24 September 2010

The New Workout Plan

Listening to: Cotton Jones, "Somehow To Keep It Going." I think I pretty much just like the chorus here. But it's nice and moody.

I woke up at nine with the urge to run. Before I could drift back to bed, I slapped some water on my face, popped in my contacts, looked around for my Shuffle, and slipped into basketball shoes. Seeing as I haven't actually run since the 90s, this would be a throwback morning. I was excited to have music to run to since people are always talking about their workout playlists. I've never had music while running. The last time I ran it was for my cross country team and since we were slackers, on hot days we'd make sure to have a few dollars tucked away to buy a Ben & Jerry's on the way back. Hearing other people tell it nowadays, music is the way to keep running fun and exciting! I queued up some Step Up 2 soundtrack before switching to Mos Def. "Quiet Dog Bite Hard" seems like running music.

Next to the garage door I placed things I'd likely need after my run. Cigarettes, water bottle, a towel and shorts in case I wanted to jump in the pool. Since I never found that Shuffle, I decided to just carry my iPhone. And since I was going to be carrying something anyway, what was wrong about slipping a cigarette and matches into my shorts? I imagined a conqueror's stroll home after running my route, happily puffing away as I came to a resting heart rate. Finally, I too would feel the exhiliration and rewards that come from exercising, like the dieter who rewards himself with chocolate cake right after the gym.

I'd steadily maintained over the years that I could pick up and run a mile easily, despite my smoking, my general lack of fitness, and my advancing age. Look, I'm the same weight as I was at nineteen, I can play basketball for hours without tiring, and a mile is really not very far. These were my rationalizations.

Our house is located at the top of a pretty steep and intimidating hill. About two miles away, past two golf courses and a horse ranch are our mail boxes. As children George and I used to ride our bikes to get the mail once in awhile because, well, we were kids with nothing better to do. Back then it was an adventure; now it's a chore.

As I geared up and took off down the hill -- without stretching because who needs that -- I felt great. Legs pumping, music blasting, even possibly running on the right side of the road (into or against traffic? I chose into). By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, I had dreams that I would easily reach the mailboxes. "Damn, I should have brought the key so I could just pick up the mail too," I thought.

I set my timer to ten minutes and estimated that would be a decent "welcome to the 2000s mile" and I'd be halfway to the mailboxes. A few hundred yards in, before I even hit the first traffic light, my eye sight was getting woozy, the ground was so dirty and uneven, and my lung or kidney or liver or pancreas was hurting. Unwilling to push myself to be a better man, I stopped and started walking. And so it was for the next twenty minutes. Run some, walk a lot, run some, walk some more. I couldn't keep up a jog for more than a minute. It just hurt too much. Before I even reached the horse ranch I'd decided to turn around. The only motivation I could use to push myself was to pretend that I was on a MTV Real Road / Road Rules Challenge. I imagined Pete yelling at me, "Keep moving pansy! You're letting the team down!" That only worked once, for about an eighth of a mile.

Knowing I didn't have the mental fortitude for this running thing anymore, I decided to alternate between stops to "look at the scenery" and fast sprints. Hey, at least my heart rate was up and I was breaking a sweat right? Mission accomplished!

Then I hit our hill. Driving back from school, I used to pick up stray middle schoolers that trudged up with immense bags on their backs. I'd pull over and they'd plop in and I'd ask them which gate they wanted to be dropped off at. Today, I wanted nothing more than for a stranger to pull over and offer me a ride up the hill. I looked at the gardeners' truck with envy as it clunked by.

I thought of the injustice of the school bus never taking kids up the hill, always cruelly depositing them at the bottom. Would it kill them to drive up the hill a little? Didn't the driver care about these little children's bodies? Didn't someone care that I was about to collapse? If my mom was home I'd think about calling her to pick me up. That's how gassed out I felt.

As I sat on the curb outside our house afterwards, in-between wheezes, I decided there should be a new system in place for describing your past exploits. If you've done something within the last three years, you can say "Yeah, it's been awhile but I used to do that." If you did something five years ago, you're allowed to say "I used to do that, or at least knew how, but have since stopped." If it's something ten or more years ago, you can't even bring it up in conversation.

"I used to run cross country in high school." That's technically a true statement but totally irrelevant now. Having been on the cross country team like fifteen years ago does not make me seem more exercisey now. No, it's actually more pathetic to bring it up now when someone asks about my running habits. From now on I'll just say "I don't run" and leave it at that.

So that's the new rule: If you haven't done something in the past three to five years, it's no longer on your list of skills. Other things I can no longer say I've done: tennis, flute, horse riding, camping, read/write Mandarin, long division, cook. The list goes on.

Tomorrow morning I'm gonna try swimming laps. It should be exciting.