Hidden Strength

Lately it seems as if the pains of growing old have taken a hold of me. My back has given me a few trips to the doctors office and the day to day grind of life has sucked the energy right out of my body. I’m a little less nimble and quick is no longer a valid term to describe my athletic abilities. The years and years of sitting at a keyboard have indeed taken their toll.

To help alleviate the stresses of mind & body, Jennifer and I have embarked on a exercise routine. We’d made several attempts in the past to do so but somehow the reality of exercise never manifested. Perhaps it was the business of work and perhaps it was just laziness, but none the less, we broke past the tired old manbarriers of apathy and went for a run. It was a good excuse to put those Nike shoes to the test.

The weather was beautiful for a run. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and the ducks graced the lake area. We started early enough in the AM that the noon heat wouldn’t plague us and we would still be comfortable when sweat started to break past the pores of our skin. A mild breeze was present in the air.

Prior to our run we stretched and stretched our leg muscles to prepare. It’s been forever and a day since I ran my last mile and I didn’t want my Achilles heel snapping (which wouldn’t surprise me given my current shape). Jennifer can touch her toes with a bit of ease but it pains my legs to fall short of 3 inches. Yes, she’s half my age but that’s beside the point. Just looking at the gap between my efforts and my destination makes me feel like half the man I used to be, if not less than that. Pains aside, we stretched and stretched some more.

Our plan at the small lake was simple. Run a lap then walk a lap. Run a lap, then walk a lap. Rinse, wash, repeat. I figured we could pull off 5-6 laps before we cratered. In my youth I could run 10 miles in stride (and oft did) but, as Indian slang can offer, I am many moons from that point in my past. We should take it easy on this run lest we burn out too quickly. Well, that’s what I was telling Jenn so I’d be able to keep up with her.

Despite the awareness of our physical condition, we were enthusiastic. The cool wind and shining sun hurled us forward with an enthusiasm that was magical. It felt good, it felt real good. We were running at a mild pace but were both comforted and entertained by silly conversations and the exhilaration of effort. Lap 1 was just amazing.

Just prior to the start of lap two, Jenn slowed down. I managed to encourage her forward a bit and for the next 15 minutes we enjoyed a mildly brisk walk around the lake. Nature entertained us with the sight of birds and turtles and ducks. The lake water looked inviting enough to swim in. Before we knew it, it was time for lap three.

At this point in the excursion, I was alive. I could sprint off into the nether regions of the sidewalk path but Jenn, for all of her enjoyment, was starting to suffer the pains of exercise. To my amazement, she was slowing down and this old man was just getting warmed up! It had been a long time since I last ran but neither my legs nor my lungs had forgotten the passion of it. “Buhi Pa”, as I say in Ilonggo, “Buhi Pa”. I’m still alive.

We often think of growing old as getting weaker. Almost 40, I feel it sometimes. My body is changing shape, the doctor confirmed my shrunken vertebrae and there’s an abundance of white hair manifesting more and more. Really though, the reality of growing old does not mean growing weaker. We grow stronger. Not always in body but most certainly we can in soul and spirit. Age is like a video game, high score wins.

Jennifer tries oft to persuade me to color my hair. The white hairs, once non-existent, are now springing up more and more. Not so I tell her, never! I’ve earned every one of them. They are all my personal trophies and reminders that strength is never lost, it just changes with the years.

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