Fitness Over 50: From The Mailbox To The Marathon

Brad Pitt celebrated his 50th birthday, December 18, 2013. AARP, the organization originally founded for retired people, honored him with a mock magazine cover, AARP The Magazine.  (AARP sends out membership cards right on your 50th birthday.) Although Mr. Pitt has been twice-named Sexiest Man Alive (1995 and 2000) by PEOPLE Magazine, he is not immune from the effects of aging. None of us are.

In recalling my response to receiving my AARP membership, I remembered how I began training for the Nashville Hard Rock Music Marathon. I was light years away from being a fitness buff — I was what I'd call a marathon virgin — but I had just enough fire to make a shift away from the couch. One of the first things I had to do was convince my friend and soon-to-be exercise partner Arlie to embrace my gigantic goal of walking 26.2 miles to raise money for blood cancer research for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). The race date was in April so we began training the preceding November. We had almost six months to get ready. We felt certain that we could do it.

To buttress our preparation we engaged the organization Team In Training because they partner with LLS to provide expert coaching and training for participants. My personal campaign slogan was "From the Mailbox to the Marathon." My teammates laughed at my story of humble beginnings, walking from the couch to the mailbox and back on day 1 of my training cycle. By the end of the 1st week, fueled by resolve, I'd blown way past the couch to mailbox circuit, and found that I'd actually walked one full mile. By the end of the 2nd week, I was walking 2-3 miles per day. Things were beginning to look pretty good. Arlie and I began walking five miles each morning. On Saturdays, we trained with our team, even in rainy, sunny, or cold weather. Nothing was going to stop us from our appointed miles. We enjoyed spending hours with about 20 other Team In Training people in our age bracket. Our coaches taught us how to manage any mobility, fitness, and nutritional issues for the success of our training and forthcoming race. Training was grueling hard work and required commitment, support from family and friends and a flexible schedule.

Finally, on a warm April morning, we joined thousands of athletes at the starting line in Nashville, TN for the Hard Rock Marathon. The atmosphere was exhilarating. Crowds cheered and music blasted for miles all along the route to keep us pumped up. Our walking journey took six and a half hours to the 26.2 miles finish line. Crossing the finish line felt incredibly wonderful. The race was one of the most fun things I've ever done. Remarkably, Arlie and I raised over $5,000 for blood cancer research.

It may be a while before you receive your 50th birthday gift membership from AARP, yet now might be the perfect time to take proactive, positive steps to prepare for your life’s challenges, events, or incidents. A marathon may not be for you, but becoming physically, socially and emotionally healthy is essential to assuring that your years in the 50 and over club are vibrant and happy. Everyone ages and we can celebrate life and savor each birthday by finding ways to embrace aging enthusiastically, with fitness, fun, and dignity. 

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