Thursday, April 2, 2009

Working out and wearing out

By the time I was in my early thirties, I had been a cigarette smoker on and off for more than a decade. In the sixties, you could smoke anywhere and at any time. I smoked at my desk at work, at church, and at restaurants when I had dinner out.

(One of the reasons I love to watch Mad Men is remembering how it used to be back then; everyone smoked and thought nothing of it.)

But one day, I knew I had to stop. I was 33 years old and could not walk up 25 stairs without stopping halfway up to rest. Knowing that if I didn't stop smoking, I wouldn't be very happy living in my body for much longer, I decided to quit, finally. Frankly, it was the hardest three years of my life, getting myself to the place where I didn't light up any more. Anybody who has successfully kicked this habit knows what I'm talking about. What was the secret weapon that gave me the ability to kick this habit? Exercise.

Buying myself a good pair of running shoes and lacing them up that afternoon and heading over to the high school track. A quarter of a mile around the track, and I figured I'd be well on my way. Hah! Within less than a mile, I gave up and made my way back home. The next day, even with the little bit of jogging and walking I'd done, I had shin splits. I headed over to the running store and learned that I would need orthotics, which I had to purchase to control my overpronation, and I put them in my shoes and never stopped.

I was one of those people who kept on trying, and eventually I ran several 10K races (6.2 miles) in Boulder. Last December I walked a half marathon (13.1 miles) with my family, although I can't run any more. Throughout my mid-thirties until I was in my mid-fifties I jogged several times a week. It really is addicting. And now I'm addicted to exercise, although now I work out at the gym and take classes. Being that I am currently in my mid-sixties, this is perfectly acceptable. Our bodies do indeed wear out, and if you continue to use yours like I did, it will wear out sooner.

I love to feel the endorphins kick in after a workout. Nowadays I hike 6-10 miles once a week with the Senior Trailblazers, a bunch of Senior Citizens who give me the endurance part of my workouts (more than a short burst, you need longer, lower intensity workouts occasionally to keep your heart in good shape).

This picture was taken last week at Baker Lake here in Bellingham, by one of my fellow Senior Trailblazers. That's snow, not sand, and that's Mt. Shuksan (I think) behind me. I started going out with them in order to keep up my fitness level, but I'm the one who is benefitting from their company and learning about hikes near my new home. And it all started more than three decades ago with a pair of running shoes and some old-fashioned grit.


  1. I gave up smoking when I was 32 years old when I got pneumonia. I've never looked back and wonder now whatever possessed me to take it up in the first place. I admire your tenacity in the face of adversity DJan and wish you well with your current exercise regime. The views of you and the background are stunning.
    Blessings, Star

  2. I gave up smoking for good when I was 37, after smoking for around 20 years. I also really noticed it when I climbed stairs. I had quit several times and gone back to it, but finally I quit because I noticed the face my cat Abigail made when I blew out smoke. No one talked about second-hand smoke in 1984, but it was obviously bothering her. I quit cold turkey on Smoke-Out Day and never went back to it. When people asked me why I quit, I told them I did it for my cat. (Great blog, DJan - keep up the good thoughts!!)


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