Up until this point, the picture that I’m painting about what I’ve learned may seem to be pretty fairly stark. The road is difficult. You solve some problems, but others pop up. It’s a constant process that will never end. It’s enough to make you wonder if it’s worth it. Well, beyond the mere “not dying in middle age from a massive heart attack” there is indeed a benefit that you can look forward to that I have found to be the single greatest improvement in my quality of life: my body is no longer a prison.
There was a time several years back when much of the mental math that I did to help decide whether I’d participate in an activity included, heavily weighted (wah wah) how far I’d have to walk. No parking spot close enough? Well, I guess I’m skipping class! I guess I’m not eating there! Thanks for that hiking invite, but I have a standing appointment with my chair.
It wasn’t just mere laziness as the reason I’d use these excuses. Sure, I am definitely lazy but more than that it’s really hard to describe how painful things can be. A half-mile walk could give me blisters that most people would only worry about on a 4 mile hike. A 4 mile hike would give me blisters that were closer to having skin dehisce from the bottom of my foot than something a bit of moleskin could help with. Much deeper than callusing could prevent. Hikes like these would mean a few weeks of limping and recovery! And a nice twist of the knife was being chided for not having calluses that would somehow prevent epidermis from separating at the basal layer.
And then there was the lack of basic fitness, which became part of the self-perpetuating cycle: the injuries from, OH NO WALKING, meant I’d never actually develop any kind of cardiovascular fitness or endurance. Between these two major issues, my body was a prison in a very real sense. Every facet of mobility was affected. Hell, sometimes I’d just get another blank CD from the spindle if I accidentally dropped the one I had on the ground as bending over would bunch the fat into my abdomen so severely I’d lose my breath. Tieing shoes? Better hyperventilate so I don’t run out of breath before finishing that knot!
All in all, this describes a body that severely limits mobility. Not only to move from place to place but basic bending, reaching, and other basic activities within arms’ reach. By certain definitions, this can describe a prison. If not semantically, then by experience for sure -- especially when I take a bird’s eye view of the situation or think back to the way I used to be. The day to day reality of living like that never struck me that way since it was just a normal part of living but I was a prisoner of myself.
One day, though, one day. It took me a while. I’d already been losing weight. I’d already been gaining endurance. I was probably no less than a year into the effort. But one day I was riding my bike. And I was pedaling hard up an incline. My muscles were burning, my lungs were on fire. My butt hurt. Amid all this I had a realization: I was moving. And fast! With every push on the pedals, I could feel myself surge forward. I could feel wind in my face. I can see the road ahead pass under me like water in a swiftly flowing river on its way downstream. And it wasn’t some machine doing the work powered by gasoline or electricity… it was me. MY own legs pumping. MY muscles in action doing real work. It was a wonderful feeling; I felt free. I was hurting all over, to be sure, but this time I have more to show for it than debilitating and embarrassing self-inflicted injuries. I was liberated! This prison could no longer hold me.
And with each new triumph, the feeling returns. When I jog down a trail and I notice how far I’ve gone. How long I’m able to do that without stopping. It gives me a wonderful, asterisk-, exception-, condition-free feeling of self-accomplishment. Cheaper and more effective than therapy for the ol’ self-esteem, I tell ya!
So, aside from that minor little perk of “living into the golden years” as an impetus for fitness, the single greatest aspect I’ve truly enjoyed is being free. FREE! I CAN MOVE! OOPS I DROPPED THAT THING ON THE FLOOR, LET’S SCOOP THAT UP *bwip*. If nothing else, this is worth the effort and I hope you can use it as a motivator to get you closer to your goal.
Side note -- I’ve nearly drained the pool of topics that I brainstormed and in the next couple posts I’ll be out! If you have any questions for me about my thoughts, your trepidations, ideas, or feedback in general that you’d like me to address in a post, please comment below. Or if you’d like it confidential, email me at email@example.com (or contact on facebook). We can keep this going for another week or two!