The Joy of Fitness
by Don Wierenga
March, 2005

In my youth and early adult life, sports and physical activities were the only things that mattered.They were far more important than school or learning, more important than family or relationships: it was where I experienced success and self satisfaction. My chosen career as a teacher and school administrator didn’t seem to provide much expression for physical activity.

In my middle years I discovered running. I completed my first 10K race at age 50, my first marathon at 52 and culminated with qualifying for, and completing the Boston marathon, at age 55. I retired at 57 from my job -- and marathon running -- and seemed to be slipping into the inevitable physical decline associated with “old age.”

Now, in my 70’s, I have discovered tennis and the fitness center at Evergreen Commons!

The physical challenges at various stages of life have played a significant role in my well being and happiness. It was much more than the immediate gratification of winning or the deep frustration, even anger, associated with loosing. It had everything to do with my very being, my sense of self and the core of my happiness.

Several years ago Ginny and I joined Evergreen Commons, a center in Holland, Michiugan especially suited for those of us that are over 55. We started our workouts in the fitness center. We were skillfully oriented to the equipment, dutifully established a starting point and faithfully recorded the results of over 400 workouts. The aerobic equipment provided a means to quickly regain my previous fitness level, especially upper body strength. The use of weight equipment was where I experienced my greatest gain. By gradually increasing weight and repetitions I again experienced the almost limitless capacity of the human body to develop and perform. The “good feeling” that always followed a strenuous workout had returned. I was hooked! Secretly I was looking for physical change (it was happening, but so far I’m the only one who has noticed!) . . but that was not the important thing. I have observed a gradual lowering of my blood pressure and will soon be requesting my doctor to evaluate my medication -- and I just plain feel better!

I have never received an injury caused by physical activity, however two years ago my 90 lb. malamute husky dog, in her unappreciated attempt to protect me, caused a torn knee cartilage that threatened my tennis career. Some time ago I had arthroscopic surgery to correct the problem. While watching the doctor use his magic wands to explore the inner workings of my knee, the conversation turned to my general fitness. He asked where I worked out, and concluded the 20 minute procedure explaining how fortunate we were to have such a first class facility as Evergreen Commons . . in his words one of the premier such facilities in the Midwest.

Four hours later, after anxiously awaiting the return of feeling to my lower body, I was walking my dog on the beach and the next day resumed my workouts -- a tribute to modern technology, the doctors’ skill and I must humbly add -- my physical condition.

While this is a personal success story, it pales in comparison to the heroic efforts of so many others who struggle to improve their own quality of life. While I may note progress in pounds and numbers, I have observed others who would measure in ounces and inches of new movement. We cannot choose our parents and often have little to do with the afflictions that invade our bodies, but how adversity is handled is what really counts.
It was just a few years ago that I rediscovered tennis, a sport that can be played at any age and any skill level. Our winter life on South Padre Island, TX and our condo at the Royale Beach and Tennis Club provided the time and place for this to happen. With four courts and an endless suppy of tennis partners my skill level and physical development gradually improved.