This morning I ran 10 miles before breakfast, and that was never going to happen.
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 require 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, and over time and reflection I became terrified of my probable, almost certain future.
While he lived into his 90s, my maternal grandfather became crippled 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, and it’s not clear he understood much of what was said to him. He would sit in his one bedroom apartment with my grandmother, and 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. His verbal communication was limited and incoherent. He spent the last decade of his life walled into the tomb of his own mind, unable to interact verbally with the outside world.
My other grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack, shortly after ‘retirement’ at age 62.
I was terrified.
From Bicyclist To Triathlete
I bought a 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. A few months went by and I comfortably increased my mileage into the 20s, but my weight didn’t budge and the thrill was wearing off. I came in the house one evening after a ride, and I knew I wasn’t going to continue, even if it meant ill-health or early death.
I’d bought my house near that lake, in part, because 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. (More about that here.) 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.
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 plan to compete in a half-dozen races, including 10ks, triathlons, and obstacle course races.
I learned that we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten if we keep doing what we’ve always done. I was so horrified at my future prospects that I changed the trajectory of my entire life. If you see a possibility for yourself in any of this, join me. Give yourself a whole new life too!
Choose Your Future: 7 Steps You Can Take
- Consider where you’ve come from and where you’re headed in all areas of your life: health, 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.
- Take actions consistent with that future.
- Get help. Find a coach or a support group. Contact me below for advice or guidance in that area.
- Keep moving. Never give up.
- Share your story below. Develop mastery in your own skills and help others.
About This Post
I intend this essay to Inform and Inspire: After hearing my speech, my audience will be inspired by the possibility of reshaping an area of their life where they see an opportunity to do so.
Did I meet my goal? Please share advice, information, and resources below.
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 plans for 2017.
I became a runner to become a triathlete. I became a triathlete because I knew I wouldn’t keep cycling. Cycling was my first attempt to become healthy and fit. I’m a new person, who I was never going to be.
Please share your advice, information, and referrals below. I appreciate your contribution!
Also published on Medium.