Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day: The Inspiration to Change

When I was little, my dad would flex his muscles and I was absolutely certain his arms were as big as Mr. T's.

Dad earned a master's degree in athletic training from Appalachian and worked for their football team for a while. Then the practicalities of having a wife and two young kids kicked in. He traded in sports for sales.

Sales meant taking customers to dinner and driving all day. Naturally, dad put on weight. For most of his adult life, he didn't exercise. He would go canoeing or we would take a family hike here and there, but we weren't one of those fitness families. That's just the way it was. 

Then one day, about 6 years ago, he decided to make a change. It seemed to come from nowhere. He sent out an email and said he was starting a blog. A blog about cycling. He didn't even own a bike.

I'll be honest, I didn't think it was going to stick. I was a pro. I had taken up exercise lots of times! An aerobics class for 3 weeks. A yoga class that I never went back to. Running. Weight lifting. I had given up on exercise more times than I'd started! Dad had no idea what he was getting himself into. And in his late fifties no less!

That's the thing about family and friends. We aren't always the most supportive people, are we?

So dad bought the bike. And the gear. And gadgets. And deep down I knew it would never last, but  hoped it would. I wanted my dad to be healthy. I wanted him to prove that you could go from lazy to active. I needed to see it was possible. And not just for him.

And dad did something amazing. He proved me wrong.

For some reason, the cycling thing clicked for him. He started riding with friends and before we knew it, he was going out for 18 or 20 miles. He even had an accident that required shoulder surgery, but that didn't stop him.

At the time, I wasn't exercising. Since giving up ballet in high school, I had had an impossible time sticking with any exercise regimen. And here was my 50-something going on 60-something father who was making it look like a cake walk.

Then my daughter got sick. Cancer derailed any hopes of exercise for a while. We threw ourselves into fundraising, though, and dad was there every step of the way.

He shaved his head for St. Baldrick's.

He came to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society events.

And, of course, he rode his bike to raise awareness.

So when I decided to run a marathon to fundraise for LLS, even though I worried a lot of people would think "No Way. She's not even a runner." I knew the thought would never occur to my dad. 

Yet I've never told him how much he inspired me.

Seeing him go from couch potato to cyclist proved I could do it. My dad had become the most fit person in the family. If he could do it after years of not exercising, we should all be doing it.

My dad retired a couple of years ago and now works at the Y and at his local community college. Among other things, he's teaching health, PE, and, you guessed it, spinning lessons. He's not only teaching spinning, he's teaching it to high school kids at risk of dropping out. Spinning lessons! None of that would have been possible for him 10 years ago. None of it would have happened if he had just continued on his comfortable sales path.

At some point in our lives we will all slip into a rut. For me (like my dad and many other Americans) that rut involved junk food and sitting on the couch. Now I know that's not the way it has to be. People can change. They do every day. And for those of you sitting at home thinking you don't have it in you, you do. You just have to find it.

Now we're talking about a Century Ride with Team in Training in 2014. 100 miles on a bike. Two years ago I would have thought there is no way. Now I know. It can be done.

Dad, we've got this!

No comments:

Post a Comment