A good friend has a favorite quote about the aging process:
If it really is 'all downhill from here,' I wish someone had told me when I was at the top so I could have stopped to celebrate.
Looking back on my life, I realize with some trepidation that I may have summited at forty. I was, literally and figuratively, on top of the world at forty. It was a good year, as I've mentioned here before recently.
But I've come to a conclusion. I'm not quite ready to head downhill--at least not at any high rate of speed. I would like to coast downhill ever so gradually, not plummet rapidly. Ideally, I'd like to even plateau for awhile. Dare I dream? I'd like to continue climbing.
Now, of course, I am talking right now about my physical body. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually--I see no reason to do anything but continue to climb. The physical body--the one I used to consider fairly athletic and strong--is attempting to head downhill faster than I can keep up. I injured a shoulder two summers ago and since then really haven't played anything anymore. I've walked some and hiked some, but I don't really play hard. I can't even throw a tennis ball for my dog in the yard. All the sitting I do, reading, writing, researching, etc. is taking its toll and I am feeling it. It's time for a change.
I have many good friends who must have faced a similar awakening in the last few years. Angela plays soccer. Kathie, Halley, Kim, Karen and Patricia run. Krista boxes. Lorie climbs mountains. ReNai does triathalons. These women have inspired me. Did I leave you off the list? I'm sorry. Leave me a comment and I'll edit you in.
Yesterday, I invested in a decent pair of running shoes. This morning at 7:00, I went running for the first time since...perhaps ever. I haven't traditionally liked to run. At all. I don't often use the word hate, but it might just be applied well in this situation. When I went out for the track team in high school, I showed up after school and the coach told me to start running laps. I informed the coach, with all due respect, that I was a sprinter, not a runner. I ran fast, not far. I could outrun anyone in the 50 or 100, was experienced with hurdles and could even high jump with good form. He shrugged and told me again to start running laps and he'd talk to me later. That was the end of my high school track and field career.
As a teen, college kid and even into my early 30's, I considered myself an athlete. I played every sport available to me and loved the competition of a good game. I remember playing volleyball all night as a teen in the church gymnasium, barefoot on a cement floor even, and never felt tired. I joined an indoor soccer team as a young mom and became the goal keeper, just so I could get more minutes without having to sub out to give someone else a turn (my Post-Partum Aggression teammates didn't like having people charge at them and kick balls into their faces for some reason). I loved working up a good sweat and pushing myself.
But running? Even in my younger years, I found it so boring. There's no challenge. It's not a game. I would grow hopelessly winded and poop out after only a few minutes.
And now at 41, I'm not in shape anymore. I am not an athlete by any measure. I am in the absolute worst shape of my life, as far as muscle tone and cardiovascular strength and endurance goes. I am certain I was in better condition through both of my pregnancies than I am right now--and one of those had me on bed rest for the last several weeks, followed by another two months off my feet, recovering from major hemorrhaging.
It is time for a change. Biking is fun, but cumbersome. Joining a club is not in the budget or the time schedule. Exercise videos in the living room make me feel like a total dork (no offense to those of you who find them inspiring). Our house and budget are both too small for exercise equipment in the house (the Nordic Trac we found at a garage sale in 2001 made a lovely clothes rack until we gave it away before moving). Running is different. For only the cost and space of a pair of shoes, running is something I can take with me anywhere. I can do it on vacation or traveling for business and living out of hotels. Instead of taking time away from my kids, I can take them with me. I can take my dogs (and Lord knows Fudgey needs it). I will become a runner. I am fairly determined at this point. I quizzed my friend ReNai and my sis-in-law Ruth while I was in Vancouver. The conversations pumped me up all the more.
Yesterday, my first day home, I pulled the trigger on some decent shoes, justifiably nervous about injuries in my current condition, and then paced the house with anticipation, waiting for this morning to arrive. Can you believe I was excited to get up this morning and go run? That's just crazy for me, but I was.
With both of my kids along to keep me company, I ran and walked, doing about half of each, for approximately two miles. And you know what? It felt good. I liked it. I didn't push myself like I would have done in my younger years, the competitive drive in me having been reduced significantly by a good healthy dose of long-term apathy. I have set humble goals. By the end of the summer, I would like to be able to run a ten minute mile--something I don't think I've done since elementary school P.E. class, honestly. Next summer, I would like to run a 5K with my kids without stopping or dying. That's as far ahead as I'm willing to look for now.
I think I will stick with it this time; I really do. If for no other reason, I am far too frugal to let the investment in those shoes go to waste.
I will not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.