I used to be in really great physical shape. When I was in high school, even though I was skinny and socially awkward, I was in awesome shape. I ran three days a week after school, clocking a couple of miles just running the halls around the school (really--the school I attended was like a giant square-shaped 8, and the outer halls were open to runners after school) and did calisthenics. The other two days I did strength training. My strength training included lifting weights, push-ups and sit-ups. The sit-ups were done inverted, because I couldn't stand pressure on my tail bone...so I would hang from my knees on the pull-up handles on the universal gym and do them from there. Like, 50 at a time.
In my late teens, I was in drum corps. Our days were extremely physically demanding. We were up at 7:00 AM, had eaten breakfast by 8:00, and were in block formation for warm-ups by 8:15. We stretched, did marching warm-ups, and then blocked to march and run. Always beginning out marching, we ended up running in step, military-style, usually 2-3 miles. We finished up with a group cool-down, and were on the field for the remainder of the day, often times going well past dark. During our rehearsals, the general rule was that for each mistake you made, you had to do ten push-ups. I could handle it. I could mess up 5 or 6 times and still be ok. I thrived on it. I loved it.
These days........not so much. I can do one, maybe two push-ups, if I really try hard. Though dreams of running have plagued me for years, lately they seem to have intensified. They started out badly--the kind of running where I was running from something, but I wasn't really sure what. I don't think it was a bad something--just something I needed to run from. So I'd start running and running, and little bit by little bit, one leg would get longer than the other one, and I ended up really lop-sided and not able to run. Lately though, I just dream about stretching, snapping the leash on the dog, and going out for a run. Sometimes it's in the morning, sometimes it's while the kids are having quiet time. Sometimes I'm alone, and sometimes My Darling or the Frog come along.
Today I just couldn't take it anymore. My legs were twitching as I sat like a comfortable lump on the couch. A comfortable lump with a laptop and a can of Cherry Coke, switching from e-mail to facebook, viewing the world through a virtual window, listening to the thawing snow drip from the roof onto the awning over the living room window.
I've been wanting to get in better shape for a long time.
"Frog," I said to her. She was in the kitchen, mixing up the batter for her birthday cake. "Frog, I'm going to go for a run."
I don't think she understood me. I kind of doubt that she did, since in all of her years, I've never uttered that particular phrase before. She gave me a look which was both confused and sympathetically supportive. "Uh, OK," she said tentatively.
I don't think she believed me, either.
I went to the bedroom and snatched up the running shoes that My Darling helped me choose months ago, because I wanted to start getting in shape way back then. They're really pretty, and very clean. They're super cheap--whatever Target had that day that fit me and in colors that I kind of liked.
I stretched, just like in my dream. I threw on a long-sleeved T-shirt over my tank and tied on my shoes. I snapped the leash on the dog and headed out.
Disclaimer: At this point, I would suggest using the loo, hitting the head, taking a leak--whatever. If you choose not to exercise this option, I take no responsibility for your clothing or furniture....
So off we went, me and my dog. We headed to the end of the driveway, and eased into a gentle lope to the end of the block. We rounded the corner. I was counting my breath, like I used to do in corps: "In-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6-in-2-3-4-5-6-out-2-3-4-5-6..." and eventually, "In-2-3-4-out-2-3-4-in-2-3-4-out-2-3-4..."
By the end of the second side of the block, my lungs were burning as though the air had become molten lead. My breathing was shallow and harsh: "In-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-3-out-2-3-in-2-out-2-in-2-out-2--" until I knew. My legs were fine. My feet were swell. Not swelling--just swell. But for the love of all good, sweet, holy things under Heaven, I could no longer breathe.
The boys playing basketball would never notice. They would walk right past, never seeing the woman laying on the pavement, her dog long gone. There are no driveways on that one-block street. I could literally lay there for weeks without anyone noticing, because it's not yet warm enough here for my decomposing flesh to begin to stink.
My daughter doesn't believe that I'm really out for a run, and no one will miss me until it's time to change a poopy diaper.
I decided to just give up the run I'd dreamed about and let it go......just walk. One *gasp* foot *pant* in front *choke* of the other *wheeze*.
I walked. It took me the remaining two sides of the block to begin feeling like perhaps death was not quite as imminent as I thought. I was still panting harder than my dog though. She was giving me a look that said, "Man, I really hope none of my friends see us together. You're such a wimp. I'm so embarrassed."
I walked around an additional block so that when I came back home, the sound of their Mama hyperventilating wouldn't send my children into hysterics. Hey, it could happen. They could have been concerned. Of course, they'd have to look past the alien sight of their mother in running shoes and smelling slightly of sweat.
I stretched a little to cool my muscles down. After I released the dog from her leash, she glanced back at me as she slunk away, too humiliated to admit that she'd actually gone along with this farce of physical activity.
I called My Darling. I said, "I did something so completely out of character for me--you will never in a million years guess what I did!"
He said, "You went for a walk."
He was serious. I was crushed. Like he'd believe that I had gone for a run.
My muscles are rebelling. This activity is more than they've been engaged in for a long time--but if I have my way about it, they'd better get used to it.