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Silver Threads: Exercising will power

The other day I read an article about why some people have will power and others don’t. Well — to be honest, I didn’t really read it; I just read the headline. Then the newspaper got covered up on the breakfast table and forgotten about until now. The proverbial “out of sight, out of mind” might well have been coined for me and other older folks, but it dates back to the 13th century, when there probably weren’t that many of us around, and first appeared in print in 1562. (Don’t you just love doing research on the Internet? I also found that Will Power is a race car driver from Australia.)

Anyhow, I wondered if the author of the piece meant will power to stop doing something you know you shouldn’t — health and morals being among the issues — or the will power to just keep on doing it because you want to.

In the latter case, I have terrific will power, exercising it every time I go to the freezer at 10 o’clock at night and root out that last serving of ice cream in the carton hidden behind the salmon and hamburger meat.

And we finally get to the subject of this particular column, with the appearance of that word “exercising,” which I have the will power not to do.

At 81, my husband is in a heck of a lot better shape than I am at 76. And that’s because — you guessed it — he jogged two miles a day for years on the Lee Circle YMCA track, switching to walking only when he began to fear the effects on his knees and ankles. At one point he took to mall-walking in the early mornings and continues that to this day.

I can’t join him because it would mean getting up at 7, which I’m loath to do since I almost never turn off my e-reader or computer until 1. (Remind me that I owe you a column one day about the marriages of night people and day people.)

I’ve joined gyms, gone to exercise classes, sporadically tried mall-walking and walked in my neighborhood when the weather was cool and dry enough and not too nippy causing me discomfort when I turn corners into the wind. But it’s boring, boring, boring and the slightest distraction can cause me to sink onto a sofa and stay there.

Not too many years ago I got plenty of exercise. Our grandsons were two and four when I retired and the three of us practically lived in the beautiful municipal park behind our house. There’s a big wooded area there and we spent hours pretending to be lost in an Amazon rainforest, spotting and running from trolls beneath the bridges to the small islands, and climbing the little hill modeled after the one in Audubon Park. We visited the ducks and geese, catching glimpses of baby nutria among the reeds edging the lagoons.

Then the boys were at school all day instead of for half days, they began to have to do homework, they joined the Scouts and went on weekend camping trips. They lost interest in the park and the ducks and when they did go into it, it was with friends with whom they vied in racing their bikes down the hill. I lost my little exercise buddies. The only ones I was ever really interested in, who kept it from ever being boring.

I think my inertia is genetic. My father, whom I resemble in many attitudes, made it an art form. A hard worker on the job, he made sprawling in his recliner at home seem graceful.

One day he called me to his side and asked me to go to the drugstore — two blocks away — for him. “I’d go myself,” he said. “But my car’s parked facing the wrong way.”

When my genetic theory doesn’t hold up — my mother was a physical power house — I attribute being quite literally laid back to being an intellectual, something I once thought you had to be a Mensa member to be. But intellectuals are just people who’d much rather think than do. That‘s me.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living Section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at


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