You know those little kids who can just run around all day and you marvel at their endurance and they never stop even though there’s no real purpose to what they’re doing and they seemingly have enough energy to run a marathon a day?
I was never one of those kids. Unless someone introduced a ball into the festivities I never had much interest in running around for the fun of it. Even riding my bike as a child was more about transportation convenience in little Janesville than the joy of the open road. If I was running it had to be for a purpose and from elementary school through high school I never considered the 100-meter sprint or a 1-mile run to be races that had any purpose. No, there needed to be a ball involved — a basketball, football, baseball or tennis ball. Give me something to shoot, catch, hit or serve and I’ll run after it all day. But running just for running? Running for exercise? Running to get into shape? I always ran away from that.
Things remain the same seven months after my 37th birthday.
My only exercise these days remains basketball. We belong to a gym that has nice treadmills and bikes and weights and the facility is a five-minute walk from our apartment. All that’s available for 10 bucks a month. At the start of every month I vow to go there more often, to finally work off a few extra pounds and build up some lung capacity. Maybe it’ll help me live longer down the line, the thinking goes. But one trip is rarely followed by two and a month later I’m making the same promise. Walking on the treadmill, running on the treadmill, sitting on a bike going nowhere…what is the point? I’ve never been able to get past that. As I walk to nowhere and watch the TVs that sit above the gym members I become a freshman-year philosophy student: What difference does it make; why I am I here; when will it end?
I tried re-energizing myself on my trip back home to Minnesota, determined not to put on the five pounds I always pack on during these trips back to the Midwest, as the steaks and twice-baked potatoes and spaghetti and waffles and bacon and sausage and the malts all do their damage over eight to 10 days. My parents have a treadmill stationed in the basement, a contraption that’s been put to great use the past few months as my dad has gone on his own health kick and has used the machine to drop more than 20 pounds. Maybe a few trips down there will help me, I figured. Especially since I’m missing my weekly basketball games.
I lasted about 10 minutes, done in by fatigue and boredom, just like always. My legs burned, my legs ached, or maybe those two sensations were switched but my brain was short-circuiting so it confused everything.
My TVFury co-owner is my complete opposite when it comes to this. Terry is an exercise fiend and uses the gym to keep sane, while I fear prolonged exposure to it could drive me insane. Maybe headphones would help me, some music or audio books or inspirational speeches that could push me past my limits and have me feeling good about myself while I’m physically feeling terrible about myself. I’m open to suggestions — I just think at this point I have 30 years of evidence that shows I’m not made for running in place, or running in a specific direction.
This probably has to change. Hopefully I can play basketball for a few more decades, but will it always be able to provide a cardiovascular workout or will I eventually need to find a league that follows the old rules in Iowa girls basketball, where I’m playing on the offensive side of a six-on-six game, content to stand in the corner and launch three-pointers, putting every one of my 320 pounds into my shot, which can no longer be described using the word “jump.” I want to start playing tennis again but that’s always one rotator cuff shredding from being out of reach. What then? Then it’s the treadmill, or…jogging. Running up and down the streets, going nowhere. It’s not that running is boring. I’m fine with boring. I excel at being bored, since it also means I’m relaxed. Running’s not just boring, it’s painful. I’m sure runners like wearing T-shirts with catchy mottoes that explain how much tougher they are than people who don’t run and they’re absolutely correct. I can’t hack it, not unless there’s a layup waiting at the end of my sprint.
Runners and treadmill warriors, I really do admire you. I just hope I never become one of you.