Running Commentary on the Changing Shape of a Commentator

Journal entry: April 24, 2009 (age 39) – In Shape

Most times when I write, I am self-deprecating.  Not today.  Today, I am going to make fun of you.  Just kidding. Actually, I’m going to give myself a verbal pat on the back.  Verbal pat, verbal pat, verbal pat.  Hey, I did that without pulling a muscle!  That’s probably because for the first time in many moons, I am…kinda…sorta…in shape.

During the past few years, I worked out on the stationary bike in my basement on what could euphemistically be called a semi-regular basis.  But I never broke a sweat.  I always felt like an old man doing rehab exercises, forcing my oxygen-poor blood into making a few sluggish laps around my extremities.  Meanwhile, I packed on some pounds and nodded in resignation as my doctor explained the latest in a series of worrisome lipid panels.  (A lipid panel is blood work that measures cholesterol.  It’s also an academic symposium featuring contestants from The Biggest Loser.)

My 40th birthday is coming up in early May, and I decided a few months ago that I’d like to feel good about it.  First, I made some changes to my diet.  I didn’t make any wholesale changes in the types of food I eat; I just started eating less of it.  For me, portion control simply meant not eating to the point where I’m a bloated, nearly comatose creature fumbling to lick the inside of a Ring Ding wrapper.

Then, starting in February, I began running four to five times a week.  I started with a modest, 10-minute jog from my house, followed by a 10-minute walk back.  My old track coach, my podiatrist, and my aching shins all told me not to increase my running distance too quickly, or I would injure myself.  So each week, I’ve been adding a city block of running and the corresponding walk back.  My house is near the Johnson City circle, and I run on the long straightaway that is Riverside Drive.  It’s the same route I followed in high school, when I was a long-distance runner on my high school’s track team.  My goal is to build up to the five-mile workout I once ran with my teammates.  (Then I’m going to ace the SAT’s and start a Human League cover band!)

One downside to running on a busy street is the constant traffic, which provides a steady supply of exhaust fumes.  Unfortunately, the volume of cars also makes it more likely that people I know will see me huffing and puffing in my pathetic running gear.  My running shoes are nice, but the rest of my look is what Joan Rivers might call “Run-down DMC.”  I top off my lack of a “look” with big, chunky headphones for my iPod.  The little ear buds worn by those crazy kids with their rock and roll music refuse to stay in my ears, so, instead, I look like an audio engineer on a Mott the Hoople album.

But it’s worth it.  So far, I’ve lost 20 pounds, my cholesterol is dramatically lower, and I’m actually enjoying exercise for the first time in my life.  Now, I have some hope that by the time I turn 50, I’m going to give up crack and really make something of myself.

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