What is the absolute worst part of starting to exercise when you haven’t been doing it? STARTING!
It is so tough to put those workout shoes on for the first time when you’ve been out of the habit. I’ve realized this rings as true for people who have regularly exercised as those who haven’t.
The day I got the call from my girlfriend, Betsy, asking me to join her in training for a half marathon in Puerto Rico in honor of her daughter, I felt a mix of emotions.
My first emotion was a sense of loyalty. Without question I had to do it for her and for her daughter.
My second emotion was fear. How could I train for a marathon if I didn’t even regularly exercise? How could I keep up with my girlfriend who has been exercising regularly and in much better shape than I? What if I fail?
Luckily, my sense of loyalty trumped my fear. I promised my friend that I would train with her as if I were running in Puerto Rico, however, for a million reasons I could not promise to participate in the Half-marathon.
And thus on January 26, 2015 we began training for a half marathon. Luckily, my circumstances allowed me to ultimately go to Puerto Rico, surprise Betsy, and run the half marathon with her. It was a meaningful time for me and I felt I should share some of the things I learned along the way:
Don’t make excuses
We all make excuses not to exercise. We have so much on our plate and we are pulled in a million directions. We can find a thousand reasons not to exercise. I often used a bunch of reasons not to exercise. In fact, despite how healthy I like to eat, I couldn’t find the time to get on a consistent workout schedule. Funny enough, when it wasn’t about me anymore; when it was for a cause greater than me… I found the time. I coordinated schedules with my husband. I got up even when I was tired. It became non optional. All of a sudden I no longer had excuses.
Similarly my girlfriend found the time to exercise and run despite having a 10 month old, nursing, pumping, working, caring for her older kids, and still suffering from the sleep deprivation that only a mother of a child under the age of 1 can relate to.
One of her girlfriends from high school hurt her knee during one of the earlier runs which required her to have physical therapy and treatment – but her commitment to the cause kept her running. Even though she couldn’t run more than 2 miles while her team was running double that, she did what she could and continued her training. And despite her limitations she ran and finished those 13.1 miles this weekend.
There will always be something that holds us back, but what I learned is we need to find something that propels us forward. A meaning, a purpose, a cause… Something that is greater than us. That includes reaching a personal goal. When you have that purpose, excuses disappear.
Use exercise to strengthen your friendships
We all know the benefits of exercise. We feel better, we look better, it’s good for the heart and for our muscles. But I realized during this training that exercise is excellent for your relationship with the person you’re training with. While Betsy and I ran together we talked. We talked a lot. About everything. This time gave us the opportunity to get to know each other even better. It gave us a common goal that kept us from going weeks without talking to each other. And it made us accountable to each other. We were a team. I pushed her when she needed it and vice versa.
On the same token, Betsys friends from high school were also training for this marathon. Even though they were in Puerto Rico they began a what’s app chat and they posted their workouts, their struggles, their achievements. It gave them a way to reconnect with Betsy and each other. And thanks to technology, they could do it while in different zip codes!
This got me thinking back and I realized at one time or another I have exercised with almost all of my closest friends. And I remember those times fondly.
If there is someone you wish to reconnect with… Invite them to train with you. It could be cross fit, boot camp, yoga, Zumba, tennis, running, cycling – your options are endless.
Live by example
Training for a half marathon requires dedication and TIME. I had been asked before to run a half and I declined because of the time it would take away from being with my kids. What I learned this time around, however, was the time I was spending away from kids was allowing me to be an example to them. For 2 months they saw me putting on workout clothes, coming back sweaty, eating healthy, and taking care of myself. That is a good thing. They should know that taking care of oneself is a necessity. They should see that exercise should be a priority. And I got to be an example of that. That felt great. I felt good about myself and I enjoyed them seeing me be fit. In fact, they started asking to run with me. They wanted to join in on the fun! A few weeks ago we participated in the cerebral palsy walk and my 6 year old had the opportunity to run with me. He ran the full 1.2 miles! What a pleasure it was to be able to share that with him.
Even though we did not take the kids to Puerto Rico, Betsy and I did do a “mini” half marathon in Miami two weeks before the real one. (This was still when she didn’t know I was running the real one with her)
My favorite part of that “mini” half was having my kids waiting for me at the finish line. I wanted them to see me reach my goal. I wanted them to know I could do it. And one day I will be able to tell them, if I can do it, you can do it…. And even better than I could have ever done it!
Speaking of examples. I had a dear friend, mentor, colleague that passed away last week. He was one of the wisest men I’ve known and I admired him greatly. I felt a very strong connection to him. His funeral service was on Friday morning just before I was to catch the plane to travel to Puerto Rico. As I solemnly walked in to the church, they handed me the program that would be used for the service. I couldn’t believe the picture they chose for the program
I was moved, inspired and in shock to see this picture just 2 days before I was to run my first half marathon. Which leads me to my last lesson.
Open your heart to the meaning in everything
I do not claim to know if that picture was a pure coincidence or some sort of divine plan. I don’t have answers or understand most things that happen in this life. What I do know with certainty is that I open my heart to find meaning in all that I do. And for some reason,I find these meaningful signs all the time. By the time I set foot on that start line in that half marathon, I was running for so many reasons. I ran for Fofi (Betsys daughter) I ran for Betsy i ran for bill brown, I ran for my bucket list and for my kids and for my husband. I ran and ran and I crossed the finish line feeling motivated and inspired. And I realized it’s not just about exercise, it’s not just about eating healthy; it’s about being mindful and living with intention. It’s about keeping your body strong but your soul stronger. It’s about living the life we’ve been given in the most wholesome way we can and passing that legacy to our children.
Don’t wait to start your exercise…it’s worth it.