Exercise is for life. No matter how much you run or walk or whatever exercise you do, if you stop, the benefits soon disappear. Exercising is not like winning an Olympic gold medal or finishing college or earning an Eagle Scout badge. True, you have to work at these things for a while before you have something to be proud of, but when you finally have the thing you wanted to touch or brag about, the effort is finished. The rest of your life awaits you. Exercising isn’t terminal; it’s forever. Which can make it tough. Some people see this as a depressing truth. Others take it as a challenge and motivator.
A running friend got me thinking about the expression “Run for Your Life.” We see it at running events and on race T-shirts. The friend visited us just before his successful surgery the following Tuesday. He wanted to run right up to the day of his operation, in part because his doctor told him his excellent physical shape would help him weather the hospital visit. Now there’s a motivator that could keep us moving, although we might exercise years and years before we need to recover from an operation.
Some people juice up exercising by running races or competing in events. The short-term goal can make the never-ending process more palatable. It gives you something to grab onto. Reliance on temporary motivators can be risky. Maybe one day you realize you placed in a race simply because not many people showed up. Your mood might be down and you begin to wonder if it was worth it. Or maybe, if times are important to you, you notice your body’s getting older and you’ll never set another PR (personal record). Perhaps someone ahead of you makes a wrong turn, you follow, people get nasty, and the race is a disappointment. If you don’t have long-term motivation, what you view as a failure can hurt your resolve.
While exercising doesn’t come with a guarantee, it generally offers some tangible benefits to motivate you to “run for your life.” One is energy. People who exercise tend to have more energy than those who don’t; stay in bed all morning some time and see how much energy you have in the afternoon. Another is looks. On average, people who exercise look younger than others their age. Well, at least older people who exercise look younger than other folks their age. It’s funny how we want to look older for many years before we realize what that means and start to wish we looked younger.
Another meaning of “Run for Your Life” comes to mind. That’s the obvious benefit to not being the slowest one in a group when a bear walks out of the woods or hoodlums jump from an alley -- not that we’d run off and leave our less fit friends in the lurch. Right.
It’s worth thinking of exercising like we think of eating, something we have to do every day to stay alive. Eating is naturally pleasurable and so is exercising – say it – so is exercising. Like exercising, eating is a responsibility. They both involve control, of different sorts, but control. If you eat too much or don’t exercise enough, you regret it. Those with a spiritual bent can think about taking care of the temple, being a good steward of your gifts. Bless this food. Bless this body.
The best reason to exercise may just be – you’ve got to. You need to and your loved ones need you to.
"What are you doing indoors on a day like today?" asks Virginia. "Go run for your life."
I already did for today. Early this morning, I took our dogs. Rosie did circles around me on the way out, but she sat while Lex and I toured the field. I think a leg is bothering that loved one.
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