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6 to 60: Living Life with Vitality, Joy, and Purpose

Six Weeks to Sixty

Up for the challenge. Allow me to share my journey into the next decade of my life with you. I hope the lessons I share touch each of you no matter your age, 20 years to 80 years old – the journey to a purposeful, joyful life lived with vitality is ongoing. So many lessons are learned and relearned for me through athletic events. SO….I chose to do a Bucket List Event in honor of my 60th Birthday. What could be better than gathering your whole family at Disney World, right? The Dopey Challenge! So off I went with my plan. I asked my family to join me and registered for the Dopey Challenge. The challenge is four days of running, increasing your distance each day. 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), half-marathon (13.1 miles), and a full marathon (26.2 miles), totaling 48.6 miles over the four days. February 14th the event opened and I eagerly registered knowing the event often filled early. I anxiously anticipated the challenge of increasing my fitness and endurance level to be able to comfortably complete the event. Understand, my mantra is to finish comfortably not compete. I had completed the Ironman for my 50th Birthday in August of 2008…surely I could complete 48.6 miles over the span of four days AND improve my health in the process.

My 50’s had encompassed many difficult circumstances impacting my overall fitness and wellbeing. Now at 59 I was ready to move on to my 60’s. Well, less than a month after registering I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle and foot in several spots – seven to be more specific- and damaged the tendons on both sides of my foot. I had my first broken bone in my 50’s, and I was not excited for another adventure of this type. How was I going to overcome this challenge to ultimately achieve my January challenge and joyfully move into my 60’s with exceptional health. My vision of health has long been “Live life with vitality, joy and purpose”.

Overcoming Circumstances. I was determined to overcome and look at this situation with a positive attitude. Asking, what am I to learn from this situation? What will it take to still accomplish my goals. I began to evaluate my life. I was grateful the fall was not worse, I literally had no other injuries. I was grateful there were people around to assist me. I was given the gift of people placed in my path during the first few hours! The lessons continued through the next 10 months. The physical challenges were overwhelming. I chose not to do surgery, hardware had not agreed with me when I broke my collar bone and I had the hardware removed 4 years after the break. 16 weeks in a boot and more than 4 weeks non-weightbearing. During that time I continued to teach at the university AND manage 2 fitness facilities, teaching up to 4-6 classes per week. Thank you for scooters. While I was grateful for the movement, I knew it was not moving me toward my ultimate Dopey Challenge goals.

6 weeks from 60. I am now 2 weeks out from the event and 6 weeks from 60. Time to reflect! Training has been challenging. Mid-July my boot came off and the process began. My first run was July 29 with a modest 5 mile walk/run officially kicking off my training. Difficult is an understatement. Training continued to present itself as a physical and emotional roller coaster. Most of my training over the next month was completed on the eliptical offering cardio training but not quite the same as running. September 9th I jumped into training full force with my first ‘Dopey Double’. 6 miles on Saturday and 9 miles on Sunday – I was finally off and running! The roller coaster continued. Fast forward to mid-December, time to do the last long training weekend. Training encompassed distances similar to the event building distance each day from 3 miles to 20 miles…eek. Countdown was on, emotions were high. I was 3 weeks out from the event and 7 weeks from turning 60. I was not where I hoped to be.

Mindset is everything. The first two runs were great! The third run, 12 miles, was challenging but very encouraging. Then came the 20 mile fourth run. I drove to my favorite running spot near Destin, Florida. 30A is a beautiful path with a variety of views. You travel along the beach, through fun communities, and less developed park areas. The temperature was perfect. I could not ask for better circumstances. Yet, I began to struggle at mile 12. The next 8 miles mirrored the roller coaster the training had been – filled with ups and downs. At times I wanted to call an Uber to take me back to my car. Just when I needed it I received texts from family and friends encouraging me. I refocused on my goals and experienced good miles and hard miles. I practiced setting a positive mindset. Rejoicing at each mile I accomplished I pushed forward to the next ‘milestone’. Staying in the present and the positive I focused on the end vision. I had learned so many lessons through the training process, the last year, and honestly the last decade.

Keep moving forward. I felt so accomplished at the end of the run because I followed through and kept moving forward – literally one step at a time. As an endurance athlete, I know how important it is to envision the race. That is what I have spent the last week doing. Envisioning the race(s) and reflecting on the challenge and lessons learned along the way. I am now five weeks from 60 and can’t imagine what the next few weeks will bring. I know I have done the hard work and the event will be great! I AM going to have a fun day!

I believe the journey begins with a purpose. This relates to our goals and life. What is your ‘heart passion’. I end my thoughts with where I started. I choose to live life with vitality, joy, and purpose. I choose to participate in activities to live my life to the fullest. My mom passed away at 62 – I was 39 at the time. I committed to take care of myself with the hope of not only living a long life but a quality of life that allowed me to fully live.

I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions I set New Years Reaffirmations! I reflect on what my goals, values and purpose are. I evaluate what has moved me toward my vision and what has kept me from accomplishing my vision. Only then can I reaffirm and set my ‘resolve’ to continue my journey toward a life filled with vitality, joy and purpose. For me…

  • starting each day with quiet meditative time
  • focusing on fulfilling my purpose in life each day
  • caring for my body with exercise and healthy nutrition to have the energy to fulfill my purpose
  • loving my life and the people God places in my day
  • laying my head on the pillow knowing I AM worthy of His Calling

Do I do this perfectly every day? No – but not every run is perfect either. I persevered to run the race set out for me.

  • Terry A. Gehrke, M.Ed., MCHES, EP-C
  • Founder and President of Balanced Wellness, LLC