Be Thankful. Be Grateful.

On a recent Saturday, our running team was at the local park doing a hill workout … in the rain. You wouldn’t think in such a location and under those circumstances, there would be any life lessons to learn, but there was.

Normally we do learn the lesson that hard work has a pay-off. Our various workouts are timed by Coach Wayne and we use the stopwatch to gauge our progress. This session was no different in that regard.

The weather now presented another obstacle all together. Besides fighting our inner demons of fatigue and wanting to quit, we now had the weather to contend with. It was cold AND rainy. We’d learned to deal with the cold by wearing multiple layers of clothing and gloves. The rain required a waterproof jacket or slicker during the two-mile warm up. But that had to be shed when it was time to rock and roll and coach had his stopwatch in hand.

I silently prayed, asking for a break from the rain and my wishes were granted with periodic sunshine peeking through the clouds and an off and on again subduing of the rain. (There’s a lesson in there about asking for what you want.)

But the biggest lesson I learned that day had to do with the observance of others, and I don’t mean my fellow running buddies or those participating in that weekend’s 5K race or even those out for a morning jog.

No. It had to do with two men I observed when we walked back down our 200-meter hill only to run up it again at full speed, for a total of 8 times! We were on about trip number 5, when I observed the first man crossing the road in front of us with a sleeping bag in one hand and a small duffle bag in the other. Behind him, back about 50 feet, was a second man walking a bike with belongings in the front basket and holding a sleeping bag.

It hit me. They were homeless. They were traveling in the park with their only belongings in tow because the rest of the world had now converged on their abode, necessitating they “move on.”

We were tired. We were wet. We wanted to quit but knew we couldn’t – the rest of the team wouldn’t let us. Our only bright light at the end of the tunnel was that we were more than halfway done, or on the down-hill side of the up-hill work out.

Observing these two men put things into perspective. We were complaining little babies compared to these guys. We knew once the workout was over, we’d enjoy a hot breakfast, a warm shower or bath, and a comfy bed to lay our heads down at night. They would not.

A lump formed in my throat. I tried not to cry, lest the team see me and wonder what was wrong.

What was wrong is that I could see, right before my eyes, how incredibly lucky I was to be living my life versus the one they were currently living. I was thankful and grateful beyond measure.

Once I had this revelation, the remaining runs up the hill, even in the rain and the post-workout cooldown were easily completed, for there is always something to be thankful for.

It bears repeating: There is always something to be grateful for. Just look around with open eyes and an open heart.

Click here to not miss the next installment in my life-long journey!

Taking the First Step

Who would have thought two years ago when I was overweight and just starting my fitness journey, that today I’d be training for the National Senior Track and Field games?

Certainly not me!

Let me take you on this journey and explain how it all happened…almost seamlessly.

I knew I was overweight. If I didn’t know it by the number on the scale, the tightness of my size 12 pants was a sure giveaway. My attempts to attend classes and even hire a personal trainer at the local gym did not produce much in the way of results.

It was just another thing to do on my endless “to do” list. Drastic action was in order – and something that would become a lifelong habit.

It started easily enough with a free trial week of bootcamp. Although the workouts were difficult in the beginning, they were invigorating! I must admit, I wondered if I could really make the 6:00 am class, but it became a habit in less than a week. I was motivated by the caring staff and other “recruits” who were also on their fitness journey.

Additional classes exposed me to Pilates, rowing, cycling, and walking/running.

Janie J Pasadena games 208 June blog

At first, I could only run a short time, a very short time. I learned there was an “app” to tell you when to walk/when to jog. I worked up from mostly walking to eventually all jogging.

I learned from Coach Debbie about proper form and good posture. I still can hear her in my head telling me to stand up straight!

I asked Coach Heather how to get better and was informed to jog more than once a week, which led to faster jogging.

Then I learned about the importance of core work (aka crunches and various iterations) and how it helps with running. I learned about cross-training and integrated rowing and cycling into my workouts.

Exercise alone will not create weight loss, so I worked on eating healthy and the pounds came off.

In one year, I was down to size 6 pants. I had more energy and was much happier! This required a new pastime – shopping! I never thought clothes shopping was fun, but when you are in a smaller size, it can be! The clothes actually fit and look good. I consciously gave away my fat clothes, knowing I would never wear them again.

I still wasn’t running as fast as I wanted. Then my friend Beth invited me to check out her running group of elite masters track athletes, led by Coach Wayne Morris, a former 800 meter regional Master’s track champion. OK, I agreed; I would check it out.

Janie J with medals Pasadena 2018 June blog

The workouts were fun. Coach Wayne and the team were encouraging; very encouraging. He said he could help me get my time down and he did: on a 5K, my mile time went from 12:30 to 9:30 minutes in only a couple of months!

This was verifiable evidence that the workouts were helping! I felt stronger. I looked stronger.

Heck, I was stronger!

The team encouraged me to attend the Pasadena Senior Games in June 2018, so I decided to check it out. I placed second in 800 meter and 1500 meter for my age group. Not bad for my first track meet ever!

Remember I mentioned how my journey was “almost seamless?

I pulled a leg muscle at that meet and was required to rest until it healed. Then I made the mistake of trying to run again before it healed completely, which just delayed my recovery even more.

Lesson learned:  listen to your body!

But I was happy because placing at the Pasadena regional meet qualified me to compete at the National Senior Games.

Workouts are more rigorous now that I am a national-level competition athlete. Life seems to revolve around track practice. The scenario is something like this: run, hot bath, eat, wash gym clothes and repeat. Luckily, now that I retired from real estate, I’m able to fit it all in.

This may not sound like such a remarkable journey but considering I didn’t run in high school and I’m now 65 years old, it just goes to show ANYONE CAN DO IT!

It just takes the first step towards your goal.

Then push your comfort zone a bit to your next goal.

Keep expanding it and you’ll grow in ways you’d never imagined.

This journey reminded me a bit about my trip to Philadelphia last year, when I visited the famous “Rocky steps.” I ran up all 72 steps! (The only one in my tour group to do so).

Rocy Balboa statue in Philadelphia by David Barnas via Flickr
The Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia. Photo (c) David Barnas via

I know what it feels like to set new goals and reach them. I envision myself as Rocky when I am running those long 8 and 10 miles on Sunday. I tell myself to keep pushing. (Honest, this helps!)

I am looking forward to the National Senior Games in June 2019 where I’ll be competing as the youngest person in my age bracket. See, getting a year older has its benefits!

Click here to not miss the next installment in my life-long journey!