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by Carole Carson, November 21, 2008
A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it’s an undo-it-yourself project.
—Abigail Van Buren
I needed to begin the newspaper series with an honest accounting of how I had come to this turning point. Stepping back a little, I realized that three events in my life collided to push me toward fitness. First, I had just been injured. Besides healing my torn hamstring, I wanted to stay injury free so I could pursue a lifelong dream of playing competitive tennis.
Second, I was approaching my 60th birthday. Even though I was energetic and active, I did not like what I saw in the mirror. Being classified as obese was depressing enough without the prospect of gaining even more weight in the coming year.
Third was my doctor's subtle nagging about my high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and slowly increasing weight. The combination of tennis, vanity, and health concerns made me sure that this time I needed to take action.
What pushed me over the top, though, was facing the truth. Naked in my own bathroom, I saw the number on the scale reach 182 pounds. Even worse was my girth. Those numbers that Gayle and I measured had bulked up over the years in fractions of inches at a time. It was the same way I would need to take them off.
The exercise plan Gayle set up for me took into account both my goals and my limitations. To build upper-body strength, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I would work with Gayle in the weight room in a local gym for one hour. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I would walk in an indoor pool for 30 minutes, or less if my hamstring complained. With healing, the level and amount of exercise would be increased and lower-body routines would be added.
When Gayle pushed me to set goals, I could think only of my upcoming 60th birthday. I could set a modest goal for then and feel confident about reaching it. Or I could go for my dream. I chose the latter, knowing it would be a stretch.
By my 60th birthday, I wanted a completely rehabilitated leg. Even more, I wanted new habits that could sustain a lifetime of fitness.
As a by-product of the first two goals, I also wanted healthy cholesterol and blood pressure and to be well on my way toward losing forty pounds.
Of course, as soon as I set my goals, fear of failure set in. Could I actually change after all these years? Fitness isn't only for the young, I said to reassure myself. A person is never too old to get fit. At 59, I had more time, resources, and self-discipline than when I was younger. Maturity was a plus. Still I wondered: Was this just brave talk? Would I follow through? Would I revert to my old ways? Time would tell.
Next: Carole starts to change.
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