The journey to being a better me started when I decided to take action in taking better care of my health. First, it started with quitting smoking. Then being more physically active and later, of course, a more conscious diet.
None of what I do is perfect, and it’s far from the extremes that many people go through to be a specimen of perfection. Focusing on my health the best I can is what got me out of the anxiety and sadness that once gripped my soul. That focus didn’t come out of thin air. It came from inspiration. It came from a gentleman named John.
About 11 years ago, I took a “French as a Second Language” course at the Université de Moncton. While there, I met an older gentleman by the name of John. He was very outgoing, deeply wise, and he had some great things to share about life in general. We found out that we lived in the same town of Riverview, and were only a few streets apart from each other.
John was retired and had been for about ten years up until then. I asked him why he would be taking a French course if he wasn’t working anymore. John explained to me that he was attending many of the free university classes offered to seniors. As a retiree, he was continuing his learning so that he could keep his mind sharp.
During one of his presentations to the class, John talked about how he loved to walk. He described how, over the past 15 years or so, he had walked well over 20,000 kilometres. Twice a day, sometimes three, he would go out and walk to get some fresh air and stay in shape. John explained that since he retired, staying active was a priority to him.
John instantly became an inspiration to me. Here I was, 30 years old, smoking, and developing a belly from eating crap. The thoughts of my body breaking down were beginning to creep into my mind. I had chronic back problems and felt tired most days.
It took a few more years before I started to take action in support of my health. But during those years, I would often see John walking along the side of the road. In the dead of winter or the blistering heat of July, John would be walking. Every time I saw him, his determination inspired me.
Four years after meeting John, and seeing this older gentleman walking everywhere, I decided to follow his lead., so I took up walking. In fact, for the entire calendar year of 2015, I walked at least 5k every day.
That daily walk changed me like no other form of exercise that I’ve ever done. I’ve since run a marathon, taught high-intensity interval training classes, and done a bunch of yoga and everything in between. But that first year of walking every day cleared my mind like nothing else. That daily habit towards better health opened my eyes to the life I never thought was possible.
I still see John out walking -I saw him this morning! This man has to be about 80 years old now, and he walks with purpose and strength, and with no signs of frailty.
When I’m out running, I’ll wave to him, and he’s quick to smile at me and belt out a quick “Hello, Jeff!”. It’s been 11 years since we first met, we’ve never chatted outside of that night course at the university, but he still knows me by name.
John continues to inspire me.
You never know when the things you do can inspire others. As long as you do them out of love and not to be loved, your integrity will move anyone into action. John never suggested that I start walking. He leads purely by example. By his determination to be healthy and demonstrating his desire to stay active, he’s inspired me to take better care of myself.
Life doesn’t end when you’re old. It ends when you get old.