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Copyright Dennis Mitton
Maybe you’ve noticed something now that you’re forty or sixty or eighty: your body takes a little longer to do what it used to do easily and effortlessly. Use this information wisely. Be nice to yourself. Take care of small scratches and cuts as they can take longer to heal. Be patient with others as they are moving a little slower too.
This is essential advice if you actively exercise. Back in the good ol’ days that we all talk about, I could step on the scale on Friday morning, frown, run ten miles on Saturday and another five on Sunday, and smile at the scale on Monday morning. Not now. Losing weight takes a concentrated Herculean effort now that I’m pushing sixty. And that many miles will tire me out for a week.
I learned to give my body time to rest last summer in sunny, blistering, buggy, and drippingly humid, South Carolina. It’s glorious in April but by the end of May I will wake up to 85 degrees and the temperature will top at around 100. Running on paved roads adds another five degrees. I tried waiting until we had a brief shower but that drives the humidity up to where one can hardly catch a breath. Natives complain less than I do but for this coffee-infused Son of Seattle it’s a tough slog.
So I quit running. I took August off and enjoyed the air conditioning and concentrated on stretching and yoga. I ran a three-mile loop one night a week when the temperature mercifully dropped to below 85 degrees. September here is as hot as August so I started back up in mid-September to get ready for a race in early October. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was truly shocked when I turned in my best times for both a 5k and 10k run. I felt smooth and comfortable the entire race. At first, I thought it was my new Lycra tights. They admittedly look pretty sweet but I don’t think they contributed to my times. I wondered if it was the cooler temps and I’m sure that helped. What I’m most convinced of is that the time off helped. Stretching and resting gave my legs time to repair from long runs in the late spring and it took a few weeks of rest to begin feeling the benefits.
Every fitness book and trainer talks about rest. It’s when our bodies repair and recharge but few of us really believe it. We’re athletes! We push through pain! We force our body to submit to our iron will! Well, maybe not. So I’ve incorporated indolence and sloth into my weekly regimen and I feel so much better for it. When my legs feel like lead on Tuesday, I listen to them and take off until Saturday. I stretch. I get a couple hours of extra sleep. I loll about and read. Maybe even spend some quality time with the family! And I feel better for it.
So go work out. Work hard. Breathe hard. Pump your muscles. Feel your body work. And when you’ve worked enough – you’ll know when that is – take a rest. Maybe for a day. Maybe for a week. Or for six weeks like I did. It’s not the end of the world and will almost certainly make your world a little better. And isn’t that exactly what living the good life is all about?
Had to laugh over this post from last year. But only after the truck had passed and I confirmed that I still had all body parts intact.
Copyright 2015, Dennis Mitton
A couple of decades ago I lived in Vidalia, Georgia, which I still consider, in my most humble experience, to be the end of the world where all good things fall off the edge. I was racing bicycles at the time and out for a training ride. I didn’t see the vehicle but I could hear the whirring of huge tires coming up behind me. Before the truck whizzed past me at eighty or so I saw a beer bottle fly past my head. An instant later the truck drove by honking with the passenger flipping me off out the window with both hands. Ha! What’s the big deal about trying to peg a bike rider with a beer bottle while moving at eighty miles an hour? Had that bottle hit me in the head it’s unlikely that I would be writing today and they would have sped off, happy in making the world a better place. I suppose it could have been the Lycra – not a fabric of choice for Southern backwoods good ol’ boys – but I suspect it was just their stupidity and common disregard for any other human being. No doubt the were on the way to the local militia meeting to protect my rights.
I live in South Carolina now by way of Seattle and New York and have taken up running. I haven’t put my finger on it but South Carolina seems a world away from South Georgia though I still periodically fear for my life while running. One problem is that there is simply no side-of-the-road. I can’t really blame anyone for this. There is scant municipal or state money in these parts and, well, roads are for cars and tractors. Not runners or bicyclists or other foreigners. This puts me smack on the asphalt whenever any vehicle comes up. From this vantage I have made several very unscientific observations based on poor vision through the windshield and on vehicle type:
The more banged up the vehicle the more generally polite the drivers are. They slow down, move over, wave, and smile. Maybe give me a thumbs-up. I like to think that these are just more humble folks who don’t equate their vehicle with their self image or personal worth but I can’t say. At least that’s what I tell myself while I cruise at ten under in my 1995 Toyota Wagon held together by rust and decals.
Young women driving normal sized cars are generally accommodating. Probably not a surprise in the genteel South. They smile, move over, and wave. No doubt impressed by my flexing quads.
Women driving SUVs? It’s a crapshoot. If the car is empty, meaning that the kids are in school and they are coffeed up, and if they are not looking down, then they happily move over. If not, and I believe that this is generally without malicious intent, they ignore you and would hardly notice if they bumped you off.
Black Mercedes with tinted windows? I just move off the road when I see these. I don’t know who drives these things but the road belongs to them and they’re not up for questions. They go fast and never move over.
Trucks of any sort call for heightened awareness. Most move over but never slow down.
You can guess what vehicle bothers me the most. The drivers look like they are stunt doubles on Duck Dynasty. They need a ladder to get into the truck. I would like to think that the steering in the truck is a little loose because I find it hard to believe that they would purposefully swerve toward me just for the fun of it but without a mechanical inspection I can’t be sure. They never slow. They never move. Never give one rat’s ass as far as I can tell. I think they might have a running man with an ‘X’ through him stamped on the driver’s door for each hapless sap the bump off.
I’ve noticed that ‘slowing down’ is a weird thing. Most folks here do the Carolina 35 which is code for going as fast as you can whatever the posted speed limit. The problem with slowing down is that you have to slow down. No South Carolinian of any gender or label slows down. Slowing down in South Carolina implies a compilation of untoward character traits:
• You cry a lot and wear skinny jeans
• You have balls the size of freezer-burnt peas
• You are gay (and yes, there is something wrong with that…)
• If you even go to church you probably go the that weird Universalist place
• You will save the life of one whale or seal and let an entire state go to waste
• You believe in global warming
No red blooded Southerner would voluntarily put themselves in such an awkward social position.
Only one time have I ever had anyone stop. It was an early morning run and a truck – huge, blue-black, ominous – swerved toward me at four times the speed limit. I jumped into the ditch waving my arms and inventing swear words. He slammed on the brakes and jammed that thing in reverse so hard I thought he busted the transmission. My life flashed before my eyes. I scanned the fields for the best place to try to outrun a bullet or a dog. He came up with windows down practically crying out an apology. The sun – I admitted it was huge and bright – was in his eyes and he truly didn’t see me. I waved him on, not wanting to prolong our little meeting (I hadn’t paused my run timer!) and was thankful for another day to run.
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