When I was growing up, I was mouthy, especially with my mom, and she eventually ran out of ways to punish me. The older I got, the more defiant I became. If I was spanked, I just glared at her. Not my proudest moments.
Always creative, Mom decided that the best way to punish me was to make me exercise—and she was right. The absolute worst exercise was lying on our backs with our heels a couple inches off the floor. If we dropped them, time started over. I hated it, but I deserved the punishment, because my behavior was atrocious.
The behavior modification worked because I thought twice before I talked back to her. That doesn’t mean I never did it again, but I thought about the consequences first. Sometimes I kept my mouth shut, and most times I didn’t.
Jump forward about 35 years.
One of my favorite activities is to push my body beyond what I think it can do. About five years ago, I started running. At that time, I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am now. I set a goal to run a 5K, and I did. I was slow, I complained, and I wanted to quit. But I finished the race. At that point, I realized that I could push my body and accomplish more than I ever thought possible.
My running was very sporadic after that race, but this year has been my time to take running seriously. Since July, I have competed in four 5Ks, with two more planned before the end of the year. In the last race I ran, I cut three and a half minutes off the previous race’s overall time, and this weekend during a training run, I ran a quarter-mile longer and cut off another five minutes.
Some days I do well, but other days, I punish myself for not doing better by listening to an internal lashing that I can’t do it. But then I remind myself—not only can I do it, but I have done it.
I can still be kinda mouthy—or a lot—but I don’t look at exercise as punishment anymore. Instead, I find comfort in the knowledge that I’m helping my body be stronger and healthier.
At my age, health is the greatest gift I can give myself.