Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and a senior writer for Legacy Preservation. A native of Nebraska City, she was one of the first female reporters at the Omaha World-Herald, and was a public relations writer for Union Pacific Railroad before joining Creighton in 1991. She chaired the Department of Journalism, Media, & Computing for 19 years and retired in 2016. Dr. Wirth has written eight books including several on regional history. These include From Society Page to Front Page, the history of Nebraska’s women in journalism, as well as Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and her forthcoming book on the history of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
As a lifelong advocate of healthy living, Dr. Wirth reached out to The Wellbeing Partners to share her big milestone of 40 years of physical activity – despite the pandemic as a barrier in recent weeks. We hope that her story will inspire you to find a way to keep moving at this time.
At 6 a.m., I was briskly walking the length of my house from front door to dining room carrying hand weights while listening to NPR’s “Morning Edition.” This wasn’t how I had planned to celebrate 40 years of morning workouts. However, it’s the new normal until my gym re-opens.
Instead of working out on the elliptical or treadmill, I’ll be walking for an hour first thing in the morning along with doing yoga in my bedroom, walking briskly around my neighborhood, and peddling my new stationary bike later in the day. But boy do I miss my gym! I’ve been going there daily first thing in the morning for years. The day isn’t the same without it but at least I’m moving briskly as I have since 1980.
My fitness journey hinges on keeping a simple resolution: I’m never going to start exercising again.
I’ve never been very athletic. As a kid, I was always picked last for any team because I was short, slow, and awkward. I started running only because a friend insisted I join her and wouldn’t let me quit.
By the end of the summer of 1980, I still didn’t enjoy running but had lost weight – a lifelong goal—and felt great. When it got too dark and cold to run outdoors, my friend dropped out but I found a gym, kept going, and resolved to never start again.
If you keep exercising, you never have to start again.
Since 1980, I’ve run slowly, walked rapidly, and now use a variety of aerobic machines at the gym. I started lifting weights after Creighton’s exercise science chair told me that women who want to be independent in their 80s need to do strength training from mid-life on.
I also acquired an exercise partner 27 years ago, my friend Jeanne Weeks, with whom I row and swim a couple of afternoons a week in normal times. These workout-gabfests got both of us through our children’s adolescent years, grad school, and so much more.
After exercising almost daily for 40 years, I’m still a klutz and l still don’t love sweating. During the eight or ten years I ran before switching to walking, I never had a runner’s high. I’ve never lost much weight but fear gaining if I stop exercising.
However, I feel stressed and cranky if something interferes with working out and actually enjoy my return to the gym after a vacation. That’s why my days are structured around exercising.
Remember: the hard part is getting started and fighting the urge to quit after the first week or so. Forget marathons or anything painful. Use your extra time to develop a fitness routine that you will maintain so that you’ll never have to start exercising again.