How do you feel about exercise? Do you hate it, tolerate it, love it or just ignore it?
I have had an interesting relationship with exercise—in my case running and walking—since I was 43 years old. That’s when my doctor told me that I would not “live to see 50” if I did not get active.
My cholesterol level (over 300) got his attention, and his comment got mine. By getting active, I was able to get off my cholesterol medication and lower my total cholesterol to a safe level.
Staying away from the drive-through double cheeseburger meals four times a week probably helped as well.
And while my health and the quality of my life have certainly improved over the past 13 years, I can’t say that I always loved my workouts. I knew that they were good for me. I knew that they were necessary, but they sometimes felt more like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
That all changed for me a year ago.
I have a friend who is a personal trainer, has run many marathons and half-marathons and has trained and encouraged many others to do the same. She loves exercise in nearly every form and has helped many of her clients reach their fitness goals, from modest to extreme. She truly cares about everyone she works with and is the human equivalent of the Energizer Bunny.
Then, twelve months ago at the age of 45, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, an incurable blood cancer and her life has changed forever. And so has mine.
My friend endured eight very difficult chemotherapy treatments, and the accompanying nausea, loss of appetite, weakness and weeks of isolation to guard against the risk of infection. For a few days between each chemo treatment when she felt well enough to walk, and her doctor allowed her to be “active,” she took some walks in Sabino Canyon.
On the good days, some of those walks even included a little running.
She communicated her feelings about those short walks and runs to her friends in her e-mails, and expressed the sheer joy she felt in being outside, moving her arms and legs and filling her lungs with fresh air.
She wrote about the beauty she saw in the sunrises and sunsets and how alive she felt during those few days of respite from the horrors of her chemotherapy.
So how has her experience changed my life?
Every run, walk and bike ride is now a gift and not a chore. I look at the lime green lymphoma bracelet that I wear in honor of my friend and realize that I don’t have to exercise, but I get to exercise.
My total cholesterol has dropped another 20 points (to 152) since I developed this new relationship with exercise. I am embarrassed that it took 13 years and my friend’s illness for me to see the joy in what I was doing.
Please don’t wait. Develop your joyful relationship with exercise today. It may add some years to your life. It will most certainly improve the quality of your life.
And while you are out there, be sure to say a word of thanks to my friend for helping us all to see the beauty that exercise can bring to our lives.