Feeling tired all the time? Falling asleep in the middle of the day or in the recliner early in the evening? Overweight or, if we’re being honest, just flat-out fat with a big ol’ belly? Health issues? Aching joints, legs and back?
Some of that comes with age. Some comes with being busy and not taking time to exercise, even a little bit. Some of it just from being lazy, not eating right and not sleeping right.
No, I’m not on a high horse. I’ve been guilty of being lazy and still enjoy a lazy day. I can’t say that I’ve ever been one of those who jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn, went 90 miles an hour all day and then conked out for a solid eight or nine hours of shuteye.
I don’t get enough sleep because I’m a night owl and like to read in bed. Many years ago, after high school graduation and three years of football (and one of wresting), all the positive results of that daily exercise disappeared with the 25 pounds I put on in the next two years. College pizza and cheap brew didn’t help. I like to eat and have my favorites — Nacho Cheese Doritos at 10 p.m.? Sure! Fried chicken? Sure! Four eggs, pancakes, sausage and grits? Bring it, baby! I’ll knock back a beer or two on occasion. Bring on the boudin and gumbo, too.
So if you’re like me, you know. But some of you, like me, at some point realized you could do a little something. Walking. Jogging. Heck, even running. Hitting the gym. Maybe yoga with the wife. Yoga is advanced stretching and breathing. It ain’t easy, either. And it’s not just “girly men” doing it.
The Turning Point
Six years ago I waited on my father to come out of triple bypass surgery. A week earlier, the day he went into the hospital, I was in Georgia hiking up the paved trail to the top of 4,784-foot tall Brasstown Bald. I was so out of shape that halfway up, my chest hurt. Then I got a “side stitch” cramp. Coincidentally, at the same time hundreds of miles away, my father was headed to the ER where they admitted him immediately. He had been justthisclose to having a heart attack.
Seven days later, they sawed through his sternum, retooled some arteries and wired him shut. Didn’t look like a lot of fun. He had to hug on a pillow to cough or sit up so he wouldn’t strain anything. Couldn’t go fishing for weeks (which almost killed him, too). But he recovered nicely, followed his rehab plan, changed his diet, and is still hunting and fishing at almost 70 years young.
Seeing all that … I started scaling back then on a few things. I still enjoy a big Farmer’s Omelet at the country cafe once in a while and a giant beef burrito at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Just not as often as in the past. More salads and tuna. Less processed stuff. Tons of water and almost no sugary sodas. Less white bread, white rice, pastries and stuff you think “Yeah, it may be good but you know it ain’t good for you.” Dude, I can graze a salad bar like California Chrome or Mr. Ed.
Three years ago I started walking in spring. Alabama, where I live, has brutally hot, humid summers. I like walking and light jogging in the middle of the day. The hotter the better. It’s just how I am. I kept on until I could jog a little. Did my first 5K race that November with my brother, who thinks running is evil. He does the Turkey Trot 5K with me just for fun. Clipped me by about six or seven minutes that first year.
But I didn’t care. I finished, and have carved off a little time with each subsequent 5K. Last winter, the treadmill got some constant action. The transition to asphalt this spring wasn’t as tough, and my first 5K is in a few weeks.
I plan to do some occasional updates here this summer on exercise and gear, and not because I’m trying to show out or be “that” guy. I want to be able to climb hills and drag out a deer without huffin’ and puffin’ like a struggling steam engine. I want to lose some more weight and feel better.
My first recommendation to any of you thinking that sounds good, though, is to get a checkup from your physician. We men are dumb goobers and don’t like to go to the doctor. But it’s smart to get checked out before starting kind of fitness regimen, and it’s also good to have a baseline for your weight, cholesterol and such. Heck, at 45 or 50 years old, it’s time to get moving. Past time, really.
It’s cliche, but getting healthier starts with a step — one foot in front of the other. Changes can be made. You just have to want to make them.
Managing Editor Alan Clemons lives in Alabama, still doesn’t “run” in any conventional sense unless dogs are chasing him or there’s one slice of pizza remaining, and wants to hear some of your “I was a fatty but got my butt in gear” fitness success stories. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org