Monday, January 28, 2013

The Distance Run

It's methodical and cathartic.

It's meditative and inspirational.

And it's an opportunity to dwell on one very simple question:

What the hell was I thinking?

Unfortunately, this question doesn't cross your mind until you've turned around, and realize that that 5 mile run out that felt so fun and refreshing now means a five mile run back. Every step you take is inspired by one simple fact - you can't get home unless you keep stepping.

You visualize the hot shower and queen size bed that await you - cheering you on like over zealous parents at a U-6 soccer game.

Your feet hurt by mile 7, and your legs, well, let's not even talk about your legs. But that's okay, you can keep stepping, and you can tell yourself, really, it isn't that hard, and for a while, you may even believe it. However, there is one simple barrier that can shatter your fragile dreams of an easy run home. A hill. The same hill, in fact, that you jogged down so enthusiastically 30 minutes ago, marveling at how easy it was, and what good time you were making.

So you swallow the despair that's rising in you like an English muffin out of the toaster (when you least expect it, it just pops up out of no where), lean forward, and start trudging up the hill. You pretend like you mean to be going that slow, like you aren't struggling to get to the end, like your legs aren't yelling at you for your overzealousness.  You hope that the cyclists who pass you by believe your game, because you certainly don't.

Then you reach the top, and though your mind says,"Hey, maybe I can keep going," your body yells back, "Over my dead body!" The mind, recognizing that a dead body is not conducive to its existence, agrees, and shuts off, while the rest of your organs work diligently to keep all basic processes functioning.

People walk by, strolling and talking, and you lean nonchalantly against a nearby sign, attempting to look like you're not resting, but you're waiting. You may even pretend to take your pulse, so it looks like you are training for something important and have to diligently keep track of your heart rate while you exercise. Little do they know that you're just confirming that you aren't dead.

But, you can't lean against the sign post forever. Oh no, you, in all your wisdom, decided to go for an afternoon run, and now the sun is sinking lower on the horizon. You have two choices, run home (to your shower and bed), or walk home and freeze your tail off.

That's no choice. You trudge on, telling yourself that the difference between a walk and a jog is a bounce - so you continue to bounce along. Somewhere in your exhausted stupor, you realize you're almost there, and pick up your pace. Well, you feel like you've picked up your pace; in reality, you're simply looking out ahead of you instead of at the dreary pavement that your feet have been pounding for the last hour.

Then suddenly, it's all behind you. All 10 miles are done, and you're standing at your front door. Then your neighbor walks by with a beer and says, "You know? That's what I should be doing."

You take the beer out of his hand, and tip it back. Handing him the empty bottle you say, "No, you shouldn't," and walk inside.




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oh, Who Doesn't Love the Gym?

This summer, my roommate and I will be running the Tough Mudder. I did it solo last summer and had a great time. So much fun, in fact, that my roommate couldn't wait to sign up with me for this year.

I've set some goals for myself this year, the first one being that I don't fall into any of the water pits below the obstacles (last year, I fell into every single one...obviously someone needs to work on her upper body strength).

So, this year, I have been going to the gym, improving my pull up capacity, and more. It's all been very exciting, I can assure you.

My favorite part about going to the gym, however, is the people watching, and as such, I have made a list of the 10 people I have discovered who go to the gym - in no particular order.

1. Average Joe: Nothing too out of the ordinary to report.

2. The Hulk: These guys are enormous. Their biceps are larger than my thighs. They have to attach extra weights to the machines, because the 200+ pounds on the machines isn't enough. They have their pre-workout protein shakes...and their during -workout energy drinks...and their post-workout protein shakes...and the 900 calorie protein bar...and a dozen eggs for dinner. They come to your weight rack, and ask to borrow all your 45 lb weights because they have already used all of the weights on their rack. And their poor t-shirts that have to work as hard as they do at the gym, just to keep them clothed. Poor, poor shirts.

3. That Girl: She's gorgeous. She has meticulously planned her outfit - tight 3/4 length spandex, tight t-shirt that's just loose enough so that she doesn't look like she's trying too hard, hair styled to perfection, make up delicately painted on her features to make her even more striking. Every head turns as she walks to the nearest machine, chosen precisely because of the erotic position it puts her body in. She pauses briefly, and then flings her hair over her shoulder as she grips the handles like she's about to land the Millennium Falcon. Then, her mouth parts, her muscles tense, and she pushes the weight up with a grunt just loud enough to be audible to those around her, and just sultry enough that given her positioning the mental leap is instantly to the bedroom. Break a sweat? I don't think so. Break some hearts? Guaranteed.

