Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Beginning a New Thing: Exercise

Fits and Starts
About ten years ago, I decided to begin exercising. I was beginning a new thing. What I mean is, I decided to make exercise a regular part of my life. And so I started, and stopped an started again. Many times.

There were injuries and illnesses and habits long ingrained that offered great resistance to my plan. I would jog a few times in a week. And then I would get really busy with my job or family. And soon, I'd be three weeks into not exercising. Then three months. Who was I trying to kid? "I'm just not on of those health nuts!" I kept rationalizing.

One spring day a few years later, I drove three hours north of our home to sit with a friend who's father was having surgery. I was there for support. It was an all day thing. It was a day when I knew I'd not have time to exercise. But the day changed my life.

I spent a few hours in a hospital waiting room with a stocky lawyer who appeared less in shape than me. He told me he ran marathons. He told me his secret was to never cause himself pain. What?

Never Cause Yourself Pain
He explained that if you run too fast or too far, you will hate jogging and soon you'll quit. But if you go slowly and set small goals, soon you'll enjoy the process. "Get comfortable shoes," he said. "And just enjoy."

And so I did. I began to run--no--I began to slowly jog short distances in comfortable shoes. I never allowed myself to get winded. (I loved that rule!) It was never hard to breath. If it started to get hard, I slowed down or stopped. I just kept my eye on the prize of good health.

About a year after I began this painless process, a friend asked me to train with him to run the mini-marathon (13.1 miles) the next spring. The event was six or seven months away, and after a few weeks, I went online and signed-up--even though I could not run more than two miles at the time. I doubted I would follow-through. However, I went to the bookstore hoping against hope that I could do this thing! I bought a book called MARATHONING FOR MORTALS. And I began to train.

Each Sunday, a group of five or six of us from church would go to a flat, paved trail and slowly jog together. At first we did a mile. Five months later, only a week or so before the event, we jogged nine and a half miles. I had never run that far in my life. And the mini-marathon would be three and a half miles further. Yet now, I knew I could do it!

My Goals for the Race
I set two goals for the mini-marathon. My first goal was to finish. Second, I wanted to jog the entire walking. I didn't care if grandmothers flew past me. (And some, no doubt did.) I knew my pace, and I knew I could do this.

Perhaps the single most fulfilling day of my life was the day I ran the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon. Two hours and thirty-one minutes after I began, I finished. And I had only begun.

Six Years Later
Today I continue to push myself to exercise. I enjoy trekking/hiking in hills and mountains. I don't cause myself pain. But I miss the workouts when I'm not able to do them. Exercise is my friend.

A lawyer convinced me to make fitness a part of my life--instead of an occasional fetish--when I was in my mid forties. Today, I weigh thirty-five pounds fewer than when I started. I weigh five pounds less than when I ran the mini. I get sick less often, and find exercise to be free therapy for tough times.

What About You?
In what areas do you need inspiration? What single challenge has you intimidated? Where do you assume you are stuck? Feel free to feedback here.

In my next post, I hope to apply some of this to other challenges in life. In fact, I've challenged myself to increase my writing. I plan to post something here every day for the next thirty. It's my new thing. What's yours?

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