Given my line of work, you might be thinking I am about to provide a great stock purchase recommendation. Financial investments are well and good and can certainly be important. But the critical investment I made recently is an investment in my health.
In a few months, I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. Instead of anticipating that day with dread and depression, I am approaching it with some enthusiasm. I love making big goals, and a few months ago, I established a big goal I aim to achieve by my birthday.
Perhaps some background is in order. Although I was a slender child, puberty hit, and I have struggled with my weight ever since. I was also fairly athletic as a child, but my interests shifted to music in my middle school years and took me away from team sports and other athletic pursuits.
Throughout my adult life, I have approached my weight management and athletic adventures in fits and starts. My junior year of college, for example, my roommate and I decided that the one-mile walk to campus (up a steep hill) wasn’t enough, so we left at 5:00 a.m. each morning to make a five-mile loop walk around town. I loved that experience, probably in large part because we had the best time encouraging each other and making sure we didn’t wimp out and sleep in.
Our enthusiastic walks, however, led to pain in my hip. Long story short, I had developed a stress-fracture in my hip. Our morning walks ended and more embarrassingly, I had to take the BUS to campus up the steep hill each day for a few months. Ugh.
Rest in Peace, enthusiastic exercise. At least for a time.
My working years
After college and graduate school, I decided to jump back on the exercise band wagon. As my new career started, I took up mountain biking. Luckily, I got invited to join a cool group of friends on their weekly rides, and they were ever-so-kind in rotating who would be the one to hang back at the back of the pack with me on our rides. I was slow and wore out easily, but I improved and enjoyed it immensely. Although I didn’t break any bones or have any significant injuries, but I would come to work on Mondays with bruises from head to toe.
My biking excursions became curtailed by a wicked-long workweek. I had to study for several industry exams in the evenings, and I worked long hours. Over the ensuing years, I tried again to be active on a regular basis, but my efforts were totally inconsistent. I have always been focused on doing good work and that has always been my priority.
Then came motherhood. After my daughter was born, I took up running for the first time in an effort to be in good enough shape that I could keep up with this new human. But here’s the honest truth: running and I were simply not friends. I have a tendency with all new activities to dive in completely. I obsess and make goals. I probably tend to overdo things. Such was the case with running, and after a few months of good progress on my running, I was sidelined with bone spurs in my heels. And POOF! my fitness level and running habits went by the wayside, because the prescription was no running (or even heavy walking) for a few months.
After a few years, I realized I must, absolutely MUST get in better shape. Running a business and keeping up with a small child required more energy than I could muster, so it became apparent I needed to be more energized. Remembering my bone spurs, I decided to take it slow and get some help, so I hired a trainer. For two years, I went twice a week for a dose of torture and to work my ass off in a gym. The trainer was awesome, we were careful about my physical issues, and I never felt better.
The pinnacle of crazy
Of course, my enthusiasm led me, as it often does, to biting off more than I could chew. I needed cardio on top of my weight training, so I started some light running. Swimming also made an appearance in my weekly schedule, and before long, I was training for a triathlon. Sigh. Because that is what I do: Cook up big goals, stretch those goals to challenge and motivate myself, and strive to keep it interesting.
Without going into all the details, in addition to all my training, my weeks started filling up with chiropractic and physical therapy appointments. I was convinced that if I keep at it steadily, I could overcome my physical shortcomings (which had extended to bone spurs in my shoulders, too – how lovely!) and continue an active lifestyle I’d grown to love.
Sometime after competing in two triathlons, I woke up with a back spasm on top of the nagging pains in various points of my body, and I cried “uncle.” I quit it all and recovery went from several months into years, unfortunately.
Older and … wiser?
When we began our RV adventures and we were fortunate to adopt our new puppy, Piper, I started walking again. The effort wasn’t dramatic or overly ambitious, but I attempted to be as consistent as I could. The walking was manageable when we were RVing at the coast where everyplace was flat: I could walk every day and felt great. It was, however, different when we went home to the mountains.
Our mountain home is up a half-mile-long driveway that is quite steep. Frankly, if I just hiked down the drive to the road and back every day, I would be quite fit. The trouble is weather, darkness, black bears, coyotes, and who knows what other scary-things-in-the-dark are lurking at every corner.
The only way exercising regularly works for me is if I engage in it first thing in the morning. Much of the year, my “first thing in the morning” means it is pitch dark outside. The likelihood of my doing that driveway hike in the dark is a resounding zero.
I’m a runner? Oh, the irony!
Throughout the last ten years or so, I have been vocal about my hatred of running. I am not a runner, I’d say. Running sucks. It was my least favorite event in triathlon by a long shot. Every time I took up running, I got injured and had to quit.
I had this nagging little thought in my head for years: I WAS a runner. I AM a runner. That I was meant to run. Not necessarily marathons or even 5K races. But running is what I need and crave. Ridiculous, right?
So, thank you for sticking with me through this long preamble. Several months ago, that little you-are-a-runner voice in my head got louder and louder, and I started saving my monthly allowance (see below for a link about marital allowances if you are curious). I saved aggressively and steadily to invest in my health.
I bought a quality treadmill.
The treadmill arrived a couple of months ago, and my plan was to walk every day. I was determined to take it slowly, nothing that would push me to injury, but just regular exercise, rain or shine, no black bears invited. As I get older, I find I am determined to learn from my past experiences.
My motivation? I spend half an hour each morning listening to podcasts. Silly, right? But whatever it takes. Turns out I’m pretty motivated to get to spend thirty minutes indulging in a good podcast; NOW, I just happen to be walking while I am doing it.
Then a funny thing happened. The itch to run kept coming back, and I decided if I was careful, I could run a little bit. Nothing crazy. So, I started very slowly and easily to work running into my morning walks on alternating days. If my knees are complaining, I pull back. While I used to feel disappointed thinking if I had skipped a day, I’d fallen off the wagon, now I’m being kind to myself. Slow and steady.
I invested in myself and my health. It wasn’t a frivolous investment. To the contrary, it was a well-conceived plan. Now I am already reaping the rewards of this investment with both better physical AND mental health.
Time will tell. Who knows? I might just be a runner after all.
How do you invest in yourself? Feel free to share it below, or if you prefer, you can email me at Dawn@SimpleMoneyPro.com. Or if you want to start a discussion with some like-minded friends, join the free SimpleMoney Community on Facebook to share your ideas!
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