The new year is a time to turn our thoughts to fitness and renewal. There’s fresh hope that this will be the year we look our best. Sadly, the older we get the fewer calories it takes to run our bodies—making this goal all the less likely. So here’s a New Year choice: Give it up now and save on the gym membership. Or dig deep and challenge yourself to try something new.
I’ve heard that as a woman over 40, I need to cut my calories in half to maintain my weight. And that’s just to maintain. My friend Dawn took this to heart and asked her OB/GYN if it was true.
“No” her OB/GYN said. Dawn breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s 2/3 less calories. You have to eat 2/3 less to maintain.”
Dawn has lived in Paris and knows a thing or two about fine wine, delectable cheese and tasty bread. “2/3 less” isn’t on her menu. She decided to fight back and hired a personal trainer to help her prepare for a half marathon this spring. An admirable thing for anyone, but especially for Dawn as she’d never run before in her life. Not once.
For me, it’s been a Godsend. I’ve been lumbering along trying to become a gym person, someone who gets out at lunch, sweats it out, showers and goes about my day. But my workout partner moved back east. So, half of the time I’d end up at the gym, the other half at the Chic-fil-a right nearby. The Chic-fil-a was just so much easier. I didn’t even have to get out of my car.
So when Dawn asked if I’d run a 5K with her, I jumped at the chance. It was fall and the holiday pounds were on the horizon (make that on the lips, soon to be the hips). At our first 5K, I thought my lungs would explode. Seems lifting the Chic-fil-a isn’t such a good workout after all. But I finished. Mostly because I was too embarrassed not to.
The next month we signed up for a second race. This time I actually got out and ran a bit beforehand. (Not looking foolish can be a strong motivator.) We weren’t the fastest but not the slowest either. While we ran it occurred to me that she’s been looking good from all this training so I asked.
“Are you in your skinny jeans?”
She nodded. I was filled with happiness for my friend, but a touch of jealousy too.
At the booths after the race, we met a soccer player who started her own fitness hat company. She designed these hood-looking (in a good way) hats that have space for your ponytail and a brim to keep out the rain. Her company motto is “Wear Your Confidence.” She was inspired by her dad’s dedication to overcome heart disease and teach his children to find their passion. We both bought hats. Inspired by her we decided to start a running club and reached out to a few moms.
That following Saturday our friend Alissa met us for a run at the local coffee shop. It’s not a really a club yet but it’s a start. We chatted and the miles flew past. Before I knew it we’d run 3 miles. As I stepped off the curb to leave my new “group”, I passed an acquaintance MaryAnn. She is a beautiful former ballerina who always walks with grace. I felt as beautiful as her. I was walking tall and wearing my confidence — plus feeling a little high again from running.
It comes down to the cheering. It’s about encouraging each other on and helping each other out. My really unique, strong and wonderful Aunt Ellen who is a nun makes an annual habit of cheering on runners for the NYC Marathon. This year, my sister Monica joined her at her usual spot in Harlem. The runners wear their names on their shirts so Monica and Aunt Ellen cheered things like, “Go Bob, you’re doing great.” Or “Yea, Janet, you’ve come so far!” And so on. My sister said it was a beautiful thing to see their faces light up in appreciation.
Inspired by Dawn, I’ve decided to train for the half marathon this spring too. And it’s not just the desire to cheer on my friend. My motivations are shallow too: I’ve never seen a marathon type who isn’t lean and jogging just makes me feel high. I may not fit my skinny jeans yet. But I’m walking tall and wearing my confidence more and more. Skinny jeans don’t have to be literal. They can also be a state of mind. And I’m living in them no matter my size.
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