I have decided to start jogging again. It’s no secret to those who have actually seen me swell in girth over the years that I’m not the spry, lanky chap I was around the time Lizzy and I were married, and while Lizzy seems unfazed by my appearance I myself am starting to get pretty fed up.
The story: the family and I recently returned from a short-ish trip to the East coast to attend a cousin’s wedding and visit, for five days, with my mother and her husband Neil at their home in New Hampshire. We had a great time, of course, but I’m afraid that while there I perhaps took too advantage of the freedom vacations usually allow the weak-willed. You know what I mean – you eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, stay up late, rarely shower, that kind of thing.
I also made the mistake of looking over some old photos of myself that my mother had gathered in an old shoebox. Now I know that looking at twenty year-old pictures of oneself is inadvisable to just about anybody, but to say that I was thinner in those old high-school pictures would be a significant understatement, on par with saying that Al Pacino used to be a more nuanced actor or that journalism used to be a more viable career choice.
How thin was I? Well I’ve never been blessed with much muscle, at least none that didn’t require about a decade or so at the gym to develop, and I’m only five and a half feet tall. Add to that what must have been a raging metabolism and lots of bike riding and you get a teenager who graduated High School weighing about a hundred and twenty eight pounds.
Now in college, of course, that changed drastically. The discovery of an almost unlimited access to all the food and alcohol any eighteen year-old could ever ask for resulted in the rapid addition of about forty – that’s right, forty – pounds onto the Miller frame, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that it was accomplished before December of my freshman year. Consequently I spent much of my ensuing college years in a state of rotundity not unlike that of your average Manatee or pot-bellied pig.
I lost the weight after graduation, and kept it off for years thanks to a better diet and an unshakably peripatetic lifestyle. But then came marriage. Then parenthood. Then a move away from one of the country’s most walking-friendly regions (Boston) to Southern California, where there is hardly any public transit system and where one can’t get anywhere worth going without hopping on a damned freeway and sitting in traffic for nine hours.
Gradually, I’ve seen my weight creep up since arriving in Long Beach, an inexorable and unappealing incline that has, as of this writing, engendered about twenty pounds of me that weren’t extant a mere three years ago.
I had already been contemplating a strict change in lifestyle, and had even, in the past couple of months, gravitated away from eating heavier foods and to a more veggie-centric diet. But apparently no one told my weight, which continued to inch higher. The once-reliable metabolism, it seems, must have decided to check out early.
So all this past week I’ve been running, sometimes with Lizzy and sometimes alone in the early AM. Nothing big, just a couple miles a day, but we plan on working our way up in the mileage department once the limbs and frame get used to the abuse. Also we’ve decided, being the trendy types that we are, to run sans footwear, an endeavor we’ve undertaken not just because the concept is intriguing but because, at least for me, it removes from the process the whole cumbersome business of putting on socks and lacing up shoes. I mean to say, when the act of getting up and jogging is already in a constant battle with the non-act of staying in bed, knowing that you’re going to have to struggle blindly with the footwear might just be enough to tip the scales toward the latter.
I’m still getting used to a couple of aspects of this jogging thing though, one of which is my mental state during the run. Now I know that a couple of miles or so is not nearly long enough to put any runner into an endorphin-induced trance or “zone,” but I had hoped that my thoughts might at least run a bit more strongly toward the positive. Exercise is supposed to help the mood, right?
Sadly, that has not yet been the case, as I have found that while jogging my mind is filled with an unending interior monologue. And what the interior monologue has to say isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s not so much a monologue as it is a diatribe. If I’m not cursing the sidewalks or grumbling about politics, I’m thinking catty things about a friend’s interior decorating choices or fantasizing about besting the drunk guy who made fun of me at the wedding last week (because I was drinking a white wine and apparently looked “English”) with a barrage of searing insults before raining blows down upon his head.
Once, and I swear this is true, I lurched pass a sign outside of a church that read “Live Simply, Care Deeply” and thought, “Fuck you.” I mean, what’s up with that?
And as if that weren’t bad enough, I’m forced to deal with certain – how should I say it? – anatomical aspects of running. I won’t go into too much detail here, but let me just say that when one has just started jogging and is wearing a brand-new pair of running underwear under his shorts, one finds that after only a few yards or so one’s, um, male thing immediately misplaces itself and winds up pointing, under the force of the underwear’s vice-like grip, in a direction one is not typically accustomed to.
But all in all my new hobby had been a success. That is only if you don’t measure the success of exercise by the number of pounds shed; this morning, after almost a week of running and dieting, I ventured onto the scale to find that, give or take an ounce, I hadn’t lost anything.
I can’t wait to see what my interior monologue has to say about that one tomorrow morning.