Training for Life

July 20, 2017
Running partners/friends for life

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About six weeks after my 40th birthday, we had a freak April storm that dropped 18 inches of wet, heavy snow. My car had broken down, so I trudged the mile and a half to my daughter’s elementary school where I was working with the children to publish a school newspaper.

I rode the school bus home. The next morning, I hurt all over and could barely roll out of bed. As I dressed, I caught a glimpse of something in the mirror.

Whoa! That pale, bloated, ungainly, creature was me!

I call what happened next my “good-animal moment.” Seeing, really seeing my physical self for the first time, a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson popped into my mind:

First, be a good animal.

In a flash of awareness, I realized I hadn’t honored my animal self, the essential foundation of the mind and spirit I’d been cultivating.

A bit later I came across another line from the great runner-cardiologist-philosopher George Sheehan that explained my situation to a T: “Everyone is an athlete. But some of us are training, and some of us are not.” I started training.

I started walking a mile every day, then two, then three. I didn’t trust the slug within, so for the next four months, I slept every night in shorts, Tshirt—even my shoes—and headed out the door before I got busy with anything else. In late May, I taught myself to run a mile, one telephone pole at a time. I remember the day I arrived at the stern No Passing sign half a mile from my house and ran right by.

I began resistance training with weights at the gym where my daughter took gymnastics lessons. By the end of that first year I’d lost 70 pounds, gained a set of shapely muscles, and found a running partner who became my best friend. Every Saturday for 16 years, we slipped out while our families were still asleep and ran together for a couple of hours.

The following spring, I bought a cheap 12-speed bicycle and a helmet, and vowed to work up to riding at least 50 miles a week. I joined a running group. I sewed myself a bathing suit from a remnant of hot-pink spandex and trained myself to swim for an hour at a steady speed in the pond behind my house. That June I entered my first triathlon. Over the next decade and a half, I would enter 60 more. What a blast!

Everything changes
As I got fitter, I had more energy for daily tasks. I didn’t get colds. I needed less sleep. My intuition sharpened. I felt smarter and more alive. I found I could split wood for six hours straight. Shoveling compost and snow felt easier. My bicycle turned into real transportation; my commuting miles often added up to more than 100 a week.

When darkness or weather prevented my getting out, I ran stairs, jumped rope on the porch, or turned on the radio and danced around the house. I bought a used bike trainer and pedaled away indoors during the winter, reading books and magazines perched on the bike’s aerobars.

A few years back, pains in my knees brought me to the orthopedic office, where Dr. Fox diagnosed osteoarthritis. No more knee cartilage. No more running. No more triathlons.

I still bike, walk, swim, garden, and split wood. I took up serious snowshoeing and water running (either with or without a buoyancy belt). It’s much tougher without the motivation of training partners and summer competitions.

But long before the triathlons, in my chubby days, when running a whole mile had seemed a major life achievement, a guy came up to me at the local corner store, a little smirk on his face.

Seen ya out there runnin’ every day. Whatcha trainin’ for, anyway?”

I replied in a flash, “That’s easy. For life.”

Read Margaret’s “frugal fitness tips” from her last post.
Please share your tips, stories, and comments below!


About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.