Entering my early 50s, I had gained weight from lack of exercise, blaming it on stresses and job related obligations involved in transitioning from government to leading a private sector company.
"On my worst day, I can whip your ass at anything." she said, as we stopped cycling for a rest.
A subtly competitive male, to me that was a challenge that I could not ignore, partly because I realized that there was an element of truth in what she said.
I got a bootlegged copy of a running club program and began to run. The advice to run a minute and walk two to start was for me: run 20 seconds and walk for 3 minutes. I couldn't imagine getting past this; but the beautiful scenery along the river path and stubbornness prevailed. Six months later I ran a five kilometer race and a year later ran my first ten kilometer event. I was addicted. I had to have my daily run or I didn't feel well, physically or emotionally.
A stress fracture in my left foot, along with planter fasciitis side-lined me for almost two years. I suffered physical withdrawal from the running highs and gained weight.
"You look good with your clothes on.", she said as we readied for bed. I didn't strike back with comments on the visible effect aging had on her; but, again realized the truth in what was said to me and kept my mouth shut. By this time, daily life was comfortable and I satisfied myself in more intellectual and artistic pursuits along with doing the daily retired guys shuffle to the local coffee shop to read the days paper and smugly offer sage advice on how to solve the world's problems.
Then, approaching my 65th birthday, when I looked into the mirror or huffed and puffed up a mountain trail the memories of those past, honest declarations rang painfully in my ears.
Tall, with a good frame that allows me to carry the extra weight well, when I undressed, what was once firm muscle was just soft flesh. There was no real excuse. I saw it coming. I read those articles about the benefits of exercise on health and aging. I did nothing. But the number 65 loomed front and center and, despite what I saw, inside I still thought of myself as being much younger.
I kicked myself in the butt to get my running shoes on and get out the door; but, here in a snow-birds haven, the sun shines and the 4 km walk around the park is actually very pleasant. I am not alone. The park is alive each morning with people running, walking, shooting hoops, etc. With heart pumping, a glow on my face and happy with myself, the following half hour in the gym is even looked forward to.
I am having trouble coming to terms with the fact that my body complains and I resent that it doesn't do what it used to; but I will not give in. I will persist. I will not give in easily to that number - 65.
Living my life adventure as a writer and photographer, I travel across continents, savoring every moment; and, those moments are better when I feel fit and good about myself. I confess that I probably won't have the body that I was so proud of when I was 40 and still don't like aging; but, I am liking the fight, the sense that I somehow have a measure of control over my life.
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