A Publication of WTVP

Prehistoric man’s quest for fitness was driven by a desire to survive through hunting and gathering. Today, the reason for fitness does not include hunting and gathering (unless you join a health club with that in mind), but it is vital to survival, whether you admit it or not.

Fitness is a state of mind, not just a state of your body. You have to look at the obstacles that keep you from fitness and realize that they are just bad habits. I have had them all: smoking, overeating, lack of interest, lack of exercise. I smoked for twenty years and not once did I consider the long-term health consequences.

Overeating had been with me since I went away to college and worked in food service in the dorm; I even liked “mystery meat.” It was the early years of McDonalds as well, so even then, I was super-sizing in more ways than one. My lack of interest in fitness was about low self esteem, and I didn’t think I could look better. In high school, we wore those circular skirts with bunches of crinolines under them, and unless you weighed only 80 pounds, it wasn’t pretty. My mom always described me as having big bones—a nice asset, if you were looking to be a lineman for the Bears…

You get the picture—overweight, out of shape, uninterested chain smoker. In a somewhat feeble attempt to propel myself and other friends into fitness, we started a women’s softball team with my husband as coach—which is a whole other story. When I hit a triple that could have been a home run, but refused his signal to go on to home plate because I was winded, I got benched. You can imagine what he got—or not. So that recreational career ended.

Finally, one day when I had the worst sore throat imaginable and had run out of cigarettes, I decided to quit cold turkey. In order to trade this loss of activity for something healthier, I took up jogging, which led me to enter 5k races. I would run three or four races every year, occasionally winning a trophy when no more than three participants raced in my age bracket. The highlight of my race career was winning first place in my age division only because I happened to be the only one running in it. The plaque hangs on the wall—begging for the “rest of the story.”

I ambled along, turning into a middle-aged woman who was probably 60 pounds overweight and thankful that the fashion designers invented the plus size. I did make feeble attempts to become fit and lose weight: I joined a health club and took a noontime aerobics class supposedly instead of doing lunch—that didn’t happen. The workout uniform those days was tight-fitting, and it finally dawned on me (at a much later date) why the lone male member of the class always lined up behind me—behind being the operative word here.

I even went through what should have been a real wake-up call—angioplasty for a blocked artery—but denial is a strong ally if you don’t want to be realistic. Finally, when I got breast cancer, I decided that I might be messing with fate, so I started paying real attention to my efforts.

Prior to my diagnosis, I had joined an early-morning fitness class. It is a small group, and we meet at 6 a.m. three times a week. Our instructor, Melissa, is affectionately called “Mean Melissa” because she makes us do what we have to in order to get results— in spite of our complaints. The class is small, it is fun and it works. It is like recess for adults, and we don’t even mind the early hour. I always look forward to Friday morning when the younger members talk about who got voted off the island on Survivor.

We seniors don’t really appreciate reality shows. Our reality is that we need to keep trying to get fit and ward off aging. We are serious about this—one suffered sports-type injuries just from walking her dog, while another endures cortisone shots in her knee just so she can stay in class. We are faithful in attendance even though our backs hurt or we just want to turn the alarm clock off.

I am reconciled to the fact that I will never have “six-pack abs,” and I really shouldn’t want to have six-pack anything… I just know I am headed in the right direction, and it is because I discovered what works for me. Find what works for you and do it! It is more about improving and maintaining your health as you age, not all about losing weight. Losing weight takes a long time and even longer if you have big bones… TPW