Over 45 years ago I made an investment that has been paying really good dividends every year. It is an investment I recommend to everyone. In fact, I recently recommended this investment to the Senior Vice President of the bank we do business with.
What is this wise investment that I made and recommend?
It is in physical fitness. How has my investment of physical fitness and a healthy diet paid dividends? Last November I celebrated my 78th birthday. And last year during the spring, summer and fall, my wife and I biked just a little over 1,300 miles. My weight is down to where it was when I came out of the Air Force, and I have a lot of energy for an old dude. When I was a runner, my running guru was Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the author of the book, Aerobics and many others. I once attended a seminar where he said he couldn’t promise that physical fitness would enable us to live longer….he thought it very likely would…but for sure it would give us a better quality of life during whatever years we did have. And that is where the return on your investment comes in. Will you live longer? Very likely fitness will give you that dividend. Will life be better by being physically fit and eating a healthy diet? In my opinion, and Dr. Cooper’s…absolutely.
I was in excellent physical condition when I came off active duty in the Air Force, as are most young veterans. But then I took a fairly sedentary job as District Sales Manager for Outboard Marine Corporation. I wasn’t eating right or exercising while on the road 60,000 miles a year. As a result, in just a couple of years I grew overweight. And I was smoking too much. (Back then, we didn’t know then just how bad smoking was for us.)
It was a real shocker to be in my late twenties and find that I had high blood pressure and couldn’t even play a round of golf without getting exhausted. My physician told me that to get my blood pressure down, I really needed to lose weight, quit smoking, and get my physical fitness back.
I decided to tackle smoking by cutting back, thinking that I could keep reducing the number of cigarettes until I could easily stop altogether. That didn’t work. I then switched to a pipe. That didn’t work either. One night I was out to dinner with a neighbor and during the evening he said, “You know, it looks like you are one of those guys who just can’t quit. I quit months ago. But it seems you just can’t do it.” Well that annoyed me no end. I hate being told I can’t do something. Before the evening was over, with him repeatedly telling me I couldn’t quit, I finally got so irritated that I took the pack of cigarettes out of my shirt pocket and threw it at him. Then I said, “I will never smoke another cigarette!” He laughed at me.
The next morning I got up and headed to the shower. There in an ashtray on the sink was a partially-smoked cigarette. I put it in my mouth and was ready to light a match. Then I thought, “Lord, help me to not do this.” I found the strength to toss the cigarette in the toilet and to this day have not smoked another cigarette. It wasn’t easy or fun, though.
Since that was the Fourth of July weekend, I decided to paint the trim on my brick house. I painted in a frenzy – if it didn’t move, it got painted! At the same time, I had also started watching my diet and eating a low fat healthy diet as recommended by my doctor. Most smokers gain weight when they quit and I didn’t want that to happen to me. My kids avoided me like the plague because I was so tightly wound from wanting a smoke and food, too.
The next week, I was so stressed from nicotine withdrawal that I decided to get out of the house and began taking our collie for long walks. She started pulling on the leash as we walked, so I started jogging a bit to give her some exercise. Wow… it really seemed to relax me. Gradually I began jogging with the dog every night after dinner… each time a little faster and a bit longer. The weight started coming off, too.
I ended up being a runner for 25 years until I tore the meniscus in my left knee. I had been running three to ten miles at least three times a week, and when my schedule permitted, five times a week. After surgery to repair the damaged knee, the surgeon said, “You can’t run anymore.” I said, “I have to run.” He replied, “You can’t run anymore.” “Why not?” I asked. He said, “Because you only have so many miles left on that tire.” Being a little stubborn, and not wanting to give up running and the fitness it gave me, I started again, only I didn’t run as far. I would go two, three and sometimes six miles. But after a while, I realized I really didn’t have many miles left on that tire, like the surgeon said. So I bought a bicycle and started pedaling and walking. And I have been doing this ever since – about 20 years now.
My wife and I are anxiously awaiting mid-March when the Wisconsin weather usually permits us to get back out on our bikes. During the warmer months, we frequently take 20 to 26 mile rides. For the winter months, I bring my bike into my gym and mount the rear wheel on a resistance trainer to get a good workout. For variety, I alternate bicycling with treadmill exercise while passing the time watching a small wall-mounted TV. Three days a week, I use my weight machine to strengthen the upper body. I don’t try to bulk up, I just don’t want to get flabby!
Believe me, I know what it is like to be a dealer and try to find time for exercise. After I retired from corporate life, I bought a Chevy dealership and worked long hours six days a week. I still made it a point to exercise several days a week. And it helped me to cope with the stress of having a dealership… just as it helped me to cope with stress as I climbed the corporate ladder over a 30-year career.
So dealers, manufacturers, reps… consider making this investment. See your doctor and get a green light from him before you start an exercise program. Then get going so you can reap a great dividend like I’ve been blessed with over the past several years.
6 thoughts on “A Great Investment”
I agree wholeheartedly, Ben. Keep up the good work. You have inspired me to do better.
Ben: of course, you are right on. If you havent got your health, you basically have nothing. it’s the same principle as putting on your own oxygen mask in a plane before helping others — you just cant be effective until youre good to go yourself.
Had a bout with cancer years ago, and changed my lifestyle thanks to some great doctors and a spectacular holistic nutruitionist. Like yourself Im physically fit, feeling good, active with the business, and looking forward to my 75th birthday.
Good investment, Ben. And great advice!
Best, Ed Lofgren
Ben: Thanks for taking the time to write a great article about the most important thing we can do for our families and ourselves—take care of our health. It’s good to get refreshed every once in awhile and keep the focus—you’ve helped.
(Highland Marine in St. Paul, a Johnson dealer for 44 years. Retired in 2000 and am in Florida for the winters. You interviewed me once for an article. Email to Gary Briggs was forwarded)
Ben: Thanks for sharing and inspiring all of us!! Keep up the good work, I look forward to your words of wisdom.
I enjoyed your article. Now I know why you are not making as much progress on your book on our family as you’d like to be doing. In the long run (no pun intended) you are doing the right thing AND from what you have written I believe you LOVE it.
As someone who USED to run and even finished three marathons, you have inspired me. I always use the excuse that I’m too busy, but I’m sure I’m not as busy as you were running your dealership. Thanks Ben for kicking my butt and motivating me to get off the couch!