Previously on “When I Talk About Running:”
A young man liked to read and hated to run. He liked good beer and pizza and coffee and hand-rolled cigarettes and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and he hated to run. When we last left him in Missoula, Montana, he was was up to 230 pounds and two packs of cigarettes a week . . .
After a year of gaining weight in one of the healthiest cities in America, he and his partner moved back East to New York City. Ironically, he lost about 10 pounds in the first year, simply because New York City life demands regular walking on a daily basis: to the subway, to the grocery store, to meet up with friends. Back in Montana, all the above involved driving door-to-door. He also tried to cut back on smoking, partially because he (obviously) knew it was bad for him but primarily because New York City had (and has) the highest cigarette prices in the country — over $8 a pack at the time, over $10 today. Unsurprisingly, however, one’s first year as a teacher at a public high school in the Bronx is not an ideal to quit smoking. He slowly reduced his smoking, however, until he was down to one a day (more if he was out drinking).
Still, he never thought about trying to exercise, though he never thought of himself as out of shape or fat. And for all we know, our hero would have continued along this path had it not been for the events of One Fateful Day. . . .
One afternoon, he went in for a routine physical at his doctor’s. While nothing was really out of the ordinary, at one point the doctor asked who did the cooking at home. When our hero answered that he did, the doctor said, “Good. Cooking your own food is good. You just might want to think about some smaller portions. You should think about trying to loose a little weight — you’re not as young as you used to be, you know.” That very evening, he had fencing practice, and during the warm-up, the coach shouted over, “How you holdin’ up there?” The student next to our hero answered, “Fine, Coach,” to which the coach replied, “I wasn’t talkin’ to you young fellas. Van Dyke, how you holdin’ up? You need to take a break?”
In one day he had been called fat once, and old twice. That night he lay in bed, thinking: “I’m only 27. I’m too young to be old and fat.” He did some checking on what his healthy weight should be, and found out that not only was he “overweight,” but he was 4 pounds short of being “obese.” So he decided to start working out in his school’s gym, running a little and lifting weights. He assumed he would hate it. And guess what? He hated it. He didn’t so much hate the weight-lifting, but the tread-mill was an instrument of torture; his body felt slow and awkward, his breath became short and labored, and time seemed to stand still. He panted out five to ten minutes for a warm-up three times a week, and it was horrible each and every time. And once again, our hero may have been stuck on this path of mediocre, guilt-ridden work-outs, if it were not for the intervention of DeGuz . . .
Tune in next time for the turning point — when running goes from being an act of torture to a source of pleasure! ‘Nuff said!