4. The What the Hell?: She's that woman in the locker room who weighs about 260 (at 5'4"). She is standing in the middle of the room, contorting her body and grunting like a hippo in heat (honestly, I've never heard a hippo in heat, but I imagine she would grunt) while she is squeezing her way into a tight foam-ish looking jump suit. You get caught staring at her antics, and say the only thing that comes to mind, "That looks rough." To which she replies, "RAAAH! It's not supposed to be easy....puff...puff....gasp....RRRAAAAH! It's a power lifting suit." You stare blankly back at her and nod, "Well, have fun."

What the hell?

5. The Power Lifters: They have chalk. They have lifting shoes. They wear soccer socks pulled up to their knees, and straps around their wrists. And above all, they sit on the same piece of equipment the entire time they are at the gym, moving it around periodically, and talking a lot while clapping their hands and getting chalk everywhere.

6. The Whoa...You Need To Be Here: It's not nice to say, but it's not nice to see either. That poor person who is struggling. Big time. They're gasping for breath over simple exercises because they are drastically over weight. That said, it's fair that they're struggling...you'd be struggling too if you had to lift that much during simple exercises. Yet, to those people, I say, congratulations. It's not easy, and my hat is off to you for being there. That's a hell of a commitment, and I commend you for it.

7. The Grunters and The Weight Droppers: You know who you are. You grunt loudly enough that everyone in the gym knows you're lifting a heavy weight, and if they missed your grunting, you drop the weight at the end of your set so that it goes crashing to the floor - just to make sure everyone knows. Don't worry, we got your message loud and clear - you don't have to beat your chest, you want to be the alpha male monkey. Have at it...no really, please. It's all yours.

8. The Other That Girl: She's got her game face on, she's super fit, she's focused, and gorgeous to boot. But to really ice that cake - she's nice and she'll smile, help, or share any time she's asked. Everything in you wants  to judge, to dislike, to find a flaw, but you can't, because she's just flat out cool. Best option...make her your lifting buddy!

9. The Palpably Odoriferous Treadmill Runners: Perfume is not necessary at the gym. And really when it comes to perfume in general "less is more" is a poignant quip to keep in mind. That said, Prince Charming is not going to find you on a treadmill...and even if he does, you're going to suffocate him with your Chanelle No. 5 before he even has a chance to say "Hello" or perhaps, "Can you lay off the perfume?"

10. The Incredibly Talented - Oh-My-Goodness-How-Did-You-Do-That Guy: The one who does such an amazing feat of athleticism that you can help but be impressed as you stare open-mouthed while he completes the set. The one who is so strong and/or fit that he has to come up with unique exercises to work muscles that you didn't even know existed. You people are incredible...keep up the good work.

When Is Enough Enough?

Over the past few years, I have learned quite a few things about walking away. I believe there is a distinct difference between walking away and giving up.

When you give up, it's because you have tried and tried and don't believe you can overcome the challenge. You have convinced yourself that the only outcome is failure, and as such, you decide to stop trying.

But I believe that walking away is different. Walking away is when you realize that the obstacle or challenge is no longer worth the effort. Not because you don't feel like you can succeed, but because it does not provide you with enough positive return for you to continue to pursue it.

I've discovered this as a result of most in relationships - friends, lovers, coworkers. When something stops giving you enough return, it's okay to say, "I'm done." That said, I think this is one of the hardest things to do. You know what the relationship could be if it wasn't what it is, and letting go of the hope of what it could be is like letting go of a favorite pair of jeans. They were good while they lasted, but now they're frayed, torn, and can hardly do what they were meant to do in the first place - cover your ass!

But...there is a delightful silver lining. Just like the favorite pair of jeans, you walk away knowing something. You know what it is that made them great, or in the case of the relationship, what it was that made it fail, and now you can recognize it, and act on it, before it makes you miserable.

I have been one to resist change as long as possible, but once I stop resisting, I throw myself into it with as much fervor and enthusiasm as I can muster, and every time, it has been worth it. I've come out stronger, and things have changed for the better.

What will tomorrow bring?