Exercise and Me

Exercising during retirementIn 1982, a UN consulting project took me to the Tien Shan Mountains of northwestern China. When I returned to Cornell University, my colleague, Prof. Ta Liang, who had come to the U.S. from China after World War II, advised me that, because I’d seen Heavenly Lake, I would live forever.

Although I trusted Ta implicitly, as I got older, I decided to hedge my bet. Late in life, I started exercising and modifying my pizza- and calzone-centric diet.

My New Life

Working in the Washington, D.C., area after leaving Cornell, I got in the habit of exercising before the sun even thought about rising. (If you jogged the way I do, you’d want it to be dark, too.) My 30-minute routine wasn’t much, but it encompassed a little of this, a little of that and a half-mile jog (at least there was a hill). In the evening, I might take a walk over the same half-mile.

Then I had back surgery, after which I had to stretch and strengthen every morning as instructed diligently by the physical therapist. (She laughed uncontrollably when I described my little of this, little of that routine.) I stopped jogging until the surgeon told me that I was in terrible shape and should be jogging. Who knew?

Eventually, I doubled the time I exercised and distance I jogged. After retiring from the federal government, my sometimes, evening constitutional became a daily one-mile walk, executed in the afternoon at a respectably brisk pace.

Morning Light

My predawn jogging was on our quarter-mile long street in the suburbs. There were streetlights at intersections and maybe half of the homeowners kept an outside light on all night. A few of those house lights had motion detectors, making me feel special as I passed by. One, in fact, was a variable intensity light. How cool! When I approached the house, the brightness of the light increased steadily–a radiant crescendo that peaked when I was in front of the driveway, holding the microphone, waving to the fans…thank you, thank you. As I continued off stage, the light faded, trying to hold me in its luminous grip. And since I passed back and forth in front of this house, I was featured twice! Every morning!

Morning Encounters

Exiting our house for my predawn venture could be interesting. One morning, easily a half dozen deer were attending a board meeting in front of our house. They adjourned when I offered a motion. Another morning, I interrupted two fox (four legged) on our front lawn, one sitting, the other stretched out comfortably. They were gazing at the street, discussing the weather or having a cigarette. Executing a proverbial double take when they heard me, they ended their conversation, extinguished their cigarettes and abruptly departed.

Even with a full moon and the house lights, our street was usually dark enough that I had to focus on the pavement. Still, I would occasionally spy a deer or fox racing across the street or a deer frozen on someone’s lawn. (Rabbits ran rampant day and night.)

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  1. Wynne A Tysdal

    June 26, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    Great post! So many truths, told with a good sense of humor. Please ask this guest blogger to post again and again and again.

  2. Exercise is a lifelong commitment. I found that it is not as difficult to make the commitment to exercise several times a week as it is for some of my friends. This may be because I started when I was young and made it a priority in order to stay healthy. Some of my friends who started later in life seem to have trouble sticking with it. But you have to do it. And it is more important in you later years.

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