I’ve discovered that getting up off my butt and adopting an active lifestyle—after decades of being a couch potato—is hard work that takes a lot of ongoing effort.
My strategy has always been to trick myself, by finding exercise that I think is so much fun that I want to go do it instead of lounging around scrolling through Facebook. And throughout the time I’ve written this column, I’ve explored the ways I’ve worked to fool myself into getting more exercise.
However, I have more than one trick up my sleeve, and one that I’ve been thinking about a lot this week is finding inspiration.
The internet is full of inspirational videos of people changing their own lives for the better.
One of the first that really gripped me was a guy who walked with two canes after his military service where he jumped out of a lot of airplanes. He was in constant pain and couldn’t walk without crutches.
Then he started doing yoga.
At the end of the video, the guy runs straight toward the camera, long hair streaming, and a look of pure triumph and joy on his face. His crutches were a thing of the past. I want some of that.
Or how about the woman who ran a marathon when she was 102 years old? She started running in her 70s, if I remember correctly. Who am I, a young whippersnapper of only 50, to think I can’t do it?
One of my favorite inspirations is a woman named Mirna Valerio.
She’s 39 years old, weighs 250 pounds, and she’s what they call an “ultra runner,” running marathons and races even longer than that, too.
Valerio just ignores all the crap and runs. A write-up in Runner’s World magazine included this paragraph: “Also similar to Terry Fox, there’s nothing elegant about Valerio’s sprawling, swivel-hipped gait. Coaches would tell her that she wastes energy by holding her arms up too high and rapidly swinging them across the meridian of her chest. But the style works for Valerio, appearing to serve as corrective balance for the ponderous progress of her lower body, distinguished by barrel-like thighs and a heavy scoop of belly.”
As a person with barrel-like thighs and a heavy scoop of belly, I think I would quit running altogether if somebody had written those words about me in a running magazine. But this woman has run at least six marathons and a couple of ultramarathons. She also coaches cross country. Her attitude is infectious.
I don’t know about you. But to me, that is inspiration all over the place.
Most recently, my inspiration came yesterday at the track, from my own daughter and workout buddy.
It was a comedy of errors from the get-go in getting to the track. She didn’t have her gym bag, or shoes. But she didn’t let that stop her, going to the store to buy some workout clothes. The next obstacle was shoes—hers were in her gym bag. I had a pair that might work. We pushed on.
We decided to go to the track at Edgewood Middle School. It was just after six. The weather was perfect, warm and breezy with a storm moving in. I had brought weights and we took turns thinking up exercises we could do.
When the shoes we had didn’t work out, she went barefoot and we kept at it.
As we did a set of lunges with weights for one side of the track, she saw the look on my face, and asked what I was thinking about.
I was thinking about how much I wanted to quit, how my shoe was making my foot hurt, and how far we still had to go.
She asked for my reasons for not wanting to quit.
That was a good question. I don’t want to quit because I want to be around to play with my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. I don’t want to quit because I don’t want to huff and puff with the tiniest amount of exercise. I don’t want to quit because I feel better when I exercise.
The long and the short of it is that the list of reasons I wanted to quit was short and trivial. The list of reasons I don’t want to quit is long, and gets right at the heart of my quality of life. And I’m smart enough to know that there are plenty of people out there who are highly motivated because they had a heart attack or other health scare. I know how lucky I am, how healthy I am, and how capable I am of meeting my goals.
The root of the word “inspiration” means “filling with spirit.” That spirit, that motivation, that urge to action—this is what I’m after in the long term, so I continue to seek out inspiration wherever I can find it. I love it when I find it close to home.
What inspires you to get up off the couch? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!” I’d love to hear from you.