I can’t fathom how many times I have used the sentence, “Man, I’ve got to get in shape.”
Usually it’s delivered between heaves of sucking oxygen into my lungs at the top of an embarrassingly easy trail or bike ride. Sometimes I’m so winded I can only think the seven words and my shame grows.
This valley is jam packed with the “in shape.” I am jealous of the runner who cruises past me on a trail, looking like they’re on mile 18 and can go another 20. The biker that I pass on Big Mountain peddling patiently up the never ending road sends shivers through my body – not because of the agony I imagine they are going through, but because I’m embarrassed I can’t do it.
I have never faired well on land and through life have found the only form of exercise I can stomach is swimming. So I sucked it up and got a membership to The Wave, thinking I could no longer reason my way out of physical exertion.
I was a swimmer in high school and college. I remember each day starting at around 4:30 a.m. with a pretty good hour or more workout in the pool. In the afternoon it was the weight room (which I normally skipped) and then back in the pool for another hour or more. This is the boy I remember when I eased my way into the pool last Sunday.
With each pull through the water, with each bubble from my flailing feet, with each turn of my head to life-giving breath, that boy grew more and more distant. For each time I told myself, “Oh, I can do that. I did that in college,” a different muscle exploded in pain.
My workout was short. The water was clean and smooth – my form was not. But I was proud of my small accomplishment at the end. I didn’t break any Olympic records that day, but I didn’t drowned either – and that’s a plus.
Now it’s day two. The only thing making me go back tonight is the little plastic bar code with “The Wave” printed on the other side on my car keys. It’s like a little plastic piece of guilt and I’m glad it’s there to remind me of my goal.
And if you’re one of the “in shape,” and you happen to be sprinting around Whitefish Lake or pounding your mountain bike up Lone Pine State Park, and you pass a guy limping, hobbling and crying his way to the top, please understand I’m trying. I’ll do the same when I pass you in the pool.
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