Looking back it seemed that my fitness took care of itself. I had no plan. I didn’t make myself go to the gym or invest in a personal trainer. But now I was in my late 50’s with my doctor telling me I’d have to lose weight just to be considered fat. I lacked energy, motivation, and self-respect. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a person I refused to believe was me. I was fit. I was in good shape. I had abs. But that was back then.
I’m sure I’d have continued on, with my weight increasing as my confidence and self-respect decreased, had I not had a chance encounter with a stranger. I was on a full flight to the east coast and stuffed into a middle seat. As the airplane took off and came to it’s cruising altitude, I engaged a young woman, sitting to my right, in conversation. I found out her name was Jessica and she was interested in the work I was doing. I’m a software developer for Apple iPads and I showed her a bit of the program I was working on. I found out she was on her way to Florida to attend a conference where she was representing a new book that had just come out. The book from Fit After Fifty was about fitness with a twist. Most fitness books are about technique but this one was different. Jessica explained that the book contained the stories of people who overcame their obstacles to fitness and health. Many were elite athletes at some point, but they also were ordinary people who realized they were not happy with the condition they were in and did something about it. As Jessica talked about the book I suddenly understood. The book was about motivation, but even more so, it was about hope.
Hope was something I had not had in a long time. I had resigned myself to the passage of time and the effect that negligence had had on my health. I stopped caring; believing I would always look and feel this way. But something had happened. As I read “Inspire your Fit Behavior” it became clear that I was not too far gone to make a change. Others had done it and so could I. Here was the inspiration and hope that I needed just to get started.
I’d like to say, after that realization, that getting into shape was easy. But that was not the case. The excuses of the past became the excuses of the day. But it was the stories in the book that carried me. Each one inspired in a different way.
My journey to fitness started with short walks. I walked while many others ran past me on the hiking trails. I learned to ignore the shape they were in and focus on the shape I was in, or at least the shape I wanted to be in. Short walks were the beginning but I began to go on longer and longer walks. I noticed, as I did, that it affected other areas of my life. For one, my diet changed. I no longer craved fats as I had before. I was able to walk by bacon in the grocery store and not give it a second look. Suddenly vegetables accompanied my other dinner choices and soda pop was a thing of the past.
My biggest gain came from my new outlook on life. The words that whispered in my head, telling me I was a failure, were replaced with ones of self-encouragement. I felt calmer and more confident. I was finally able to stop comparing myself to others as I had in the past. While I still didn’t have the body of my youth I learned to accept the one I had and go from there.
I learned another big thing about myself. I wanted instant results. Perhaps that’s why I chose computer programming, where success is only a click of the return key away. In many areas of my life, that had been a positive thing. Suddenly it was working against me. I knew that I hadn’t gotten out of shape in a day but somehow believed that my new results should be instantaneous. The downside was a belief that if one day didn’t add much, missing one day wouldn’t hurt much. I have to admit, I did use that excuse on more than on occasion, but it’s overall progress that counts. Acknowledging what held me back allowed me to have an honest dialogue with myself about what was really important. I realized that the key to fitness for me was to accept that there would be times I didn’t walk and not let that be a reason to stop. Tomorrow was a new day and a new opportunity to get closer to having the health I wanted, the health that would carry me into the future.
We first introduced you to Gordon Newell in Hope for Change, and presented a follow-up story about his fitness journey in Being Selfish IS a Good Thing. The Admiral, pictured above in Gordon’s “before” photo, is featured in Inspire your Fit Behavior.
Gordon Newell is a software developer for Apple iPads and likes to walk when he’s not in front of the computer.