Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm Having Weighty Thoughts

I'm considering doing some weight training. Again. I think God has been thumping me on the back of the head about this lately. It seems that everything I pick up to read is talking about how I need to be doing some weight training. To be a better runner. Better person. Better All-Pro Dad. Better husband. Better Catholic. OK, maybe not a better Catholic.

My friend Mary Rigney at CrossFit Rockwall says I have a whole new life of fitness just waiting for me. And, if you know Mary, you know that Mary knows.

I'd like to be stronger than my wife. She does weight training, and Pilates, and yoga at the gym. And, before she goes, she does power walking at home. I tried to walk with her once, but sprained my knee trying to keep up and had to return to my running to recover. I'd like to not have to cower down behind her when a bully approaches.

And, I'd like to not have to wrestle with a bag of mulch like it was a dead body. And, I have lower back pain that I know would go away with the right back training program.

I tried weight training once. Years ago, when I was a newlywed. We received a free 3-month membership. I went once. You have to understand that I'm of the if-one-is-good-two-is-better faction (Blue Bell pints, Johnsonville brats, reps, sets). When my trainer wasn't looking, I'd do another rep, another set. I felt pumped on the way home. Then, my wife had to shampoo my head and towel me off because my chest was so tight, I couldn't get my hands above my shoulders. For two days. But, it's been almost 26 years since then. I've grown, matured, gotten much smarter - ahem.

I bought my son and I a home gym set of weights for Christmas when he was a junior in high school. We were going to lift weights three days a week. It's been two years since he graduated from college, and I'm still reminded every day that I have a home weight gym because I have to just bump it (to get my truck to fit) when I pull into the garage.

It's not a vanity thing. I don't think. I'm just trying to figure out some magic combination of exercise that will enable me to eat Blue Bell ice cream nightly, and Hershey's milk chocolate daily, and still wear size 36 pants.

We go to Galveston every year for a week. I keep my shirt on. To keep from getting sunburned. Yeah, right. A couple of years ago there was this beautiful specimen of male human being college student in the surf with us, floating by. The girls (wives included) were all nervous and faint, even from way up under the umbrellas on the shore. I struck up a conversation with him out in the surf. Evan.

"You're the reason I keep my shirt on, you know." "Hey, all I have to do is go to class, study, work out, and come to the beach." We chatted for awhile, and then he floated on along. I have to admit, I kind of had a crush on him myself.

Later, I told the girls, "Evan is a nice guy. I invited him to come to dinner with us." "Oh my God, Daddy! Tell me you are kidding. Please, no." "Oh, I'm just kidding. Sheesh." We were all up at the pool finishing up after a day in the surf, and I had my shirt off. Here came Evan. "Hey, you have your shirt off -- good for you!" he said. "I thought you had class this afternoon." "Got cancelled."

One of these days soon I'm going to bump that home weight gym, and then back right back out of the garage and get out and do a couple of sets. But, only if I'm sure my wife is home. In case I need help showering.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Running = Happiness?

People undertake a new fitness or weight-loss program because they think the end result will ultimately make them “happier.” Let me help you out. Please don’t do that.

I'm a happy runner, a very happy person really. But, running isn't responsible for my happiness. My fitness level, my strength and stamina, my not being a medical burden on my family, my energy level, my good spiritedness, my positive outlook on life -- yes. My happiness? Well...

Happiness is so subjective. My happiness is based on who I am right now. What makes me happy right now may not make me happy tomorrow, or next week, or 20 minutes from now. I won't be the same person then as I am now; I’ll have had an infinite number of life experiences between now and then that will have changed my perception of happiness. (Imagine, trying to plan a "happy" retirement. Lord knows what’s going to bring me happiness 20 years from now!)

I was about this happy as a non-runner 15 years ago. When I was someone who had never run a 5K, a 10K, the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot, the DRC Half Marathon, the White Rock Marathon. I was perfectly happy (whatever that is) with getting 8 hours of sleep; waking up and having a cup of good, strong, hot, black coffee; showering; eating a bowl of cereal; and heading to work around 7:30.

Now, to achieve the same level of morning happiness, I must also run.

Get 2 less hours of sleep. Slip quietly out the front door in all weather conditions (I avoid running if the temperature is below freezing, or if it's stormy -- OK, so I'm a wimp.) Spend money on 4 extra pairs of shoes each year. Shorts. Socks. Magazines. Fuel. (This is not to say that I don't get all giddy and goofy when I know I'm headed down to Luke's Locker for a new pair, or two, of running shoes. It makes me euphoric!) Endure the aches and pains associated with running (good aches and pains, mind you.)

When I first started running, a 1-mile run made me "happy." Then, it was 3. Then 5. Then 6. Now, it's 8. Until August, and then it's anywhere from 6 to 20 miles, depending on the week and day. When I first started running, 12-minute miles were great. Then, it had to be 11-minute. Then, 10-minute miles. (OK, I'm pokey, too.)

So, for me, happiness and running aren't the same game. They have virtually nothing to do with each other.

Someone tried to turn me on to Nutella yesterday, again. I am the lucky person who has not yet tasted Nutella. She assured me Nutella was out of this world, and that I must try it.

Nutella is not going to increase my "happiness." If anything, it will decrease it.

Right now, I'm someone who has never tasted Nutella. I'm perfectly happy (whatever that is) sitting on the couch after dinner, watching TV, with a handful (or half a box) of graham cracker sticks. One taste of Nutella, and to achieve the same level of happiness, I'm probably going to have to sit on the couch after dinner, watching TV, with a handful (or half a box) of graham cracker sticks -- and a fresh tub of Nutella to dip them in.

This will lead to a higher level of guilt and anxiety, and make my next morning run almost mandatory (just try to calculate how many miles you're going to have to run to burn that off, mister.) No, sir. No Nutella for Nelson.

I'm a runner. I'll never again in my life be someone who hasn't gone for one of those long, exhausting, exhilirating, rewarding, 20-mile training runs. And, I'm so glad for that.

But, don't take up running, or any fitness or weight loss program, because it's going to make you "happy" (whatever that is.) Happiness is going to have to come from somewhere else.