cut off last month thankfully wasn’t melanoma, but any time you hear the word cancer from a doctor...

Yes, I’m trying to give you less-than-subtle advice.

And I’d like to give a shoutout to a group of courageous people at the Reh-Fit Centre, who in a way I should credit — or players, coaches, and parents could blame — for my still being a soccer referee this spring. Without their inspiration and mutual support, I wouldn’t have passed the fitness test, which for old people is 2,100 metres in 12 minutes, roughly a nine-minute-mile pace.

Back in January, 16 older, obese people signed up for the Healthier Weigh program that Reh-Fit runs every three months, 12 twice-weekly sessions with a wonderful non-judgmental nutritionist and fitness staff. I was probably the oldest, some were considerably heavier, none matched my level of regular exercise though all were willing.

Even when you know that what you’re eating and drinking is harmful, that you’re consuming far too much, and that even chicken and fish aren’t really all that helpful when you’re eating three or four times as large the portions as you should at one sitting, it's so hard to stop and to establish control. Healthier Weigh gave me information about nutrition far, far beyond just the calories on a label, and it provided positive reinforcement. Every week we weighed in, and we wore pedometers which showed how many steps we were taking each day. And we supported each other through a lot of exercise.

It’s shocking to find out just how sedentary this job is, how few steps I take, especially the days when you don’t go out of the office on assignment. Reh-Fit advises getting up to walk three minutes every half hour, a schedule difficult to maintain, though the stereotype of seniors wandering aimlessly works for me when I’m doing laps of the atrium.

Of course, I’ve yo-yoed on my weight for decades, every time further back into obesity worse than the time before, and body mass index says I’m still fat, though it also doesn't allow for lean muscle mass. At any time I could lose control over it, though this time I’m determined not to, and people who love me will have my back and will tell me if I’m straying.

I will have things on my holidays that I haven’t had for a while — cajun ribs, yam fries, microbrewed beer, fish and chips of fresh Pacific halibut — but I will have them very infrequently and in much smaller quantities than I have normally consumed. And I will enjoy them, and I hope, not crave them, or have them again for a long time.

Healthy eating can taste really good — I am a huge advocate of Kellogg’s Bran Buds and all their fibre and protein and lack of bad stuff, and you would really like my veg stir fries with flax and my pepper-crusted baked steelhead trout bought fresh from Gimli Fish Market... and served in the amounts recommended for daily protein consumption.

But I digress.

Thanks to the support of the people in my program and of my family, there’s a lot less weight I’m carrying around, and it’s amazing how much renewed joy I have running around a soccer field. My arthritic left knee is happy to be lugging around a smaller body and hardly ever reminds me that it will never get better — I no longer subject it to much pavement running — and I’ve rediscovered the joy in knowing I can run around a soccer field for three hours a night with teenagers.

Reh-Fit will have another Healthier Weigh starting soon. It’s not cheap, especially for non-members, but maybe you or someone you love could really, really benefit from it.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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