Okay, well I’m not exactly a paragon of fitness. I hope I haven’t misled anyone in these posts to think I’m a triathlete or anything. I’ve always been a “slightly sickly” kid, girl, woman, as a matter of fact, quick to pick up on any little bug coming through the neighborhood, week-lunged, a migraineur.
I WAS on my high school track team when I was a teenager, in a tiny town in Michigan.
Here’s how track practice went for me in 1977: My friends and I would waddle a half-mile to the bridge over the creek, duck under the bridge and smoke a cigarette or two (they’d been stored in our underwear, a bic lighter in our socks) while the fast girls kept running. We’d wait for them to run back over the bridge, and then we’d hop out and waddle that half-mile back. Our coach didn’t run with us. He must have wondered why there was so little progress in our time and fitness. My events were shotput and discus. A shot and discus travel farther with more momentum. Body weight can contribute to momentum. And now you have the picture.
Not what you’d call a natural athlete.
But today, after two years of regular exercise, I find there are things I can do. I can sloooowly jog one complete mile without stopping. This is a huge achievement for me, because I used to walk « mile and then suffer for days with hip, knee, and foot pain. I can swim a couple of miles, maybe more, at a go. Why is running harder than swimming for me? Joint pain does kick back in after awhile, and probably because I’m conditioned to want a cigarette every time I lace up. I can do unassisted chinups. Not many. I can do 25-30 pushups. That’s not a lot, but I couldn’t do one a year ago. Not one.
I keep developing more fitness, slowly but surely. And my experience has been that I’ll go along at the same level of fitness, much like a dieting plateau, and then suddenly jump a level, just as we’ll suddenly lose a few lbs. after working at it for quite awhile.
So today I’m reflecting on the fitness thresholds I stepped through on my journey. I’m describing them here for you. They may be familiar to you, or may be all ahead of you. I hope they make a hopeful list:
Threshold 1: The door of the gym/class/pool
An actual threshold that was very hard for me to step through at around 250 lbs. But then I found people there who were 400 lbs and more, comfortably working out in the pool and weight room, so I stayed.
Threshold 2: No longer thinking “Everybody’s looking at me”
People are thinking about THEMSELVES. Their lives, their goals, their bodies. Gym time is “me” time at most gyms. On the other hand, if you’re at a social gym, a single’s gym, people will check you out, because checking one another out is the main activity at these places. If so, and you’re not comfortable, shop around. There are gyms and pools and community centers more comfortable for bigger people.
Threshold 3: Looking forward to seeing fellow classmates/gym rats
This is when your gym or workout class becomes part of your social structure. It happens gradually, and it’s a great motivator.
Threshold 4: Post Workout Buzz
At this point I noticed while driving to work after a workout that I felt that warm, full, electric buzz, that overall feeling of calm well-being and painlessness that comes after a good workout. That’s the power of endorphins. Nice.
Threshold 5: Looking forward to post-workout buzz
Working out to achieve the buzz. Want the buzz.
Threshold 6: Wishing I hadn’t missed that workout
Actually feeling out of sorts and cranky because I didn’t work out when I intended to. Who is this person?
Threshold 7: Distracted by my need to workout
Can’t really hear what you’re saying, because I’m trying to figure out how to get a half-hour swim in between meetings.
Threshold 8: Canceling meetings/social responsibilities to work out
Are my clients reading this? I hope not. This happens. But only rarely. Really. I swear.
Threshold 9: Would no sooner skip brushing my teeth than skip a workout
Okay, that door is still ahead of me. But doesn’t it make sense? Working out is as important a part of personal hygiene as dental care is. Isn’t it? Of course it is.
We’ll all get there, poopsies, one door at a time,
Here goes another threshold, maybe: I’ll be in Ireland on June 2 (Ballyvaughn), and I’m not saying I will, I’m not saying I won’t, but I’m trying to work up the courage to think about thinking about participating in this mini-marathon. Just so I can say I’ve run one race in my lifetime. (If you’re going to run just one, Dublin seems a good spot to do it, doesn’t it?) This seems like something I’d need to do with a buddy or two or ten. If you might be interested in doing this with a wheezy, limpy, super-slow 43 year old? And start training. NOW? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll try to talk one another into it.