I am a bit out of shape. My once trim and attractive figure has morphed into something I'm so not proud of. My clothes fit snugger than they used to. The needle on the scale swings a bit higher than it used to. I can pinch more inches than I dare to share. In short, I have needed to make some changes, especially in the area of exercise.
I used to exercise regularly. Actually, I used to be pretty fit. My diet has remained healthy, but my exercise routine has diminished to the point of being practically nonexistent. Other than the walking around I do to maintain order in our house, I have done very little to tone up my muscles. But, in my defense, I have a lot of good excuses...
1) My athletic shoes are worn out...
2) It's cold outside...
3) I'm tired...
Okay, so they aren't really good excuses at all. I need to start exercising and I know it. But I really didn't have any athletic shoes until ...
One day at church my aunt asked me what size shoes I wore. I told her and she gleefully thrust a Walmart bag under my nose. Inside was a pair of baby blue granny shoes, complete with a wide velcro strap. Her daughter-in-law had purchased the shoes for her grandmother, who wisely never wore them. This was evident by the tags still attached. "Maybe you can use them?" my aunt hinted.
I gulped, remembered my list of shabby excuses, and forced myself to reach for the bag. I told myself that these monstrosities would encourage me to finally purchase my own pair of chic athletic shoes and finally get into an exercise routine.
That was several months ago.
Today, I decided I would start. Mindful of the granny shoes still in their bag in my closet, I decided I would run early in the morning so as not to frighten my neighbors. No such luck! By the time I finished my devotions, got the kids breakfast, and took care of a few odds-and-ends, it was 10:00 a.m.
But I was determined to start anyway. If I didn't start today, when would I? I would only push it off again and again. Resolutely, I slipped on my granny shoes, secured the velcro straps, and headed for the front door. Besides, they weren't really that bad, I consoled myself. Okay, maybe they were...
My 5-year-old stopped in mid-sentence, mouth agape, to give me a critical once-over. My husband, who never, ever comments on my clothing, asked if I was going out "...like that?" My teenage daughter stifled a giggle. My resolve began to weaken. Should I or shouldn't I? Frantically ping-ponging arguments around in my head, I decided that if I didn't start today, I probably never would. Praying silently that no one would step outside of their homes until I had safely returned to mine, I took off.
It was exhilarating to be running again! I loved the feel of my feet pounding the pavement, the wind blowing through my hair, my lungs filling with crisp morning air. I was alive! I was free! I was running!!!
And then I hit the ninth house.
Gasping for breath, I slowed to a walk. Multi-colored spots blipped before my eyes. My knees turned to jello and my legs wobbled beneath me. My heart thumped crazily in my chest and resounded through my ears. Careening like a drunk, the world spinning dizzily around me, I began to feel sick. Then faint. And, a little like I might keel over and die on the spot.
But, I was wearing those awful granny shoes and was too embarrassed to be seen, let alone rescued, with those attached to my person.
So, bolstered by pride and pride alone, I continued to trudge on.
Somehow, I regained enough composure to wave weakly to an elderly couple out walking their dog - who didn't even blink when they saw my granny shoes! They also didn't seem to notice the alarms going off all over my body as my internal systems scrambled to recover from that initial shock. Emergency response teams were mobilized. A host of other first-alert responders raced around within me to stabilize my heart-rate, strengthen my legs, and pump oxygen to each and every neglected square-inch of my being. I made the executive decision to spare my body any more trauma. There would be no more running for me today. I would just
Then the wave of discouragement smacked me upside the head. Hot tears of failure stung my eyes. What was I thinking?! I couldn't run to save my life!!! I hated my body and, obviously, my body hated me back. I wanted to quit.
But "quit" is a four-letter-word.
Fast forward ten months:
Today is March 11. When I finish this blog I will lace up my snazzy athletic shoes and go jogging. (I chucked those granny shoes long ago.) I will feel the wind in my hair, breathe the crisp morning air, and feel energized and alive! Even after I pass the ninth house!
I made some mistakes at the beginning of my quest to regain physical fitness. But I didn't give up. Granny shoes and all I continued to walk daily and then run. I began to eat smaller portions, focusing more on eating a lot of fresh fruits and veggies. (Approximately 75% of each of my meals is raw - either salads or fruit/veggie pieces.) I cut waaaaay back on anything fried. Already nearly vegan (the only animal products we consume are the eggs our chickens lay), I continue to cook 95% of our meals from scratch. I do this, not because I enjoy cooking (I hate it, actually), but pre-packaged and processed foods contain so many additives/preservatives/artificial etc. that they just aren't healthy. My beverage of choice is simple - water. Juices are treats. Sodas are reserved for extremely rare occasions of celebration.
And the pay-off? In the past ten months I have lost seventeen pounds. Yessiree! Count 'em! One-seven! That's more pounds than I have fingers to count on! It's fun to shop for clothes once more, because they are actually starting to look good on me again. I still have some more to lose, but the last ten months have shown me that with hard work and determination, it's possible.
One final word:
My dad was a runner. Six days each week, I awoke to the sound of his footsteps racing around the track he had built in our backyard. When he got too old to run anymore, he walked. He stopped walking only months before he died last August.
When I began my journey back to fitness, I would call Dad after nearly every jog to share with him how far I had run. He was always encouraging. Always supportive. His encouragement has stayed with me. Now, on the days when I don't feel like jogging, I remember the words he gave me shortly before he died. They still carry me.
We all need some encouragement to do something that's hard for us - like starting an exercise program. Moms, especially, need this. We give out so much to our families that we sometimes forget to care for ourselves.
I think I might just have the beginnings of an idea ...