Fit for Life
Guideposts|April 2021
I thought I was doing this for my mom after her stroke, but I ended up doing it for both of us
JOCELYN WOFFORD

I stood in my driveway and pressed START on my phone. It was my first time using a training app for beginning runners. “Walk for 90 seconds,” an encouraging female voice sang out. I started down the sidewalk.

It was mid-January, a bit warmer than usual. I’d pulled on a pair of loose stretchy pants, a baggy sweatshirt and tennis shoes. Please don’t let the neighbors see me, I thought.

At 47 years old, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done anything physically active. I’d been overweight my whole life, and sports just weren’t my thing. I was happy to cheer on the rest of my family—my husband, who played rec league hockey, and our three always-on-the-go kids. But I wasn’t out here for myself. It was my mother I worried about. I’d do anything for her—even take up running.

Mom had suffered a severe stroke seven weeks earlier. She’d been released from the hospital to a rehabilitation center for intensive therapy. I visited almost every day. She’d made strides in verbal and cognitive areas, but she struggled with physical therapy. It was hard to see my independent mom wheelchair-bound and unable to stand. It was even harder to see the defeated look in her eyes. “You’ve got this,” I’d cheer her on while she did her PT exercises. “Keep trying.” But progress was slow and she wasn’t happy at the rehab center, pleading, “I want to go home.” Well, who wouldn’t?

“If she doesn’t show improvement, we’ll have to discharge her,” the therapist told me. My dad went to therapy with Mom, often doing the exercises too. The grandkids came as well. I was involved in every aspect of Mom’s care plan. But how to help motivate her—I somehow needed to figure that out.

I didn’t mind the responsibility. I was used to it. I homeschooled our kids, now teenagers, making sure they got the best education I could give them. I organized events for our homeschool group. Ran our household. Played in our church praise band. Me time was never much of a priority. Still, in the past year, I’d managed to make big changes to my health. I eliminated all refined sugar and carbs from my diet, losing 75 pounds. But exercise? No way. Especially not running. I was still haunted by memories of coming in last during every race in middle school gym class.

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