Not too long ago, I wrote a column about staying active regardless of your age. Rick Wallace of Townsend sent me a really great letter in response. I’ve never done this before but I want to offer his letter as my column this week. Here, in his words:

I was an athlete in junior high, high school, summer league and intramural competition in college. Most of that faded away during and after an almost four-year stint on active duty in the U. S. Army and three years with the 134th Air National Guard in Alcoa.

I personally received a reawakening in the form of a heart attack in 2003. Since then I said to myself, “Well, Goober-head, what you gonna do now?”

So my journey to better health began then. Like you, I really don’t care if a 10-year old beats me up or down a hill on a bicycle or a 36-year old female crushes the weight machine at the gym, lifting more than me. I lost weight, stopped smoking, got on a better diet, and began a regular regimen of exercise.

Amazing how that helps! Those cardiologists, nutritionists and nurse practitioners were actually on to something. LOL.

Sometime in 2009 I began to expand my fitness repertoire from mostly my singular weight training and stationary cardiovascular machine workouts to group fitness. I entered the world of High Intensity Interval Training then added a variety of classes. Some of these I thought I really should take my own oxygen supply with me just to ensure I could remain upright during and after the classes.

Although some days I have to mentally move myself to exercise and I don’t always like the method, I do so love the results. I can hike in the Smokies with my 28-year old professional athlete grandson and his wife and keep right up with them. I am able to do things with my two granddaughters (22 and 19) that astound their younger but more sedentary butts. I can perform some serious hill side mowing on our property in Townsend which is a workout in itself.

Like you mentioned in your article; I have witnessed, observed and looked around at many of my high school-aged friends, their spouses, and same age contemporaries, the majority of which have either already passed or appear to be waiting for the end. Such a shame, such a waste of life.

Every January every fitness center I’ve ever been a part of has a large influx of “I’m going to get back into shape!” New Years resolutionists. A lot of regular members seem to detest this mass influx of new people, mostly because they are using more of the weight equipment, treadmills, ellipticals and generally using most of the locker room space as well. Really sad, the attitude of some of these “regulars.” Personally, I love seeing these new guys and gals come in.

I try and encourage as many as possible to persist, endure and reach their individual fitness goals. No matter how long or how small each step, they are moving forward.

It warms my heart to workout next to a new class attendee who makes the effort to help themselves achieve a higher level of fitness, regardless of how they look or move or how often they need a break.

In closing, I believe none of us awaken without something in or on our bodies hurting. Perhaps when we were 12 or younger, maybe. All humans hurt to some degree the longer they live.

Our ability to endure the hurt and remain as physically active as we can is rewarded by a more enriched life. When a friend and I were getting a drink of water at the same time during a body attack class; she looked at my sweat covered face with her sweat covered face and said, “This doesn’t ever get any easier.” Solid truth!

Email Joe Black at joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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