By Amy Heesacker
I never considered myself athletic. If you asked me to list 100 adjectives that best describe me, "talkative" would be near the top, but any words having to do with movement, activity or exercise would not even make an appearance.
That is, until one recent morning at 5:30 a.m.
A month before, I joined a boot camp for women, a wonderfully inspiring group made up mostly of moms like me. It was a rather impulsive late-night decision based in part on having had to lie down to zip up my jeans that morning. When I started the program I didn't expect to make it to all the sessions. I had never been consistent with exercise, so I anticipated that this experience would be similar to all of my previous attempts; I'd start out strong and end with a pitiful half-hearted effort, probably finding an excuse (a sore knee, a runny nose, split ends) not to finish.
However, with the encouragement of my boot camp instructor and after seeing some early results, I managed to stickwith it to the end, never missing a single session. I surprised myself, and I began to see myself in a different light, as someone who might actually rise before the sun to do sit-ups on frosted grass, under a starry sky.
I recently discovered that my grandmother was a runner. And she was a fast one. After telling her about joining the boot camp, my grandmother shared with me that she used to win ribbons in high school track for her speed. My dad, her son, was an athlete too -– still is, as a matter of fact. Along with a weekly basketball schedule, he continues to do a pushup for every year of his life, every day.
Our final boot camp assessment was to be timed on a mile run to mark our improvement. I worried the night before that my time would be the same as or, pathetically, worse than when I started. When the timed mile began I started out strong, and then the familiar negative self-talk began, "You aren't going to make a better time, so you might as well slow down and save yourself the pain." "Maybe if you slip in the rain-drenched grass and feign an ankle injury you will garner some sympathy and not have to face your embarrassing time." "You don't really think you're a runner, do you?"
But then I had another thought, one that somehow managed to break free from the pack that I usually hang with and pulled ahead, taking me and my tired legs with it.
"My grandmother was a runner. And now so am I."
It was a thought that helped shave one whole minute off my mile and filled me with a sense of pride that I have rarely felt. My hope is that I can serve as a role model to my children and grandchildren one day, just as my grandmother did for me. But for now, I'm just enjoying thinking of myself as an athlete, a talkative, fast athlete.
Amy Heesacker is a thirty-something SAHM and part-time psychology professor living in the deep South with her husband and two children.