Exercising a Shift

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” — Maya Angelou

A couple months ago, the Experience Life team found out about a new initiative that Life Time Fitness was planning, Commitment Day, and that as employees of our parent company we were all being asked to participate in the event in some form or another.

I admit I’m not much of a fan of running. Or of the cold. Or of giving up a day off to run a 5K in the cold. At some point, after coming to terms with the fact (and accompanying emotions) that I really dislike being told what to do (who does!?), I decided to take myself to task on Commitment Day. I figured keeping a good attitude about it would test the commitment I made in 2012 to exercise a shift in perspective and have a more positive attitude about things. A shift to not making things that aren’t that big of a deal into one. This was only one morning out of the year for goodness sakes.

It turns out my decision was right. My positive attitude even led me to jogging in order to train for this event. Ok, ok. I admit my practice runs were spurred so I could keep up with my co-workers in case they wanted to run rather than walk. I wanted to be able to keep up — at least a little — with them. It turns out after about 20 years or so of not running (unless I was trying to catch a bus or being chased), I was actually in pretty decent running shape. Thank you, bicycle! Thank you, kettlebells! Thank you, river walks and hikes with my pals!

I also decided that since my co-workers are all pretty fun to be around, that having a chance to be around them without talking about deadlines, marketing strategies or multimedia concepts would actually probably be pretty darn fun. Turns out I was right about that, too. That whole myth about making exercise fun does make it easier to have a better time, too. I even forgot that it was about five below zero fahrenheit thanks to the distraction of all the laughs I was having.

Part of the Experience Life crew warming up pre-race inside Mall of America Field – some of us are more excited than others.

A few days after the event, during our weekly staff meeting, we were all discussing how much fun we had during our 5k in five below. More than a few of us were surprised. Then we heard the story of 5K participant, Kelli Merritt.

Kelli (left) and her walking buddy, Penney Ratcliffe.

About six months ago, the 32-year-old Texas native began feeling off balance and experiencing foot drops. She eventually lost total muscle control of her right side, at which point she was taken to a nearby emergency room. After undergoing tests, including an MRI, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Months of physical therapy followed as well as working through the natural emotions that arise after receiving life-changing news.  As time passed and she spent more time in her rehab clinic talking with fellow patients, she noticed how much better off she was than many other people.

As a massage therapist for Life Time Fitness in Plymouth, Minn., Kelli attended a staff meeting about the first-annual Commitment Day event. Her first thought: “I can barely walk, much less do a 5k”.  But, she began to see the event as an opportunity to “take control of my MS.” She says: “I’m not the type of person who likes to be told I can’t do something and I didn’t want it to dictate what I can and can’t do.”

On January 1, 2013, she did more than participate in the 5K, using her walker as a safety precaution: She completed the course in 2 hours and six minutes. She inspired many of the people watching the race, as well as many of the people she was participating in the race with. “They kept asking me if I wanted to stop and I kept saying no.” She says one of her colleagues told her she kept saying to herself, “If Kelli can do this, I can do this.”

Next time I tell myself I can’t do something, or am feeling unmotivated, I’m going to think of Kelli.  She’s one of my new role models for gratitude and fortitude. I’m clearly not the only one. Thanks, Kelli!