If, say, the Head Gladiator were to hand me a scroll and tell me yon Ancient Roman Battle depended on how fast I could run 26 miles from Sparta to Marathon, I’d be looking up at him, skeptically, as I lighted my Marlboro, casually tossing the dead match onto the dirt.
“Yes, really,” he’d say, imperiously to my stunned question. “Our fate lies in the swiftness of your journey.”
“Um,” I’d begin, dragging a toe of these AMAZING silver ballerina flats I just got on sale two weeks ago – comfy AND cute. Not TOO silver, either; they work GREAT with jeans. Which is what I’m usually wearing, making the prospect of a 26-mile run even less appealing, and the idea of a successful 26-mile “Beat the Clock” touchdown? Less and less realistic by the second.
“Um, you want me to RUN?”
“Run, as fleet-footed as the gods permit,” Head Gladiator would intone. (Somehow, I picture him “intoning,” whatever that actually means Like when writers say “he SPAT the words” How does someone “spit” words?)
“And you’re not setting, say, DOGS, or dingos, or big cats to CHASE me, right?”
Head Gladiator shakes his head. No,of course not, you’re our last hope.
Me: Big, fat, internal sigh of despair for these metal-plated folk. No chariots? Poor sods.
“Give it my best shot,” I’d say, but I can imagine the by-standing, iron-masked Roman battalions peeking awkwardly at their leader: Are you kidding? Really, I mean, are you kidding? We’re SO doomed. Get my papyrus, I’m writing my will.
Off I’d saunter, giving them a jog or two, just to show I had the old Roman spirit, but once over the nearest hill, I’d go for that good old New York City fast-paced stride.
That’s about all I’m good for.
That, and stopping to light cigarettes, if the wind from walking makes it too hard to light one on the go. Don’t you HATE it when the lighter keeps going out? Or just lights a tantalizing tip of the cigarette, and you end up hotboxing the filter to try to get the end lit all the way? (It’s always the LITTLE things, like your cigarette won’t light, or you’ll NEVER make it to Marathon in time…)
It’s a hobby I do not understand, but fully respect.
Myself? I keep in shape the same way I train my dog. It’s a lifestyle thing.
Instead of carving out precious hours – and spending precious pennies on space-age “wick-away-moisture” fabric that makes people look remarkably like superheroes, except with corporate sponsors – I get exercise every day just as a matter of daily living, to wit:
- I scrub floors. I learned from my grandmother that this is a stellar exercise for your abs. It’s true. Ever see a 1950s housewife with a tummy? Nope.
- I live in a four-story house. Stair-stepping? All day, every day. “Mooom?” Three flights, at least, at any given time.
- I made a deal with myself to stop asking people: “Would you get me that?” I get up and get it myself. In the same way the Twinkies add up, so does the calorie burning. Once you make that one small decision, you’d be amazed at how many times you get up the minute your butt hits a chair.
- Folding laundry. This builds arm strength, especially if, like me, you have a lot of people in the house, and you let it build up a day or two.
- Gardening. Pull weeds and tell me YOU haven’t hit your target heart rate when you’re done.
- Mow the lawn. No, not with the motor kind. The PUSH mower. That’s what I have. Why? My mother always had a gardener, and she insisted on a push mower. “Cuts the grass nicer,” she said. I use one because (a) I’m more familiar with how one works, (b) I could use it unafraid w/ a baby strapped to my front, and (c) it’s greener. No gas. Plus: exercise.
- Build a patio. I just did. It’s not hard; the people at the local home store will tell you what you need to do. All that lifting builds muscle, and muscle burns fat faster.
- Get a dog. The best way to instill obedience in a dog is to walk him or her every day; the more you walk him, the better he is. Ever see homeless people with dogs? They’ll sit, patiently waiting for their master outside a convenient store shootout, all because they follow their homeless master, walking with him, all day long. You, in the meantime, get the same benefits as running without all the potential impact injuries.One caveat about the dog: If you have a nice, big black one like mine, it’s kind of nice to feel safe walking him at night. I always know when someone’s up to no good when they ask: “Does he bite?”My stock answer is: “Only when I tell him to.” They usually cross to the other side of the street.
- Park the car far away and walk. The kids hate it, but it’s usually faster, and every little bit helps.
Hey: I’m a size four, but it’s not like I’m naturally skinny. It’s not like I’m even light, as the annoying people who try to pick me up (who picks up an adult, anyway?) find out when they attempt to lift me and discover that I am very muscled, and muscle weighs more than fat.
(One reason those stupidly general BMI index calculators online can be very misleading – they go by weight alone, not by what you look like, or what jeans you fit into.) I’m practically an anvil. Dense as kryptonite, but I personally don’t give a fig anymore what the numbers say.
I could be 300 pounds, and if I can still comfortably zipper myself into my Tahari little black dress, I’m guessing there is NOT going to be a weigh-in at the gala I’m headed for.
I used to be obsessed over the numbers, and carefully watched every morsel that went into mouth – or rather, didn’t. I watched the numbers come creeping down, until my 6 and 9-year-old together weighed more than I did, and could get me into the air on the seesaw.
I fainted, I felt crappy, and I STILL felt fat all the time, and while everyone I knew, and who loved me, kept telling me to eat a sandwich for Heaven’s sweet sake, I denied I had a problem until my doctor finally threatened to put me on Cyprexa – a medication that swells you like a balloon no matter what you eat or don’t eat.
So I started eating again – this time, paying attention to actual portions – not the leviathan proportions they give you in restaurants these days, where one serving would feed my whole family for a dinner and lunch the next day.
And I started MOVING.
So simple, really: eat less, exercise more.
But the hardest thing in the world.
Some people really DO have to make it special: make it a SUPER Special National Running Day. An event, a celebration, an hour or two of their day.
But fitness, like anything else that’s good for you – hey: I’m thinking it should be part of the fabric of your life. Every minute, every day.
Honestly, though – whatever works for YOU. Different strokes, as they say. If you need to run, run.
If you need me to chase you though, you’ll have to wait till I quit the smokes. That’s next on my list.
Speaking of which, any of you runners got a light? Didn’t think so.
Good luck, everybody.