When I first started running, I absolutely hated it. Everything ached, right from the start; and I was pretty sure that my lungs weren’t meant to scream like that. Also none of the running magazines had warned me that my ears might start ringing from lack of oxygen. Is that even an actual thing or did my body make it up?
Everyone else in my family made it look so effortless. They seemed to somehow glide along the pavement as though their feet never touched down. To this day, I’m not sure how they did that, because my running was never so graceful. In fact, my brother – ever to the point – warned me that I was going to injure myself if I continued to run like an elephant.
(Don’t feel bad for me, as I assure you he wasn’t telling me that I resembled a large gray animal with wrinkly knees. He was just telling me that I sounded like one).
Thud…thud…thud… Yep, that’s basically how I roll.
But with time, running did become easier. And as weeks turned into months, I found that my family members had been right. The daily routine of just getting outside and going for a run calmed my breathing… my pace… and even my ears. Ha, no more ringing! I began to run further with less effort, and I no longer sounded as though the circus animals were in town.
I even ran my first race!
However, flash-forward a few years, and I feel as though I’m back at square one. An old knee injury flare-up, coupled with months dedicated to caring for my husband who had been near-fatally injured, placed running (and exercising in general) on the back burner. Somehow the speed with which time had passed left me naïve in thinking that I could just jump back onto the treadmill without an issue.
Ha! That’s a laugh. A few minutes into my first run of 2014, and I instantly transformed back into the loud-thumping, ear-ringing, gasping-for-air chic that I had fought so hard to leave behind. Not cool.
It’s moments like this that leave me wanting to give up. It’s the starting from scratch and the realizing that these runs are going to be hard…painful…and far from pretty. And as I sit on a step and tie my shoelaces, I find myself pausing a moment and thinking, “What’s the point, really?” I mean, everyone else on the face of the planet seems to be running 5k’s, half marathons, and sometimes even full marathons. Will I ever be at that place? And if I don’t think that I will, is it really worth the pain to start running, when I let it go for so long?
Inspiration to stop feeling sorry for myself and to just get started, even if the start was slow, came from someone I’ve looked up to my entire life. My 83-year-old Pepere. A few days a week, he wakes up early and drives to a nearby track…and he runs. Sometimes it’s just a few laps, although generally he runs for an entire mile! (Did I mention that he’s 83)? He always shrugs the physical achievement off, telling me that he doesn’t run fast, and all I can focus on is the fact that he’s perfectly okay with that. If it’s snowy outside or if his knee is acting up, he leaves the car in the garage and walks to the store for his newspaper as a means of getting a lower-impact workout in.
There’s never an excuse, because Pepere says that working out is the best way to start the day.
It’s not about winning any races or beating any records. It’s about getting outside for some deep breaths of fresh air. It’s about staying limber by getting some brisk movement in every day. It’s about staying healthy, both physically and mentally.
His determination to just ‘get out there’ and be active has always inspired me. But I think that it inspired me just a little bit more this year, because I can decide to be defeated… or I can decide to embrace what I can do. And what I can do will – with every single step – become stronger, faster, and more confident.
He may have never run the Boston marathon or signed up for a 5k. But Pepere has taught me that slow and steady really does win the race. Because in my book, he not only crossed the finish line, but he also won gold! And even if he’ll never be on the cover of a fitness magazine, he is – and always will be – my health hero; and I hope that someday when I’m 83, I’ll be just as active and fit as he is!
Who is YOUR health hero?
This post was inspired by the American Recall Center, which reached out to several bloggers and asked them to participate in their Who Keeps you Healthy Campaign. Per Judy Cohen (Outreach Coordinator) the American Recall Center is a brand new site devoted to providing health and wellness news in simple, straightforward terms. The center’s focus this month is joint health.