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The Race Doesn’t Always Go to the Swift. Part 1

Fitness, I have found, is a state of mind. During my youth, fitness was a gift I simply took for granted. I was very active. My weight was stable, my general health excellent. As far as I was concerned, I was fit. I was also too shortsighted to envision the day when I wouldn’t be, and too naive to realize that youth, and its many gifts pass with the seasons.

Over the years our idea of beauty changed. The “ideal” body shed 20 pounds and no longer featured the ample curves of Monroe. Our new icons sported a hard “six pack,” the grace of an athlete and the sleekness of a cat.

While society’s physical ideals were changing and science discovered the positive benefits of fitness through sensible diet and exercise, I was ignoring the metamorphous, living the good life and eating my daily generous ration of chocolate.

As the years passed, I ignored the slowly accumulating pounds. Frankly, I wasn’t too alarmed. I looked fine, at least for a while. The weight gain was insidious, about three pounds a year. Those were such busy years for me. My business was growing, I was caring for an aged parent and my stress level was rising. Three pounds was nothing.

When the added weight surpassed 25 pounds, I promised myself I would go on a diet soon. But, over the next several years “soon” didn’t come and I gained five or six more before I really noticed most of the added weight had attached itself to my midsection. I had gone from a size 7 to a 16. My muscle tone was going, flab was spreading over my thighs and upper arms and my one chin showed signs of becoming two. I cut down on the chocolate and swore to start an exercise program, but I didn’t make it a priority. That was my first mistake.

When I moved my home and business to a new residence things changed. The girl who had once loved to run and play basketball was shocked to notice the 13 stairs to the top floor of her home presented a challenge. I would reach the top completely out of breath. I knew I couldn’t live like that and faced the fact that my arrogance and ignorance was costing me my health, maybe even my life.

I started small. I set up the office efficiently and used every inch of space as work area. There was no cute little table for a coffee pot and snacks. I intended to force myself to climb those stairs as often as possible. I knew it wasn’t much, but for a person whose idea of exercise was typing, it was a start.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I climbed those 13 stairs on an average of 20 times a day. I decided to maximize that by forcing myself to lift my knees higher and goose-step my way up. It does intensify the climbing effort, although I think it must look pretty silly. Being desk-bound during peak periods of my business, I made it a point to do leg lifts in my office chair as I worked and to raise my arms, stretch and breathe deeply as often as possible.

I cut down on fats and sweets and experimented with new recipes. But, I didn’t deprive myself of the things I loved entirely, either. I got in the habit of splurging on a couple of pieces of really good chocolate occasionally, when I went to the mall. I kept a quart of high-quality vanilla ice cream in the freezer. I enjoyed it occasionally, but it didn’t tempt me like the exotic specialty flavors I had come to love.

I noticed a small, but positive difference almost immediately. The weight didn’t come rolling off, but I felt a lot better and even, I think, looked better.

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