It would come as no surprise to those who know me that I was never an athlete. Growing up, I read books and practiced music. Running for any respectable distance was simply beyond me, and I have always joked that if you threw something at me, I was most likely to duck. Regular physical activity came to me later in life, and after experiencing first hand the benefits of increased strength, lower stress levels, and a new sense of confidence, I knew I could never return to a sedentary life.
As working out became easier, I began to set new challenges for myself. I started distance cycling because I didn't know I could do it. It turns out I can. Two years ago, I challenged myself to try running. I've never understood runners. When I pass them on my bike and observe their tormented facial expressions, I struggle to reconcile what I see with the passion they express when they talk about running. Runners are addicts. Miserable-looking addicts. Some of my colleagues were trying out the Couch to 5K running approach with considerable success, so I started too. As an incentive to keep going, I signed up for the Warrior Dash, a 5K race with obstacles. This would cost me money, so I couldn't back out, and I was determined not to die. It took me well over an hour to get through it, and unlike other people who ran in packs, I did it on my own. The end of the race required me to leap over fire, and I eventually lost a toenail because of my unfortunate landing, but the confidence I gained from attempting to do something I didn't know I could do was well worth the loss. Besides, a very attractive new toenail grew in within a few months, so that's all good now.
After developing plantar fasciitis and now arthritis in one of my knees, I've been advised by three different doctors to give up on running. But knowing I need exercise so that I can be nice to people, I have settled on a compromise (which I haven't shared with any of them): I only run downhill. Perhaps my running days are almost officially over, but I know I'll find some other exercise to take its place. (I must admit here, I never really learned to enjoy running; it mostly feels great when you stop). Whether I'm attending yoga classes, working out at a facility with weights and elliptical machines, or riding my bicycle, working out helps me face the challenges of work and life more effectively. Working out in the afternoon on my way home allows me to process a difficult day and prepare to go back in the next day with a better attitude.
No more excuses. I'm packing up my gym bag tonight and scheduling my workouts for the week. Taking time to take care of me will make me more positive and effective at my job, and I'll be nicer to people. The classroom is no place for a pessimist. If you haven't started the habit yet, go out and exercise. Do what you can do. It'll change your life.