What I can do now

Monday’s topic of “Change” over at Momalom’s 5-for-5 writing challenge finally gave me the (delayed) kick start to write this post…

Up until recently I’d held on to this one picture of me. It wasn’t paper, or digital, but something far more permanent. It had been inside my head, for years. In that picture I’m skinny, frail, and clumsy.

P.E. all the way through high school was torture for me. I was always the last one picked for any team. ALWAYS. (And it seemed that the only activities we ever did in P.E. involved teams, balls and a lot of throwing.) Classmates were nice to me but when it came to competition, I was a liability; I knew that, and didn’t blame the team captains. By 4th grade swimming, I’d become really good at forging excuse notes – I’ve got a cold, bronchitis, cramps…I became really good at giving up on the idea that my body was capable of anything but sitting, eating, and reading.

It’s a dangerous notion to carry into your adult life. It actually also didn’t help that I’ve always been slender, no matter how much I ate. Being a perpetual size 2 masked the fact that I couldn’t run a block without being winded, or have a physically exerting day without coming down soon with a cold. I’d get sick whenever I started an exercise program. It was a vicious cycle where I would try to make myself stronger, only to conclude that I was too weak to do it.

Like many people, I’ve started and stopped so many attempts to get off the couch. Then, a year and a half ago, I got tired of watching from the sidelines while my naturally athletic husband and son played ball, raced, or went to the beach. Late last year, I began rapidly sprouting grey hairs as well as the beginnings of a body that I can only say I used to see among my mother’s sluggish friends. Family time, fear of aging, vanity – whatever the reasons, it doesn’t matter – I pushed myself to start moving again, this time for good.

So, at 41, I finally overcame my fear of water and pushed myself to learn to swim.

Last fall, Max (my husband) ran his first half marathon. I cried watching the old, the overweight, and the slow cross the finish line and for the first time in my life felt inspired to start a walk/run program. I ran a pathetic 50 seconds before my lungs started to hurt, and I gave that up too…for a few months. On and off over the last few weeks, I’ve tried getting back out there again. Today I can run just under 4 minutes. It’s hair-like improvement and I never dare tell my time to anyone but Max, but personally, I’m shocked that my body can actually change.

And I’ve started doing and enjoying hot yoga, something like running and swimming that I never even dreamed I’d be capable of because of its “extreme” conditions. Now every time I get through the non-stop 90 minute workout in a 105 degree room, I get a high reminiscent of what I experienced after giving birth to my son, the one true athletic achievement in my life.

After weeks of trying, I am finally able to do this:

And this…

and this.

12 thoughts on “What I can do now

  1. Go, you. I remember your honesty about learning to swim. Those are some of my favorite posts of yours. And running for four minutes? Now that I’m facing a lifetime of never running again, I can tell you straight up that that’s a miracle, my friend. Enjoy every step.

  2. Gorgeous! Change. Words. Pictures. You’ve captured it all here. So inspiring. Thanks for sharing this journey with us. I think it is so important to remember that small steps are sometimes the most difficult, but that they can bring us to great rewards.

  3. I have the biggest smile on my face. I fear change, but I love it too. Some change is good; it’s necessary. And sometimes we have to kick ourselves in the butt to get to where we want to be, and while the journey is arduous, the destination is definitely worth it.

    So glad you’re able to achieve what you set out to do. I know the feeling of accomplishment, that high you get when you achieve a goal. I had a similar experience with yoga. I started seriously practicing after my thirties and having never been athletic, I see others in poses that I could never imagine myself do. But with an experienced and gentle teacher, after months of practice and finally disregarding my own self-doubt, I did my first head stand. And wow. What a feeling.

    Next up, marathon! LOL. OK, maybe not. Let’s end on a high note shall we?🙂

    What a great, uplifting post by the way.

  4. I second BLW. I second letting go of obsolete photos and cherishing the true. This was a really good piece for me to read – I’ve been going through the same thing and it has been so difficult to just get started.

  5. So exciting for you! You know, lots of runners have bodies that are just happier to run a block then walk a block, run a block then walk a block. It’s a great way to build up to a full workout by honoring what your body prefers.

    Congrats on the swimming, the yoga, and the running!

  6. Yay, Cecilia! I think it’s awesome that you got the strength and determination to push your body beyond what you thought it could do. And from the pictures of what you can do know, I’m so impressed. I have just started to get back into Yoga and I’ve been loving it. I like feeling connected with my body and using it in a way that pushes me mentally.

  7. Cecilia, these words definitely resonate with me. Even after years of taking swimming lessons as a kid, I am terrified of the deep end and have avoided pools. Perhaps I might try to venture out again?!

    As for running, a few months ago I completed my 2nd half-marathon. I didn’t start running until very late in life and like you, after fifty seconds my lungs would burn and I felt compelled to give up. But I didn’t. Kept pushing and conquered. So glad you did the same. Very inspiring.

  8. Cecilia,

    These words definitely resonated with me. Despite years of swimming lessons as a kid, I am still terrified of the deep end. I tend to avoid pools and swimming in the ocean. Perhaps I might venture out again?!

    As for running, I just finished my 2nd half-marathon. I started long-distance running in my mid-thirties. Like you, for the first fifty seconds my lungs would burn. I wanted to give up. I didn’t. Pushed through and conquered. Glad you did the same.
    Very inspiring.

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