A walk on the mild Seide
I started running for only one reason — to get in shape for boot camp.
I’d just graduated from college, where I’d spent four years majoring in history … and four years minoring in coffee, cigarettes and sleep deprivation.
I was, by any measure, a burnout. But luckily, I was a 22-year-old burnout, so I got in shape pretty quickly. Still, running was only a means to an end — I ran because I had to, not because I wanted to.
That changed after several years as running became something I enjoyed. Plus, I started to push my limits. This led to me running road races, and eventually running marathons.
Now a note of clarification: I never was a good runner. But according to my own standards, I was a successful one, in that I finished every race I entered.
I wasn’t a natural, but I had three things going for me: I had enough smarts to know how to train, enough smarts to differentiate between pain and injury, and more than enough dumb-ass to keep putting one foot in front of the other when my brain kept telling me to call it quits.
I ran for about 45 years and finished my last marathon when I was 65. Then, about three years ago, I had a hip replacement and couldn’t run anymore. Actually, I could run, but my sawbones, Dan Bullock, advised me not to. Ever the diplomat, he said, “We seriously counsel against running for patients with hip replacements.”
If it’d been my old GP Jay Federman, he would’ve said something like, “Only a frappin’ moron would even think of running with a hip replacement” the “frappin’ moron” clearly being me. While I’m sure Jay could be diplomatic, he was also smart enough to know it’d be lost on me.
Snug as a zug
Luckily, the new me can respond to diplomacy, and I did — I quit running.
And what did I replace it with? Just this: sitting on my dupa, overeating. In short, I became a lazy slob. But there’s something great about being a lazy slob: namely, it takes no work out to maintain your slobbishness. It’s the opposite of being in shape.
When you’re in shape, you have to constantly work to maintain it. If you don’t, early on in your layoff you’ll feel yourself losing fitness. But when you’re a slob, you’re always fit — at least fit to be a slob.
And that was me. Since I didn’t exert myself in any way, I never got winded, never strained, never sweated. OK, there were some disadvantages, like having to grab the dropped Smart Food before the dogs did, or being sure to wash the ice cream seepage out of my beard before I went to town — stuff like that. Otherwise, everything was just tickity-boo.
Well, almost everything.
One thing started to nag me — my clothes. They kept shrinking. I didn’t know how it happened. I wasn’t washing them in hot water or drying them on “high.” Still, my clothes — and I mean all my clothes — shrank. Most incredibly, even my belts shrank.
At first, it was just a bit annoying; after two years it became really uncomfortable. Buttons popped and snaps un-snapped — at least thems what could be buttoned and snapped in the first place. Tying my shoes took two or three tries, as I had to sit up and take breaths, since I couldn’t breathe while bending over.
Finally, after at least a dozen last straws, I decided to do something about it. I decided to start walking. And I did.
Now, mind you, I never liked walking for exercise. First, I always thought speed walkers looked ridiculous, and I confess I still do. Next, to walk the same distance I’d run takes me about twice as long, since my speed walking isn’t very speedy at all. In fact, it isn’t even walking so much as schlepping. And that’s a real ego-blow. When I ran, even slowly, I was still a runner. There’s some kinda athletic cred in that. Even if I said I jogged, people still thought of me as a runner, albeit a slow one. But believe you me, there is no cred whatsoever to being a schlepper … even a fast schlepper.
But once I told myself to take up walking, I knew I’d do it. And one thing drove me to it — there was no way I’d allow myself to be a Gonna.
What’s a Gonna, you ask?
How could you not know, since they’re America’s fasting-growing population? Matter of fact, I’m waiting for Gonna-ism to be officially declared the new national pastime.
Talkin’ the talk
If you don’t know lots of Gonnas, it means you’ve been living in a shoebox.
Gonnas are those peeps who are always gonna do something. They’re gonna lose weight, or start cross-country skiing, or learn how to paint, or something. But they never do. And why don’t they? The reason most often given is they don’t have the time. This is actually true.
After all, how could they have the time, when each day they have to watch five hours of TV, send 50 texts and post pictures of their lunch on Facebook so their thousand friends can ooh, ahh, and drool over them.
(Quick question: Is there anyone so deluded they think they have 100 friends, let alone 1,000?)
Now lemme tell ya, chicky babe, I may be a lot of things, but a Gonna ain’t one of ’em. And I understand there are only four phases of physical fitness:
1. You’re getting in shape.
2. You’re staying in shape.
3. You’re getting out of shape.
4. You’ve gotten out of shape.
That’s it — there’s no other option. And because there isn’t, I chose Number 1 from the menu.
On the road again
That was seven months ago, and I’m proud to say I’ve stuck with my regimen. Yeah, I’m a schlepper, but I’m a consistent one. As a result, I feel stronger, have more energy and can walk an hour-and-a-half, no problemo. Plus, best of all, my clothes — even my belts — have miraculously stretched and now fit like they used to.
Ultimately, I realize a lot of my drive to get on the asphalt again is due to where I’m at in life, chronologically, Which is somewhere between mild slippage and total senescence. And while the Denial Chorus is singing that 60 is the new 40, it’s not. Sixty is the new 60. Seventy is the new 70, and you’d best admit and deal with it. I think I have, which is what got me out of my Lay-Z-Boy, into my sweats and back on the road.
According to cliche, age is only a number, but I think it’s a lot more than that.
I’m 71, which by any standard of human lifespan is old. I look like an old man, I think like an old man, I AM an old man. And I can accept that just fine.
But as long as I have any control over it, I will never accept feeling like an old man.