(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Day 500

The alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m.  It's early, and sometimes it's hard not to fall back to sleep.  As in really, really hard.  But somehow, some way, you get out of bed, telling yourself at the outset of the program that you really will feel better in the long run if you do this, if you change your behavior and work an exercise regimen into your day the way you have changed your eating habits.  So, you get up, put on your gym clothes, tiptoe in the hallway so as not to wake anyone, and you go down to the basement. 

It's not the type of basement that anyone would brag about on an HGTV show.  It's one of those early 1960's basements, built for utility and some storage but not for comfort.  For one thing, the ceiling is low, so you have to be careful if you are of average height or bigger.  The ventilation is okay, the space good enough.  Good enough to fit a fixed bike, rowing machine, some resistance bands and an exercise mat. 

You adopt a routine after a while, varying it to some degree to break up the boredom.  Sweats seem mandatory in winter time, and the room is cool to start in the summer because of the air conditioning.  You get down there, turn on the TV, tilt it toward the bike, and get on and start pedaling.  Sometimes you go just ten minutes to get your heart going; other times you put yourself through punishing paces and increasing difficulty for about a half an hour, ending up sweaty and ready for the next thing.  Over the course of 75 minutes you'll have biked, rowed, stretched with stretch bands, done yoga stretches, worked your upper body with resistance bands and attacked your core through the use of medicine balls.  On some days you'll have done push-ups, too, or planks, and on most days you'll have used a hard foam roller to pop muscles in different directions. 

Your stretching follows guidance accumulated over the years from Kelly Starrett's book, from a physical therapist, from a personal trainer and from reading, as well as some stretches borrowed from yoga tapes or a few yoga classes.  At the end of the workout, you'll feel good, tight, fully stretched and ready for whatever the day has to bring. 

After you take your shower, you'll eat a breakfast pretty much daily that consists of plain, non-fat yogurt with some cinnamon (or a 100-cal variety that is low on sugar), some whole-grain flakes (flax is my favorite), some granola to top it off and some fresh fruit.  Berries are preferred if they are in-season and cheap, and a banana is the old standby.  That breakfast is the opening act for a diet that is rich on vegetables and fruit, modest on the bad fats and rich in the good ones, a reasonable amount of carbs, and, usually, no processed sugar. 

The results, after 500 days and counting (okay, so I have skipped a workout perhaps on 10 of those 500 days) are very good.  I feel better and more energetic and my numbers, so to speak, the type that the doctors give you after drawing blood and sending it to a laboratory, are good too. 

Is it worth it?  Getting up that early?  Well, I'll say this -- getting up that early is somewhat zen because you own your day at that point.  No one else is up, which means that this part of the day is entirely yours -- and the only interruptions are the ones you create.  That aspect of my day is something I cherish -- alone with my workout, alone with my thoughts, shaping my day.  Is it worth it?  Watching ESPN in the morning and its loop of features on Sports Center?  If the end is getting into better shape and staying that way and feeling good about it, absolutely.  If one gets irked by self-absorption and some sports journalistic narcissism courtesy of certain ESPN anchors and reporters, well, change the channel.  But try to go to a zen-oriented channel -- and not one of the national news channels that report on only two types of news -- bad and worse.

So, yes, it's worth it -- the ritual, the routine, the location, the time of day, the feeling you get as you're making your way through your workout and then finishing it -- that  you have accomplished something at the start of the day and are on a pathway to better and sustained wellness.  You're aging, yes, and you have seen people age, sometimes badly.  You visit a relative in an assisted living facility, a likable fellow who never took good care of himself and is paying the price for it now.  Thankfully, his genial nature helped give him a nice life with friends and good experiences, but his physical weaknesses have taken a huge toll on him, even mentally to a degree.  We all know aging has started to take place and is a fact of life, but we deny it, we fight it, we tell ourselves that we'll be the one to transcend and do better, but that always cannot be the case.  Sometimes it's nature, sometimes it's nurture, and sometimes it's just dumb luck.  But you keep on going, arising early, pushing yourself as hard as you can, even if at times no one notices or no one really cares.  The thing is that you do, that you feel better, and that you feel, at least at an odd moment, that you can do anything and even suspend time.

In the end, it's more than a workout, it's a lifestyle, one of lean, clean eating, resisting the temptation of the gourmet desserts and wines, of getting out there and wanting to feel better, not to be sedentary, even if the lure of the 60-inch screen and what's on it can tempt one away from walking, gardening, biking, golfing and just getting out there.  That's the thing of it -- the workout leads to a happier life, to serenity, to better things.  It's not for the feint of heart or those who want to roll out of bed and do their thing without taking measure of their health, that's for sure.  But for those who like the ritual, want the zen, it's as precious -- if not more so than -- any fine dining experience or watching a movie marathon on a cold winter's day. 

It's life, and trying to live it to its fullest.


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