Last spring I wrote a post about setting goals, how I’d recently returned to running, and how my next goal was to enter and run a 5K. I’d never run one before, even when I was younger. So why was an almost 50-year-old gal doing this? Well, there was a time a couple of years ago when I felt old. I was tired, out of shape, and unable to keep up with my kids. Ever feel that way?
I’d see other people out running and wish that I could do that again, but didn’t think I could. Yet some of the people I saw were older, heavier, or slower than myself. But they were out there anyway. I think as we age it’s easy to talk ourselves out of exercise. We feel too old, scared that we might injure ourselves, or think that it’s too late to start. Getting up and off the couch takes some planning and effort. It takes us out of our comfort zone. Yet, being physically active is one part of a healthy lifestyle. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start, as long as we don’t compare to others and think we all have start out at the same level.
What it does take is that first step. It might be a walk around the block, or even just down the street and back. For some people that’s as much as they can do at first – and that’s okay. Maybe it’s taking up swimming, biking, or joining a Zumba class. Whatever it is, just start. You’re not too old, or too heavy, or too slow. You can do it. God gave you a beautiful body to take care of; and an active lifestyle is just one way you can do that. So get started. Set your goals and take your first step.
So back to my 5K story. All summer I worked at increasing my distance, sometimes working on my speed too. But to be honest, I wasn’t too concerned about my speed. I just wanted to finish. I asked a good friend to run with me. She’s an experienced runner and she’s a great encourager.
I felt nervous about running the 5K all day. The race wasn’t until 5:30, so my adrenalin had plenty of time to spring into action. I don’t know why I was nervous. I wasn’t running to win any medals; I’m not very fast – not.at.all. I just wanted to finish it.
Sue and I met at the start ahead of time. Energy filled the air as people warmed up and stretched. If ever there was motivation to do it, here it was. We stood among a group of over 500 other runners and walkers. All around were people just like me, some with a little more gray at their temples, some a bit younger. Families stood together alongside groups of young college students. Parents made sure their strollers were tethered to their wrists. Young, old, middle-aged, all shapes and sizes – they were all there, ready to take that first step over the starting line.
The horn sounded and we took off, slowly at first as it takes awhile to get 500 people across a starting line on a city street, but we eventually spread out and picked up our pace. Around a half-hour later, my friend and I sprinted to the finish line. And I reached my goal – I finished. It was challenging, but exhilarating, hard work, but well worth it. As I look back there are several things I can pick out as lessons to remember – some new, some good reminders. This what I found:
1. If you work hard and train, you can do hard things. This goes for most things in life, including fitness. Work hard, do your best, and overcome your challenges.
2. Keep accountable. If you’ve set a goal to exercise tell someone about it, or write about it like I did. It’s harder to let a goal slide away if someone else knows about it.
3. Enlist a friend. Ask someone to train with you, help you, or encourage you in your goals.
4. You’ll be healthier if you get out and exercise. Even if you’re older, out of shape, or overweight it’s not too late. Go slow, but do something. You’ll be taking care of the body God gave you and you’ll reap rewards like feeling better, having more energy, maybe weight loss, increased strength, and many others as well.
5. You’ll find your friends and family will encourage you and cheer you on. It was encouraging during the 5K to hear people clap and cheer when we ran by. Other friends and family met us at the end of the race, happy to see us finish.
6. You’ll set a positive example for your kids. My kids saw me running all summer and last winter. After the 5K they expressed interest in trying it themselves some time.
7. Moms (and dads) it’s okay to take care of yourselves. As mothers we often don’t take care of ourselves because it seems there’s too much to do and too little time. Remember that if you’re healthier you’ll be more up for the responsibilities of motherhood. You’ll teach your kids how to live a healthier lifestyle by being a good steward of the body God gave you.
8. When it seems too hard, don’t give up. During the 5K, and even during training, there were times I felt like stopping. My friend was a terrific encourager during the 5K. At other times I’d pray for strength and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
9. Don’t compare. Many people passed us at the start of the 5K. If I’d compared myself to those who finished early on it would be easy to get discouraged. But I finished and that felt good – and I wasn’t last either.
Remember, it’s not too late to get active and be more fit. You don’t have to be young, strong, and thin, you just need to do the next thing – get started. One word of caution – please check with your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you have any ongoing health problems.
Would you like to be healthier? Let me know in the comments below how you plan to be more active.
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