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Treat Yourself continued...

As Mom and I corresponded about her program via email, I started seeing a distinct shift in her thinking. "Rather than 'I guess I should go walk now,' it's 'where will I walk today?' " she wrote.

Before long I was hearing about her adventures atop a pair of in-line skates. And then there was the basketball team. Mom had told me that she'd played hoops as a youngster. But that ended once she started high school; in the small farm town where she'd grown up, there were no high school athletic teams for girls. I guess it's never too late: Several months ago she joined a team for women over 50, telling me "Hey, if a 70-year-old woman can do this, so can I!"

I always knew there was an athlete lurking inside her; I just had no idea the athlete was a basketball player.

Expect Obstacles; Work Around Them

True, there have been setbacks. My mother got discouraged after a few skating spills and kept the skates in the closet for while. She broke a finger playing basketball, and then a heavy travel schedule kept her from practicing. But while in the past such obstacles might have sidelined her for good, her new "active Mom" persona has found creative ways to surmount them.

She hired a skating instructor to teach her how to stop without falling. After mulling things over, she decided that because of her travel schedule, now wasn't the time for her to participate in a team sport. She missed the team, but found that her new identity as an exerciser was strong enough that she didn't need buddies to stay motivated. Now when she travels, she scopes out recreation centers and places to walk and even brings her skates along. "I never would have done that before," she told me.

Looking back on my teenage years, I realize that running helped me develop a sense of self-confidence that spilled over into other aspects of my life. Now I'm seeing the same thing in my mom.

Suddenly, the roles have shifted: My mom is the athlete and I'm her biggest fan.

Christie Aschwanden is a freelance science writer in Nederland, Colo. In addition to WebMD, she writes for Health and Modern Drug Discovery magazines.

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