There comes a reckoning … to the gym!
Once there was a marathon, 26.2 miles of bone-chilling anguish in 38-degree, rainy December weather — way up north in Alabama. I ran it. I finished. I remember.
For 20 years, I set an annual goal of running 1,000 miles a year. Nineteen times, I achieved it. I remember those years, too, in my 40s and 50s, even some when I stumbled across the finish line, hitting the magic benchmark in a blustery Dec. 31 nightfall.
For years, I hiked in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, too, sometimes with my brothers, sometimes alone, through wind and rain and snow and sleet, seeking bald, mountaintop peaks where, at 4,000 or 5,000 feet of elevation, I could gaze into Canada. That always reminded me of the muscles I seldom used. (“Hey! Remember us?” I did. I did.)
Intermittently, I spent some years in the gym, building up my pale body in hopes of staving off the inevitable. For some stretches, it seemed to work. I still have workout clothes that no longer fit. Lots of ‘em.
Forget all that. Those were my yesterdays. These are my todays.
Two weeks back, I made the firm commitment in my dotage to recapture some sense of those long-distant memories, to get lean and rock solid, to impress my bride and once again to tell Father Time: “Back off.”
It was not the advancing years or the need for better health that catapulted me back into the gym. It wasn’t even the fact that every month, a sawbuck left my checking account and paid my paltry gym membership fee — while I read in my recliner.
No, what drove me back into mortifying my flesh was this cold dose of reality: My bride has a high school reunion — it’s a special one — and I am hellbent on becoming a better version of me within six months. I’m determined that her classmates won’t see us enter, arm in arm, and tell my wife, “We’re so sorry.”
That’s why my alarm goes off at 5, why I’ve graduated from a friendly Nederland track stroll to a more determined, timed, treadmill walk-jog punctuated with genuine grunts. Sometimes, I sweat.
Tuesday, I got up at 4, the penalty exacted for an assignment that was supposed to start at 7:30. I sent a quick text to my wife in Louisiana, telling her, “kSneix2@9z,” then added, “I hope I drive better than that.” I held the road all the way to the gym.
I’m reacquainting myself with myself, learning how my recently healed thumb surgery might forge a truce with weight machines. There are “arm-and-back days” and “leg-and-torso days” and “rest-but-run” days.
And I weigh myself now and then, which is the cruelest violation of them all. I step on the scale, standing tall in the early morning chill and whisper in a throaty voice, “Lie to me.” But it never does.
This is the steep price I pay for long stretches of allowing myself this or forgiving myself that. There comes a reckoning — this time, it’s a reunion — and the fervent hope that if we encounter my wife’s long-ago prom date, I will look better or, failing that, he’ll look as sorry as me.
Ken Stickney is editor of The Port Arthur News.