(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

Say what you will, but I already like 2014 much better than 2013 because last year I rang in the year with the flu. Pretty much anything I’ve accomplished this year so far beats such feats as watching all of season 2 of Downton Abbey in just one day or discovering that the shampoo I was using in my flu-induced feverish state was actually conditioner. Sometimes it’s just good to celebrate the new year by being able to do ordinary, everyday activities without disruption.

It seems that aging is teaching me that one of the best goals for any year is to feel gratitude for whatever I do get to keep doing. Oh, who doesn’t want to do more of what you do better or faster and with a healthier body? Of course, I want to improve, but if the best I get is that I get to keep moving, then I will keep moving as much as I can and still practice gratefulness.

Another thing aging has taught me is that there are times when pushing through an obstacle is more a sign of the weakness of my own hubris than a strength. At sixteen I thought I was tough when I didn’t stop running even to remove the pebble from my shoe—until I realized that not removing that pebble had caused Achilles tendonitis. My injury slowed down my conditioning more than stopping for a few seconds in the middle of a training run would have done.

True strength comes in sensing what my body, mind, soul, heart, etc. needs most and then having the courage to tell my ego to step aside enough to allow me to modify my actions enough to protect myself in the long run. What I have learned the hard way is that being strong in the wrong moment can keep me weak for a much longer period of time—I have to be strong enough to slow down when it makes sense to do so. If there’s ice on the path, I reduce my speed. If my heart rate monitor tells me to take it easy, I try to listen. If I get the flu, then heavy exertion will just have to wait. And if the only way to keep moving is to alternate workout days with rest periods and focused therapy exercises, then so be it.

Learning to be strong enough to accept my weaknesses has been a hard journey—a journey that I am sure will continue until the end of my days—but part of that journey has also been coming to understand that the doing is so much more important to me than appearing strong or fast to someone else. I can choose to mourn what I can no longer do or I can celebrate what I still get to do.

That’s why on a cold, snowy January day—along with my husband who has had his own “strength” training of the aging kind—I started out this new year on the right foot by running a race. From the back of the pack, the two of us just ran our own paces, grateful for another chance to celebrate the ordinary in that manner.

The race coordinators later posted the results with a mea culpa that cold and wind might have affected the accuracy of the data. I’ll say—the weather elements had shaved a full three minutes from my finishing time! (I laughed, but my ego smiled to think this so-called strength had been preserved online.)

Then a few days later my ChiRunning phone app—through some GPS snafu—added distance I didn’t do to a run, which consequently then shaved two minutes off my pace for each mile. Right.

It’s as if the recorded data is conspiring to convince me I’m stronger than I really am—which I’m starting to believe. By running a slower pace these days, I stay stronger and—with any luck—able to do this for the long run.

But, if I start to sense my body is strong enough to speed up again, then you can bet my ego is going to take that feeling (and me) and . . . run with it.