Young, Determined, and Persistent

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Can you see the figure in the distance? She’s one of my role models, the one I look for each time I go walking at Scott Park. Young, determined, and persistent, she’s there winter and summer, in rain and sun and wind. And yes, she’s there the other seasons of the year too. Without even knowing her name, I’m impressed with her.

Young, she’s doing something important for her body that will stand her in good stead when she’s older. Developmental psychologists state that the human body is at its optimum level of functioning in our 20’s and 30’s, and many people in that age category somehow magically believe that the state of health they enjoy currently will be theirs in ensuing decades. I’m pretty sure that humans reach their physical peak around 25, and after that it’s a slow, steady, inevitable decline towards old age. All this is to say: Put on those shoes and join my friend and me at the track.

She’s determined. When I first saw this young woman, she was heavier than she is today. Because of her determination and persistence, she has not only lost a lot of weight, but she has also become more toned and less sluggish. I’m not sure how this works, but persistent involvement in moderate exercise can actually energize us, not deplete our energy resources. Note that I said “moderate exercise.” You don’t need to run several miles a day. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week can do you/us a world of good.

Although I’ve already alluded to the persistence aspect of my young friend, there’s something else I need to mention. So many people start diets and exercise regimens in a gung-ho manner, and after a couple of weeks, they’re making excuses for staying on the couch: the weather, a cold, too tired, and many other alibis too numerous to list. They’ve also probably begun sneaking French fries and sipping sugar-laden drinks. An occasional indulgence is okay; a steady diet of them is not.

Am I a doctor? No. I don’t have the scientific aptitude for that. What I am is a senior citizen who is aware of the long term consequences of health decisions that we make when we’re young. It’s never completely too late to turn things around, however. I say “never completely” because once certain diseases take hold, it might be everlastingly too late.

Back to my young, determined, and persistent friend, I missed seeing her couple of days recently, and when I recognized her in Wal-Mart, I asked about her absence. It turned out that we had been visiting the track at different times. Plus, I’d been doing a lot of beach walking. We chatted about the stress relieving factor of exercise, and she said that her children had recently urged her to go. They didn’t want a cranky mom, and as young as they were, the little ones realized that exercise was good for their mother’s psyche and mood. But that’s a story for another day.

For today, I’m interested in hearing your exercise success stories. How has consistent exercise helped you physically and emotionally? How do you find time for it?

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

At dinner the other evening, my friend Connie and I discussed the fact that we don’t blog as much as we used to. “Why is that?” we wondered aloud. Sure, our lives are busy, and at times we’re a little frazzled, but that’s nothing new. What we think is that Facebook and Words with Friends has cut into our blogging time! We love social media, and yet it can be quite distracting. Both Connie and I have dozens of things to write about, and we develop blog posts as we’re driving along en route to our various destinations. The problem is (or one of them) that we don’t write these things down.

That said, one of the things I’ve thought about numerous times during the last several months is the incredible shrinking woman. She’s a young woman that I often seeing walking at a local track. When I first saw her at Scott Park, I could tell that she was struggling to keep on keeping on. I wanted to say, “You go, Girl! You can do it!” I didn’t say anything though. Unsure of track decorum, I kept my enthusiasm for her efforts to myself.

Since I don’t go to the park every day, it was probably three weeks before I saw her again, moving a little faster that time. Walking steadily and resolutely, she and I came face-to-face and nodded a greeting. I remember thinking, “YES!” to her perseverance and determination.  I continued to see her almost each time I visited the track, and then one day I noticed a change in her appearance. She was noticeably smaller and quite a bit faster.

And then the  morning arrived when I couldn’t believe my eyes! She had lost so much weight that I just had to comment on it. “You’re looking good!” I said as we passed each other. She didn’t just nod; she twirled around with a smile and said, “Thanks for noticing.” How could I help but notice? Just guessing, I’d say that she had probably lost 60-75 pounds from walking those tree-lined paths.

The beautiful, healthy young woman has probably paid more attention to her diet too. It’s been my observation that once people begin an exercise regimen, they care more about what they put into their bodies. I’m not saying we don’t like Hershey bars; I’m just saying we eat them more infrequently.

So kudos to the incredible shrinking woman who consistently demonstrates the power of exercise. Keep in mind that she’s not working out with fancy machines or paying for a membership at a fitness center. Nope. She’s putting one foot in front of another, one of the most inexpensive and effective types of exercise there is.

Ellen’s Secret

Yesterday in Wal-Mart, I picked up a magazine and skimmed an article about Ellen. If you’ve seen her lately, you have to have noticed something different about her, a glow that exudes health and confidence. She’s always been an attractive woman, but now she seems especially so. “What is it?” I’ve been asking myself.

Last night I discovered her “secret” as I hurriedly read through the article; it was in Shape in case anyone wants the full version. This is what I gleaned:  she looks radiant and healthy because of choices she made regarding diet and exercise. I don’t remember the exercise part, but I do recall the diet part. In her earlier years, Ellen ate lots of red meat, French fries, and fried food galore. She didn’t feel that great, but she didn’t attribute her lack of energy and blahs to her food consumption.  She’d gain and lose, gain and lose, and then gain and lose some more.

Then one day, Ellen realized that being healthy isn’t about depriving yourself of things you enjoy. It’s about rewarding yourself with things that are good for you. For example, she no longer eats fried food, but rather than looking at it as a deprivation, she looks at it as eliminating something totally not good for her. She’s amazed, maybe even appalled, at the foods she ingested “back in the day,” and now she eats lots of fruits and vegetables and stays away from dairy products and red meat. She views it as a way of nurturing herself, of treating herself well.

I loved the article (at least the part of it that I read) because I, like Ellen, feel something between despair and compassion when I hear women lamenting the fact that they’re “so fat” and that they need to go on a diet. It sounds negative, like they’re going to deprive themselves…and indeed they are. According to Ellen, that doesn’t work. You have to make a commitment to a total lifestyle change. You have to make a commitment to a healthier you, one with energy and confidence. That doesn’t happen with deprivation and self-denial; that happens with loving yourself and making a commitment to health.

So much for the cinnamon buns! Where are those strawberries?