One of our local television news channels has been running a human interest series on Tuesday nights, after “The Biggest Loser” airs. They have, creatively, called the series “Eastern Iowa’s Biggest Losers” (I guess they rely on the fact that most viewers get the relationship between their segment and the network show!). Anyway, Tuesday night, I was watching the news and happened to catch the segment. I don’t know the name of the woman they profiled, and I didn’t see the piece in its entirety. However, she lost over a hundred pounds, like me, via diet and exercise. Like me, she was well into midlife when she decided to make this change, and worried about whether she could be successful. Also, like me, she discovered that exercise was something she really could do.
UNLIKE me, she is now a fitness class instructor. That, friends, is something I cannot imagine I will ever be! God bless Eastern Iowa’s Biggest Loser, but I won’t be following in her footsteps!
That said, I do want to sing the praises of exercise. Since I began engaging in regular exercise, I have changed in so many ways for the better. I can move quickly up and down stairs. I occasionally voluntarily sit on the floor. I can plan a 75 mile bike ride to celebrate my 50th birthday — and feel confident that I will successfully complete it. I’ve discovered that it is possible for me to choose to push my physical limits, and to dream of attempting feats I wouldn’t have thought about earlier in my life (zip lines, anyone?).
Tonight, I went to the gym for an evening workout. My bad knee hurt from pushing too hard in a new exercise class yesterday, and the first three minutes on the elliptical machine were difficult. I had set the machine for an hour, but from the throbbing in my knee I was certain I’d never make it. I told myself, “Three more minutes, and you’ve finished 1/4 of the workout. If it still hurts, you can quit”. But, I didn’t quit. Next, I promised that when I reached 350 calories burned, I could quit. But by then, I discovered that the knee felt loose and no longer throbbed. I knew it was there, for sure, but the Black-Eyed Peas were immediately followed by FloRida on my ipod — and the club just couldn’t handle me! Without really intending to, I ran the entire 60 minutes.
A short while later, limping through the produce section at the grocery store, a bottle of refrigerated low-fat salad dressing pressed against my knee, feeling cocky anyway, I remembered two moments from Tuesday night TV. The first was on the actual “Biggest Loser”, when one contestant was working out and the trainer shouted, “Who are you?” and he shouted back the answer, perhaps seeing himself this way for the first time in his life, “I’m an athlete!” Later, on the news, Eastern Iowa’s Biggest Loser said she decided not to give up, in spite of pain. “The truth is, something always hurts. You just have to accept that and do it anyway.”
I’m not ready, yet, to declare myself an athlete. I have accepted, though, the idea that something always hurts – whether it is my knee, the oddly weak shoulder muscle on my left side, or aches, pains, maladies large and small. I’ve accepted it, and I keep moving. Because the benefits far outweigh the pain. The young man who now sees himself as an athlete, the “Loser” turned fitness instructor, and me – not one of us initially believed in our ability to change. As we gained confidence in our bodies, we’ve also gained confidence in ourselves. And that, friends, is worth more than gold!