I grew up in a small town in the west Ukraine.
Growing up I wasn’t athletic. My parents had me try a few sports like tennis and swimming, but I would quit after a few lessons. I didn’t enjoy physical exercise, and didn’t care to give it a shot.
I was physically weak, and not particularly brave. I was never really fat, but was always chubby and kind of shapeless. Some boys in our neighborhood would beat me up and call me names. Our gym teacher made fun of me occasionally. Not in a mean way, but sort of as a matter of fact.
When I was 14, I started smoking. We were hanging out at my friend’s house and everyone already knew how to smoke except for me. Naturally, I needed to fit in.
Drinking was a cultural thing as well. You couldn’t go through the soviet high school without learning how to do shots of vodka. I wasn’t drinking often, but when I did, I drank a lot.
Needless to say, drinking and smoking didn’t exactly help me become more fit.
I remember that in the last year of high school we needed to run a 5K. It was set up in the park, and I recall lying under the tree with a few of my buddies smoking, while the rest of the class ran around the park. We joined them on the final loop, and I remember that we barely made it.
I kept smoking and drinking through my teen years and through my twenties. I did try exercise, but it was difficult to mix it with smoking.
I quit smoking when I think was around 30. It took me a few tries, but I finally did it and can’t stand the smell of cigarettes now. I am certain that smoking for 15 years is the biggest regret of my life so far.
Drinking was another matter. I went through phases. First I discovered wines, then scotch and bourbon. I have embarrassing pictures from many parties, especially my 30th birthday.
I wasn’t really a habitual drinker, but at some point I became one.
My stress level as a CEO of a startup was running high, and I found myself drinking wine pretty much every day. Some days I would drink a bottle, some days more. I had a hard time stopping myself after the first glass.
I found myself drinking daily in front of the kids. I drank at family parties, and at birthday parties of my friends’s kids. I was overdoing it, and I knew it. Everyone around me knew it too.
During one of those parties I got drunk, threw up and felt asleep. One of my friends took a picture of me with kids playing and running around.
It has now been more than two years since I had a drink. I quit cold turkey after that party. And I never looked back.
Now, I exercise almost every day. I run, I do yoga, and I go to the gym to do weights when I have time. I try to fit yoga in twice a week and try to run 15 miles a week. I’ve been exercising since I quit smoking, but I exercise way more since I quit drinking.
I am turning 43 tomorrow, and I pretty sure that I am in the best shape I’ve ever been.
Sure, I still carry extra weight, and won’t mind loosing 15 lbs (and I will!). But the 43 old me is way stronger and more fit than I was when I was 23.
I can stay in a plank pose for more than 2 minutes, I can run 5 miles, and work my way through advanced hot yoga class.
I don’t believe that you have to get worse with age. Especially if you weren’t in a great shape before. If you weren’t athletic in your twenties, you just might become athletic in your forties. I did.
I have made a decision that forties is going to be the best decade of my life and I am sticking with this decision. When I get to fifty, I will decide again.