When I was 22, my boyfriend "Jim" asked me to take a little exercise class with him at the local junior college. At the time, I had no idea that this simple request would mean so much to me 28 years later.
I still can't figure out what possessed me to agree to accompany Jim. He must have been really special to me, because back then I hated exercising. In fact, my most recent exercise experience had been almost flunking P.E. class in high school.
In the early 1980s when I first stepped into the gym at Skyline College in San Bruno, little was known about the true long-term benefits of exercise. The idea of having a regular workout schedule was just becoming popular, thanks to the jogging and aerobics crazes.
I remember giving Jim a warning on that first fateful night: "OK, here we are, but I am not running." Then the teacher introduced himself. "I'm Skyline's track coach," he said. "We'll start every class with some stretching and then a 30-minute run."
You'd have to ask Jim, but I can only imagine that upon hearing the words "30-minute run," I must have shot him quite a look. I'll bet I could have breathed fire. Had we not come in one car, I am sure I would have dropped the class on the spot.
Instead, I stayed and participated. That first night our teacher took us down to the track. It took me 12 minutes to run one mile. Today, I can walk a mile in less than 12 minutes. When we got home that night, I all but crawled into the house, I hurt so bad. I had never experienced pain like that. Was this pain even safe?
Amazingly, I returned for the second class, then the third class, and for several semesters after that. Eventually I took up running on the nights we didn't have class. I managed to get below an eight-minute mile, along with being able to run for an hour without being reduced to crawling at the end. I was astonished at how great running made me look and that I was even able to eat a little more without risking weight gain.
I broke up with Jim long ago, but my workout relationship is still solid nearly 30 years later. It's like brushing my teeth — I just do it. I rotate between several different types of exercise to keep things fresh, such as cycling, weights, kickboxing and boot camp classes. Although I had to give up running 12 years ago to save my knees, I'll always be grateful to it for giving me my start.
Now, after almost three decades of consistent exercise, all these years of working out means that at 50 I am blessed with a great body and tremendous stamina, not to mention a strong heart and lungs.
Who knew that a little night class at a junior college would end up being my fountain of youth?
Eberhardt is a writer and salesperson who lives in Studio City.
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