“Well? What do you think?”
The woman at Supercuts had just whipped me towards my bored and impatient 4 1/2 year old boy, who was just about to unsettle a wall of shampoos and conditioners from an enormous glass shelved unit. (I then realized exactly why it was the fastest haircut I had yet to get) “How does your daddy look?” She went on to coax a cute answer or compliment from a child who I knew right off would say quite the opposite.
Having recently ripped the crotch out of a good pair of jeans, I found a small quiet space in both the day and the basement where I can stretch, lift some light weights, then take a quick jog. I threw on some old running pants and a sweatshirt. I found some sneakers, and removed the cobwebs from inside. Several spiders crawled out, but regardless, I jammed my foot in, laced them up, and started to stretch out the rusted muscles in my legs knowing what I was about to do to my body would be remembered by these muscles for days.
I have discovered that within the first few years of parenting, I broke the cardinal rule of making sure you take care of yourself too. Besides my wonderfully honest children, and some odd-fitting pants, I have had no real reason to think other-wise. It is very easy to spend the majority of your time as a parent caring for the little monsters you have created. I work hard on packing their healthy lunches, teaching them not to hit, to say thank you, to not light the couch on fire. Meanwhile, I ate three cookies for lunch yesterday.
After some honest attempts at safely warming up, I jammed the ear buds into my ear (which would continually fall out for the next 20 minutes as well) and stepped into a cold dark fall night. The neighborhood is situated in the slope of several hills, and I knew the wise man would start this journey by walking a few blocks, after which, the momentum of my music, and the feel of the elastic waist in my pants cutting into my midsection propelled me into a light jog.
I think there is a real stigma on the Dad who suddenly is propelled to get into shape. It is often labeled as a mid-life crisis, or worse yet, a sign of an affair. I think it really comes down to self respect. My “ridiculously-out of-my-league-wife” has loved me unconditionally. Pointed out moments of how handsome I am to her. And yet as a husband, I want to make her swoon, not just by opening a door, or making her laugh, but by not looking too terrifying brushing my teeth in my underwear. It’s a matter of pride, and garnished with a touch of humility.
Runners I know have often said that they do it for the high they get after overcome hitting “the wall”. Apparently, I ran into this wall as soon as I started running up the hills. I had stretched; I set a realistic goal of walking, then running. I had good, pump it up music to let my brain forget about the crushing sensation happening in my knees, or the feeling like I was bleeding out of my ears and eyes.
Ten minutes into my dead running, the pressure in my chest had become too much. My mind raced to the memories of myself running as a youth through the fields in rural VT, fueled by the boundless energy of a stress free life. Images of myself as a gaunt teen dashing up and down the soccer field fired up on a metabolism that has since ground to a halt. I found myself holding onto a tree, nestled in a back wooded ally that crisscross the rows of old homes. My body revolted in the form of some violent shaking, and then vomit. Fortunately, there was not a soul around in the darkness to witness.
I pulled it together. Thought of my life, wiped my mouth on my sleeve, and looked down.
Smoke was coming out of chimneys. The air was still and deep, and cold.
And then I see down the hill.
A clear shot home.
A deep sigh, and I just start to bound down. As big as possible. The wind rushes by making my eyes water. My strides are suddenly so much bigger, each one letting me sail three or four squares ahead. I feel like a cartoon, like a child. My legs don’t hurt, or at least I didn’t feel them. I make it home, and I’m out of breath (which is good cause it still smelled like puke) and I am strangely satisfied
Maybe now I’m hooked again or maybe I’ll eat a little better. I’ll do it for my kids to inspire them to be better, and I’ll do it for me, cause to be honest I really don’t like buying new clothes. But if my wife asks, I’ll tell her I’m doing it for a woman.
(Just don’t tell her it’s her.)