This morning I ran 10 miles before breakfast, and that was never going to happen. My fitness was poor and my health was slowly getting worse. My grandparents were dying of the same conditions I was destined to repeat. Eventually, I increased my activity level, improved my fitness, and found a whole new level of awareness and aliveness. I learned that I alone am responsible for being able to do what I want to do. Now, I’m empowered and enabled to do it in all areas of my life. You can get fit and have the life you want too.
My Probable, Almost Certain Future
By my late 30s, my doctor said I could stand to lose “a few pounds” or my blood pressure and cholesterol counts would continue to climb and I would soon need medication. I knew she was going easy on me, because the BMI chart on the wall showed it would be 30 pounds before I was even at the top of my “Normal” healthy weight range. Sedentary since high school, I was getting older, and heavier.
While he lived into his 90s, my maternal grandfather became disabled by strokes from his early 60s. At first, it affected his posture and his walking, and he’d stumble on his words in speech. His doctors put him on a fistful of drugs multiple times a day. In his last decade, he’d lost the capacity to form sentences. He and my grandmother would sit in their one bedroom apartment. When his children and grandchildren arrived, his eyes would well up with tears of recognition and joy. He’d attempt a name, and inevitably he’d call every daughter by one daughter’s name. He spent the last decade of his life walled into the tomb of his own mind, unable to interact verbally with the outside world. Thinking of him makes me so sad.
My other grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack, shortly after ‘retirement’ at age 62.
I was terrified. This was not consistent with the life I wanted to live. I knew I needed to get fit, and I needed to do it now.
I bought an inexpensive bike and rode 3 days a week, 3 miles around the lake near my home. After the first two weeks, I doubled my mileage to 2 laps around the lake, for a total of 6 miles each time. A few months went by. Over time, I comfortably increased my mileage into the 20s, but my weight didn’t budge and the thrill was wearing off. One evening, I came in the house after a ride, and I knew I wasn’t going to continue, even if it meant ill-health or early death. I was going to get fit, but I had insufficient motivation.
I bought my house near that lake, in part, because I was inspired that a sprint triathlon was held there each year. I decided to train for that triathlon, but, to do that, I would need to become a runner. At any other time in my life, this was never going to happen. I wasn’t a runner. I found a run training program that promised I’d run a 5k in 9 weeks.
Two and a half years later, I’d started and stopped that plan 3 times, but I did finally run that 5k, at the end of a triathlon! Two weeks later, I ran a standalone 5k in 8 minute miles. Since then, I’ve joined cycling and running teams, run 5 marathons, and had a blast! I’ve made amazing friends, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I knew I’d get fit, but I never would have predicted this path to doing so.
Go Big And Get Specific: “Health” And “Fitness” May Not Be Sufficient Goals
Ultimately, I became a runner because preventing illness and early death wasn’t inspiring. Something as impractical and audacious as a triathlon gave a tangible, achievable goal. Each new achievement has shown that something even bigger is possible. My athletic life has given me a whole new life. In the next 12 months, I’ll do new and different things that would have been unthinkable for most of my life.
What I’ve Learned
- I keep getting what I’ve always gotten, if I keep doing what I’ve always done.
- Fear will motivate a person to change the trajectory their entire life. It inspired me to get fit.
- Fear also stops us dead in our tracks. However, an inspiring belief, a promising future, and a path forward will overcome any fear.
Choose Your Future: 7 Steps You Can Take
If you see a possibility for yourself in any of this, join me. Give yourself a new life too!
- Take an inventory of every area of your life that’s important to you. Rate each area on a scale of 1 (This is horrible) to 10 (I’m living the dream!) Look at all areas of your life: health, fitness, family, finance, friends, work, play, spirituality.
- Envision what each of these areas has in store for you in 3 years, and 10, and 20. Is there an area of life where you’re not seeing the progress or outcome you want?
- Choose a new future. Define it. Write it down in detail. Describe it in present tense. See the sights, smell the aroma, feel the sensations, hear the sounds, taste the flavors. Here’s my personal vision statement, as an example.
- Take actions consistent with that future. Here’s a model I use to deliver results and continuous improvement in my own life and business.
- Get help. Find a coach or a support group. Contact me below for more advice or guidance.
- Keep moving. Never give up. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above. Review your answer to step 3. Update them as appropriate.
- Share your story below. Develop mastery in your own skills and help others.
Consider And Act
Please share your advice, information, and referrals below. I appreciate your contribution!
About This Post
This essay will Educate and Inspire readers. It will show them a means of changing the course of their life, in some area that matters to them. It will inspire them to reshape that area of their life.
Originally Given As A Speech
I originally spoke this essay to Toastmasters Area L Speech Contest Attendees, March 22, 2014. I was runner-up! I’ve updated it to improve readability, to show my achievements to date, and to share my new plans.
Also published on Medium.