|Starting on the Old Denali Highway, August 2000|
When my birthday arrived last October, I paused briefly to take stock of where I was and to look ahead to the future unfolding from that vantage point.
I was on the couch and the future didn't look too whoopie.
I had just finished reading Younger Next Year
, by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. Its no-nonsense approach and bottom-line truth-telling had provided sufficient wakeup call that the passing of another birthday simply underscored: I am getting older and the days when I can just let my body take care of itself are pretty much gone. I can age well, or I can age woefully: The choice is up to me.
The concept from the book that spoke most directly to me is the idea that, to paraphrase Saint Bob Dylan
, cells that are not busy being born are busy dying. And the way cells get the message to live and grow and be healthy is through movement.
There have been times in my life when I've been a body in motion. The photo above, for instance, was taken at the beginning of an epic bike ride in 2000, the end of a decade of cycling in which I had ridden numerous half-century rides, a couple of centuries, was logging 100+ miles a week on my bike and was a human pie furnace. No kidding. One of my nicknames at that time was The Pie Slut, because about 3 p.m. every afternoon, I would go around to my co-workers seeing if anyone wanted to join me for a slice of apricot or apple pie at the little cafe down the street.
I love food: I rode to eat.
However, over the years, I found that I had been eating more and riding less. Then just eating and not moving much at all.
The consequences, of course, were obvious. A BMI
of 27 pretty much tells the tale. Mostly, I simply felt bad. I was starting to make those old-lady-getting-out-of-a-chair noises, and limiting the things to which I said "Yes." Since I think Yes, especially in response to invitations from Life, can be one of the holiest of holy words, this was a problem.
I have several friends who are runners and I noticed a sort of pitiful whimper arising when I would read of their accomplishments. "I wish I could do that ..." "If only I were younger, I would so be out there with them ... " and the truly pathetic, "Back in the day ..."
While I was reading Younger Next Year, I was gobsmacked by the truly obvious: It isn't going to get any better. This isn't a phase I'm going through -- feeling weak, being fat, having trouble lifting not-very-heavy things, feeling out of breath after going up a flight of stairs, seeing my waistline increase and my shape become apple rather than hourglass -- this is the new reality. When my mother was ill and in assisted living, I got to see up close and personal how that new reality is likely to look in another 20 years or so. Lord have mercy.
And there is not some magical Someday Maybe Day in the future when suddenly this condition of weakness and un-fitness is going to suddenly dissipate and I will be strong and able again.
Nuhn-unh. Things can change -- I truly do believe that -- and only if I say so and then get into action to create a different new reality.
Despite massive amounts of internal resistance, inner-voice whining and perfectly good reasons why I shouldn't
make myself uncomfortable, yea, even unto sweaty several times a week, I let my friends' examples inspire me (that'd be you, Rikki, Darrah, Jennifer, Danica and Jereme) I got myself off the couch and into action, starting with the Couch to 5K
program. I did a 5k in November and another one in December, and posted about it on my Facebook page.
Which is when my friend Danica Lucker, ultra-marathoner and author of the Boston or Botox
blog, said, "Since you've done two 5k's, why don't you train for a half marathon next year and I'll meet you there so we can run together. I'll coach you."
The logic of that statement continues to elude me, but I couldn't think of enough good reasons to tell Danica no, so I said a most holy Yes, with an Amen, and got started. I've registered in a half marathon in Northern California in June and am eyeing a trail run half in late September in Colorado, with several 5ks and 10ks scattered in between, just to give me some interim goals.
I love the symmetry of the fact that I'm training for my first half marathon (from not being a runner AT ALL, friends and neighbors) the very same year that I qualify for Medicare.
Take that, cells that had been busy dying. Onward!