I kind of chuckle when I hear someone say, “I love working out.” I exercise because of the results, not for the process. Not one time have I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and said, “Yes! It’s time to punish myself for forty-five minutes!”
I never experienced a runners high…ever!
I am by no means a fitness nut. Maybe at one time someone may have been able to call me one, but that was a long time ago. It was the Army that started me on the path towards understanding the importance of staying fit. At nineteen, I was embarrassingly out of shape when I arrived in basic training. I was a year out of high school, already suffered from chronic back pain and was a smoker. In eight short weeks, I was a lean mean fighting machine with a smokers morning cough.
As you struggle to get into shape, you tell yourself, “Once I get there, I am never letting myself go again.”
But we do.
Like all lean mean fighting machines, once the Army discharge me, I did what all good former soldiers do. I let myself go. But not for very long because I was single. You want a hot girlfriend; you had better be hot yourself. It also helps to have a decent paycheck, so I went to truck driving school in hopes of getting the big pay check.
I was twenty-two, and headed into a truck driving career, and yes, I still smoked. Nothing like a sedentary occupation and an energy sapping habit to see how quickly a person can become a portly. But one day I was lying in bed and noticed something laying with me. It was my stomach and I was appalled. I started doing sit up and pushups in my truck to arrest the growth, but it wasn’t quite enough.
About a year into truck driving, a sweet Pennsylvania girl convinced me to quit smoking. I found myself with this new found energy. I decided to expel that energy by running whenever I had the opportunity. That along with taking an interest in what I shoveled into my pie hole, I soon found myself in the best shape of my life. At twenty-seven, I was in better shape than I was after eight weeks of basic training.
As I jogged up into the parking lot of the company I drove for, one of the other drivers stopped me.
“Why are you doing all that running around?” He asked me.
“So as I get older, I won’t have to deal with a pile of health problems.” I responded
“You get to be my age; you won’t be doing any of that.” He retorted in reference to my exercising.
“Well, I hope your wrong, or this is all in vain.” I told him and walked away. He was forty-one years old. The man had more medical issues than most hard living sixty year olds.
I felt great, but was I so sick of working out! A comedian in a night club down in UCLA (Un-Cultured Lower Alabama) got up on stage and started with, “I am single. I wish I could find someone, not because I don’t like being single, I am just sick of working out.” I was single at this point; my hope was that finding someone wouldn’t change my fitness habits.
My fitness craze died a terrible death shortly after my twenty-eight birthday.
I met my second wife in a bar in New Hope. Some of you may remember it; it was called the Iron Horse. I think they sell boats there now. In the first few months of our relationship, we spent a lot of time in that bar. After a few drinks, I would hit her up for a cigarette. It didn’t take long before I was once again hooked and buying my own.
With that habit, came the end of any desire to maintain any modicum of a healthy life style. I ate and drank whatever I wanted, and didn’t do any more exercise than was required to walk around my truck a couple times a day.
Fast forward ten years and I receive an asthma diagnosis, which compels me to quit smoking. In a few short weeks, I find this thing called energy. However, because of the asthma, I am reluctant to return to running.
Eventually I do return to the road and treadmill. It was a grueling painful path to get to my goal of thirty minutes. I endured knee pain, calf pain, a neuroma, and asthma issues. Nothing like trying to get back into shape while in your late thirties.
What frustrated me the most was that even though I went to the gym for weight lifting two or three times a week and ran the same schedule, I wasn’t losing any weight? I would occasionally look at the weight loss supplements in the pharmacy isle of the big box store, for a solution. But I knew what they were; they were stimulants that didn’t really address the problem.
It was time to do something I never did before. Go on a diet. I download an app to my new iPhone and started monitoring my intake. That app, called MyFitnessPal, did more than force me to monitor my intake; it forced me to be more regular about exercising. If I went to the gym, or for that run, I got to eat more.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Well as I was lifting my Golds Gym weights in the half a garage I shared with the tenants downstairs a thought occurred to me. In those days, I couldn’t afford a gym membership so most of my exercise equipment was garage sale stuff, or discount crap I bought from Walmart. My gym was an unheated garage half filled with the belongings of the people who lived in the lower part of the house. The landlords old MG took up most of the space I used. I was basically using it without the landlords blessing. He wanted another $50.00 a month to rent it.
I would go out there in the evening, about an hour after dinner and spend about an hour lifting. While lifting I would text a friend of mine who was just as vain about her appearance as I was. Most every night I would force myself to get off the couch, bundle up, and get through my routine. At no point did I say, “yippy!” as I headed out there.
Between sets, I would read and respond to her texts. At some point it occurred to me, “Why can’t we get to a fitness level we are seeking and hit the hold button.” I shared this with my friend and she agreed. It was your reward for doing all the work to get there. It could be under your left arm pit, or maybe between your big toe and its neighbor, under your ankle bone, or maybe behind your knee…Done!
No more punishing yourself for forty-five minutes or more…Done!…Trophy!…Finish Line!