You are only as old as you feel. Today I feel like a stegosaurus: slow-moving and on my way to being extinct.
Mark Twain once said that he avoided exercise because he could never see any benefit in being tired. Or maybe it was Chris Christie. Not sure.
I have launched a crash exercise program, and the operative word is “crash.”
Like many of my baby boom generation, not only has hair turned gray (or turned and fled!), but waistlines have expanded. I am not losing the battle entirely (still a 32 waist, most of the time) but my overall fitness, I have to say, isn’t what you’d call admirable.
Enter the big physical training test. I am a member of the California State Military Reserve (think National Guard Lite) and at the last drill, our new commander, ex-Marine that he is, has ordered a personal fitness test for the May drill.
If you had told our brigade that Chinese commandos had landed in Seal Beach and were fighting their way up Los Alamitos Boulevard, you could not have discombobulated us more. After all, you can fire a gun lying down, or – in my case, preferably – sitting in a lawn chair.
The CSMR is a sincere and skilled bunch of people, and we take our responsibilities seriously, but we are not an assemblage of flat-bellied 20-year-olds. The average age of our section is over 60, and a few of the guys around the base have not seen their shoes in years, I am guessing.
Part of the problem is that men are much more in denial about themselves than women are. A lady will often fret over every little wrinkle or bit of cellulite, while a man can look into a mirror with a big fat gut cantilevered over the waist-band of his Fruit of the Looms and say, “Not bad! Still got it.”
So when the word came down that we had to get tested, I launched into my fantasy-crippled rehab. The requirements are pretty darn easy, or so they seemed.s
Seven pushups. Piece o’ cake. Twenty-six situps. Ha! I did 300 in junior high. Run two miles in 25 minutes. Heck, I could walk that distance in that time.
Well, pride goeth before a fall. As I soon discovered, I am no longer in junior high.
I barely could crush out seven pushups. Especially the last two, with the dog licking my face. Twenty-six situps? My stomach muscles were screaming by Number 15 and getting to 20 was like climbing Mt. Everest on roller skates.
As for running … well, I have never run for two miles without stopping to walk, bend over and gasp like one of the doomed residents of Pompei being suffocated by volcanic ash.
But, bone-headed as I am, I went right back to it the next day. Improved, too. Got to seven pushups without an infarction, and managed to grind it out to 26 situps, despite the peril to my clenched teeth. I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I tried to standup a couple of hours later.
I had overdone it, epically. My muscles were sore and rebelling against any kind of movement. I could only move sideways …. Forward or backward were pretty painful. I looked and walked like a crab, and my mood reflected that.
This is all of one piece. This is why men employ the famous comb-over hairstyle (not unknown to me), why they suck in their guts at the beach when teen queens in bikinis stroll by (totally ignoring us, to be certain), why we don’t wear safety glasses in the shop and don’t read the instructions on the bottle’
We boys tend to think that we have aged only a tiny bit, and are still in the “I am 19 and immortal “ mindset. It’s dangerous and not a little embarassing.
Little by little I am trying to bring my limitations and my aspirations into balance. I have started running, a short jaunt here and there. If you see someone sprinting through the parking lot towards the entrance at Target, it’s probably me. Running away, dunno, could be a shoplifter ….
The lesson of all this isn’t that getting into shape is a bad idea. It’s actually a good one.
But remember (he tells himself) that if it took you years to get into the shape you’re in now, you’re not going to reverse it in a few days. Especially with a 70-lb. Australian shepherd standing on your chest.