The 59-year-old went to Tauranga Hospital last year with breathing difficulties and was surprised to learn he was asthmatic.
“They put my shortness of breath down to asthma. We don’t suffer from asthma in my family, so I was quite taken aback, even though I had all the symptoms. The hospital referred me onto this programme, and I decided to jump on to see if it’d be beneficial.”
Russell says the programme has made him more aware of the way he was breathing and how very important breathing is.
“Inhale, exhale. Even your posture plays a part, making sure your back’s straight. Every time I was short of breath, I’d take my inhaler, but it never came right until I came on this programme. I started doing everything I should’ve been doing and learned breathing techniques.
“I don’t use my inhaler as much anymore and I’ve taken precautionary measures to ensure I’m not susceptible to an attack. You can either listen and enhance what you’ve listened to – take it in – or forget about it. It’s all about looking after yourself. I’m not getting any younger and a lot of my family are dying around me. To see them dying wakes you up.”
Walking through The Redwoods with the Whaimua group was particularly rewarding for Russell. He was amazed at the distance he could cover while enjoying good company.
“We just got together, said hello to everyone, and started walking. We didn’t even realise how far we’d walked because we were talking. Me and my friend Wiremu were walking and he looked at an app on his phone and said, Russell ‘we’ve done 4kms.’ We could’ve done more if we didn’t have to stop.
“Our gym work at Instinctive Fitness was beneficial because all the equipment was there, while one of our kaiwhakahaere, Roel, helped us with our breathing. We had special guest speakers who would talk about things to do with breathing.
“Where I’m living – at our papa kainga out Horohoro – there’s a lot of work that we have to do, and I just get out and make myself busy cutting down the bush, a lot of weed eating and digging. It’s just about being active and being constructive.”
Russell says he has made some good friends on the programme, including old acquaintances he hadn’t seen in many years.
“I’ve seen some old friends from way back but it’s good to know we’re all on the same waka. I used to go to school with one of the guys – he was a head prefect at Boys’ High, and after that he went to law school. Forty years down the track we bump into one another on a programme like this. This is the joy about it – we just reminisce about things but at least we’re alive to talk about it. It’s a blessing every day when I wake up. I wake up and think, ‘choice I’m still alive.’”
Russell says he’s the kind of person in the roopu who likes to make people laugh.
“You have to have banter because laughing is a medication too. Who in their right mind comes to school angry every day and takes it out on others? No, you leave that all behind. Even if you have problems, deal with them. Just come in and do what you’re supposed to do. Be happy with it and carry on. If I can put a smile on somebody’s face, I’ve done the world good. There’s too much negativity in the world today to worry about other things. I just worry about my own backyard and making people happy.”