02/23/2012 08:55 am ET Updated Apr 24, 2012

Fitness After 50: Staying Motivated To Exercise In Midlife

Before I tell you about how I stay in shape and what motivates me, let me introduce myself.
I am 57 and happily married with seven grown children (two girls and five boys) and four
grandchildren (all boys). Wow -- right? So life for me has been busy for a long time.

I have been active my entire life. I started skiing when I was seven, took six years of ballet
and began swimming at a very young age. I grew up in Michigan, and we always went to the
lakes in the summer and swam competitively through high school. I also did gymnastics, played basketball (why not? At 5 foot 7, I was considered tall back in the day), ran track, rode horses ... I am exhausted just writing about it. My parents didn't push me into these things; rather, I always asked to do more.

I stayed active before, during and after my children were born. I can still recall the first Pepsi
10K race I ran when I was 24. Running races was just starting to become popular, and Pepsi
was one of the first big sponsors. My sister-in-law and I consistently ran three miles about five
days a week when we decided to do the local Pepsi 10K race. Keep in mind, we had never run six miles and certainly not at a race pace. During the race, about three miles in, we started throwing the water from the water stations on each other to keep going. For three days after the race I walked down steps backwards because my quadriceps were so sore. But I did keep running and racing! We didn't have much money, and what little money we had went to diapers and food, so buying new running shoes was out of the question. I found a product called Shoe Goo. When applied to the worn-out portion of your running shoes, you could cover holes and even out the worn edges and heels.

One of my oldest daughter's earliest memories was standing at a finish line next to her dad
waiting for me. My husband always had something for me to drink when I finished. Celeste
recalls that the day was very hot, and she kept begging her dad for some of the orange juice
he was holding for me (a half gallon!). He wouldn't give any to her because he wanted to
make sure I rehydrated at the end of the race. (I think the real reason is he didn't want to hear me complain.)

I should mention my husband here -- he doesn't want me to write his name so going forward, he will be called "Hermes," the Greek god of Herds, Trade and Athletics, so it fits. He is also French so it fits from that perspective too (though he's hardly one to wear designer duds). My oldest thinks Hermes is trying to run away from cancer -- he had prostate cancer a few years ago and has been more obsessed with fitness since then. In fact, he was on our NordicTrac the night he came home from his surgery.

Flash forward to a few years ago. Both of us, of course, had been staying fit by running,
swimming, participating in spin classes, etc. I had been toying with the idea of doing a triathlon for a while, but didn't think I had enough time to commit to the training. I have a full-time job at a major Philadelphia university that is pretty demanding, and Hermes also works full time. But suddenly, three Januaries ago, Hermes declares we need a goal -- we should do a triathlon. Why not? I can swim and run, and how hard can the bike be?

What motivates me to train and stay and shape? I can name many reasons that you have
probably seen a thousand times and are very good to consider when you think about your health. First, I truly enjoy running, swimming and biking, but they are also my therapy. Working
out not only relieves my stress, it helps me sort out work issues as well as general day-to-day
problems. If I am upset, it calms me down (swimming 3000 yards has that effect, since it relaxes my mind). The health benefits are phenomenal. I feel terrific, have a lot of energy and rarely get sick. These are the things that motivate me.


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