During my junior year of high school, I completed an achievement I had never done before and thus far have never done again. On a snowy late October day, I ran a 5k as part of my high school’s cross country team. I finished the race in 19 minutes, 19 seconds, the fastest time I’d ever run a 5k in. By all logic, the race was an outlier. My next fastest time was a flat 20:00. The temperature was in the mid-20s1Fahrenheit, and almost everyone in the race was putting up times 1-2 minutes slower than their normal race speed. All this combined to mean that instead of finishing in the bottom 20% of racers (as I typically did), I finished 9th out of 38.
I loved sports as a kid. I still do, though not quite to the levels I once did. I played three sports for most of high school. I went to college with the intent of becoming a sports talk show host. It was a pretty prototypical scenario for what you’d describe a young man in American wanting to do and be2We’ll ignore for the sake of discussion here that I was also in marching band, jazz band, concert band, yearbook, academic challenge, and Spanish club while working part-time, though those are all true as well.
I stopped running at the end of wrestling season in my senior year of high school. I stopped being active during my final semester of college3The combination of breaking my thumb, tearing my meniscus, and being involved in a very violent car crash in the span of two weeks probably didn’t help matters. It was kind of sad really. I went from running 30-40 miles a week (some weeks hitting 50) to being a couch potato. That’s not to say I was doing nothing. There was grad school, working two jobs, getting sent to open a call center in Manila, moving across country for a job4Twice., getting engaged — you know, all totally reasonable things to be doing with my time. But I was getting chronically out of shape.
I tried getting back into running a couple of times. The first time was during grad school. My cousin was training to go join the Navy and I decided that it’d be a good idea to go running with her in order to get back into shape. Two runs and a reaggravated knee injury later, I gave up on that plan. I tried again in the late spring of last year, managing to work out roughly 14 times across the span of 5 weeks5Or so the history of an app on my phone tells me. Following one of the workouts, I slipped climbing up my apartment stairs, rolling my ankle and giving myself some pretty savage bruising on my knee. I took three weeks off from working out before the pain in my ankle and knee went away. Despite the pain being gone, I only ran two other times all summer.
There’s an excuse every time. There always is. It’s too hot6It’s never too cold to run…or to do pretty much anything. It’s storming. I don’t feel well. I’m too tired. I’ve got too much to do. It never failed. I just couldn’t get myself inspired to exercise.
Here’s the thing. I’m a creature of convenience. If something is there and easy to do, I’m on it. Working out is neither of those things. When you’re out of shape, working out is as much a mental hurdle as it is a physical one. I weigh significantly more than I did in high school, which is both a good and bad thing7According to BMI charts, I was slightly underweight in high school, though not significantly. Looking back at pictures now, it’s clear I looked like a skeleton.. My goal is to be healthier, but I could never get myself to make the consistent effort to do so.
I moved in with my fiancee a few weeks ago…and something clicked. I don’t know what exactly it was or how to explain it other than the aforementioned creature of convenience theory. The apartment complex we currently live in has a fitness center. Therefore, I have been there three times a week for the past few weeks. I’ve only been doing stationary biking to this point, however once I have a bit more confidence in my fitness, I may try running again.
I share all of this not because I want someone to hold me accountable for my exercise goals. I made that mistake once in the past8And I still get scolded for biting my nails three years later, even though I stopped caring less than a month into trying to stop. I’m sharing it because I know just from looking at my Twitter that there are at least a few people who read this blog occasionally who are going through the same battle with getting into shape as me. It’s not a fun fight, but you’re not in it alone.