It was 99 degrees at 12:55 p.m. Monday, perfect for a celebratory jog.
Actually the four mile jog wasn’t much different from my regular Monday routine except for one thing: It would mark 30 years to the day I had dropped 100 pounds.
The hot still air embraced me as I left my driveway and headed toward the tracks. As usual, the first fifth of a mile my body responded to my movements reminding me I had bunions that would make Paul Bunyan wince, a hammer toe from hell, a couple of calcium spurs for fun, plus the general aches and pains one with a 59-year-old body has come to know. But like clockwork the endorphins kicked-in laying the ground work for the next 20 hours or so.
In 1986 on my 29th birthday, I decided I was going to weigh 200 pounds by the time I turned 30. I was tipping the scales at 320 pounds.
How I went about it was pretty unorthodox. I didn’t go to a doctor. I didn’t enlist a personal trainer. I didn’t go on some magical diet nor did I join a gym. Instead I called upon everything that I heard covering stories over the years from listening to the likes of Nathan Pritikin speak before the Roseville Hospital staff, doing a feature on a Seventh-day Adventist wellness center in Weimar, and doing stories on amazing individuals who used sheer willpower and discipline to dispose of lethargic and poisonous lifestyles.
As I hit the Tidewater portion of my jogging route I thought about others who were “crazy enough” to run at mid-afternoon between 3 and 5 when the temperatures reach their crescendo. It is my absolute favorite time to jog but rarely do I get the opportunity to do so due to work and other considerations. The rationale of jogging in the heat of the day is simple: If you can condition your body to take heat, it will ultimately put a lot less stress on it.
By the time I passed under the 120 Bypass on Van Ryn Avenue I was starting to sweat. Within 10 minutes, I could slip the palm of my hand under by shirt and get the sensation of cold ice. The human body is amazing if you keep it well hydrated. I can sweat up a monsoon jogging in the sun on a 100-degree day and feel like I’m ready to tackle anything when I’m done.
Some people think I’m a tad over the top since I can count on one hand all of the days I haven’t exercised in the last 15 years.
I beg to differ.
My biggest fear 30 years ago was regaining what I had lost. Three months shy of my 30th birthday I dropped down to 195. That’s when I started exercising.
I bought my first road bike on Christmas Eve and went out for my first ride on New Year’s Day. A few months later I went to my first Jazzercise class. It would be 1,095 days before I stopped exercising like I was possessed. It was Dec. 31 and I had logged 9,952 miles so far that year bicycling, wanting to at least hit the 10,000-mile mark for the second year in a row although it would be short of the 11,186 miles I pedaled the previous year. I was four miles outside of Lincoln on an overcast day when it started to rain. It was then — soaked and shivering — that I decided I was getting a little carried away. The goal should be being healthy and not to chase some arbitrary number or some body image conjured up by folks who want to get financially fat off people by promising them a false utopia if they just buy their liquid concoctions, vitamins, or excise CDs.
In the following years I pushed 220 pounds briefly and then lingered between 195 and 205 until 10 years ago.
That’s when I fined tuned my 3,800 calorie intake as well as my exercising. I wasn’t eating less nor was I exercising more but I dropped down to 170 pounds and have stayed in the 160 to 170 range ever since.
By the time I jogged across Industrial Park Drive on my return trip, I was drenched.
The jog was clearly worth it as has been the past 29 years.
I get the food thing. It is to me what alcohol is to an alcoholic. It is good for you in moderation but let your consumption get out of control and you set the stage for all sorts of problems.
I still dutifully weigh myself each morning and jot the number down on a calendar as I have done for the past 10,810 days. It is a reminder to not let the numbers start creeping up again. But the numbers that really matter to me now are tied to pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
I know I’ll never have the perfect body — I’m still working on that one-pack — but I can make my body as healthy as possible.
And because of that I have been able to do things that 30 years ago would have put me down for the count for a week.
Now I can hike eight miles gaining 3,000 feet in elevation and the next day go for a jog.
In short, I am stronger and healthier today than I was a year ago and certainly more so than 30 years ago.
It is never too late to change your health and/or fine tune it.