About 10 years ago, during Healthy Heart Week, I took a stress test on a treadmill. After an extremely short time, I almost vomited and fainted, in that order.
The doctor said flatly, "I've got 80-year-olds who can do better than you." He followed this with an obvious observation that was profound nonetheless. "I have a lot of heart attack patients," he said. "After their attack, they really start exercising. I tell them if they would have exercised like that before the heart attack, they probably never would have had the heart attack."
Then, one final zinger: "Guys your age" — I was 38 at the time — "they go one way or the other. They take care of themselves or they let themselves go. Which one will you do?"
It all hit home. This was my only body and my only life. I had to improve both. I started running. When I could run two miles in 20 minutes, I thought I had conquered the world. Then I thought, "How far can I push myself? How much farther can I go?"
I kept at it. What at first was agonizing soon became tolerable, then invigorating and finally, exhilarating. Now I run everything from 5Ks to marathons. I lost 25 pounds. I feel (and look) like my old self again. For me, the key to exercise is patience; there are no quantum leaps in daily fitness. That's why I don't stop. I never want to lose everything I've gained.
And there is one quote I read in Runner's World magazine that I say to myself while my feet are pounding the pavement, and it keeps me going: "One day, I will no longer be able to do this. Today is not that day."
Cribbs is a managing editor at WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Fla. He has a 1-year-old daughter, a dog and two cats, so doesn't worry too much when he misses a workout because it's all he can do to keep up with them.
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