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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 likely 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.
Not Looking Good
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, heavier, and no better looking…
An Even Worse Outlook
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 paternal grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack, shortly after ‘retirement’ at age 62.
My maternal grandmother had begun having strokes and was afraid to travel.
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.
My weight didn’t budge.
The thrill was wearing off.
One evening, I came in the house after a ride, and a thought overcame me. I knew I wasn’t going to continue for 40 more years, 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 started and stopped that plan 3 times, starting every spring, and not quite completing it by the time the weather turned cold in the fall.
Shin splints, knee pain, creaky joints, physical therapists all conspired to slow down my progress, but…
I did finally run that 5k, at the end of a triathlon! (Many thanks to Jack and Adams — now Bicycle World — for the free entry.)
Two weeks later, I ran a standalone 5k in 8 minute miles.
6 months after that, I ran my first marathon!
Since then, I’ve
- joined cycling and running teams,
- run 5 marathons,
- completed dozens of running and obstacle course races and triathlons,
- won 2nd place in my age group at local races,
- completed several multi-day bicycle tours,
- made amazing friends,
- gotten into the best shape of my life, and
had a blast!
When I bought that bike, I knew I’d get fit, but I never would have predicted this path to doing so.
What do YOU want to do?
Choose your future, now!
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,
- share helpful resources,
- show my new achievements to date, and
- share new plans.
Also published on Medium.