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No excuses

Published November 12. 2011 09:01AM

I don't like some of the commercials for No Excuses Jeans. But I like the name.

In daily living, no excuses is one slogan that should be branded upon our brains.

It's often easier to make excuses as to why we can't do something than it is to buckle down and do it.

These past few weeks I've had the pleasure of meeting some people who live by the slogan, no excuses. Instead of clinging to reasons why they can't make positive lifestyle changes, they set their minds to meeting goals. The results were astonishing.

Let me tell you about some of them.

I met Joyce at the gym. It's easy to notice her because she's there every day and because she has severe physical deformities.

Joyce was born with a rare disease called Turner Down Syndrome. Among other physical problems, she doesn't seem to have a neck and her chin sits on her shoulders.

Her disease severely limits what she can do and she said she sat home a lot of years doing nothing except feeling sorry for herself. Plus, she did a lot of excess eating.

At 4'8" tall, she weighed 230 pounds and was suffering from congestive heart failure. "I was on oxygen 24 hours a day and was still having problems breathing," Joyce said.

A few years ago, doctors told her they could do nothing more for her. She had to do it for herself. Specifically, she had to lose weight, they told her.

Now, Joyce had plenty of good excuses why she couldn't exercise. She couldn't walk more than a few steps and was in a wheelchair most of the time. In addition, she had to have oxygen round the clock.

"On top of all that, I was getting really bad arthritis pain and I knew the doctor was right: I HAD to lose weight," she said.

So Joyce joined the Y, taking the water aerobics course. She would use her wheelchair to get to the water then ease herself in. She had to keep puffing on oxygen during the class. But she did it.

Encouraged by that success, she joined a chair exercise class. She kept having success but she stresses success came in small increments. Let's fast-forward four years. Joyce now takes kickboxing, zumba and other strenuous exercise classes many would hesitate to try. She no longer needs a wheelchair or oxygen.

As a result of all her exercising, she lost 85 pounds. But she found something, too.

"I found a social life at the Y," she says. "I've made so many friends and people are really encouraging."

Indeed, I've seen people come up to Joyce to give her a hug or ask for her weight loss secret.

"It's no secret," she said. "I simply stopped making excuses and worked my way to fitness a little at a time."

Another inspirational woman I met at the Y looks like any other woman in exercise class - until you hear her story.

She says she was always athletic and always loved working out. "I was the kind of person who would never tire," she told me.

A near-fatal automobile accident changed all that.

"I was hanging upside down in the car for 12 hours before anyone found me. Almost every bone in my body was broken. After three months in the hospital, I was discharged but I was in so much pain it was intolerable," she says.

She was on 13 different medications but nothing helped her function. "Five years after the accident, I still couldn't walk one block without crumbling in pain," she recalled.

When she saw the pills weren't helping, Janet says she stopped taking them and went to the gym instead.

Since she couldn't stand, she started with chair exercises then worked her way up to water aerobics. It took two years of pushing and overcoming setbacks before she could take a regular exercise class. But Janet is back in more ways than one.

To me, she's one more inspiring example of someone who refuses to let circumstances limit herself.

My friend Val said people often substitute excuses for simple changes that will help them enjoy life more. "Sometimes we just have to put aside the excuse that we can no longer do what we used to do. Instead, we have to do what we can," she says.

She and her husband used to go dancing almost every night of the week. They met at a dance and dancing has always been an important part of their life.

But Bill has had a stroke, two cases of cancer and suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that means he has to be on oxygen 24/7.

"I could find plenty of reasons to sit home, but I won't," says Bill. He still goes dancing with Val but he has to limit his dancing to one or two slow numbers.

He and his wife also dance an occasional fast number but Bill's role is just to stand there and twirl his wife. "We work with what we have," Val says.

Some people may limit their lives by sitting in front of the television set and feeling sorry for themselves. Others don't let physical limitations keep them from getting the most out of life.

I'm telling you about Joyce, Janet and Val because they have something to teach all of us about perseverance. Perhaps you'll find them as inspiring as I do.

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