Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Making a U-Turn

Last night I was determined to continue my renewed intensity in working out, and to reverse my recent slide towards the old way of life.

After my abdominal work-out I went to the elliptical for only about 10 minutes as a warm up. Then I went to a newer treadmill that I am unfamiliar with, and before you know it the treadmill was moving so fast I started to jog, and the jog turned into a run at a pretty good clip.

Now, why have I not been running these past 7 months? You ever wonder why in Third World countries that have no skyscrapers that when an earthquake hits there is total devastation? Well, the same engineers who build these Third World buildings also constructed my knees.
I have had 4 surgeries on my left knee, and the right one has avoided the knife only because it was just a grade or two less excruciating than its brother -- and the only thing that made them less painful to merely walk on was not the surgery, rather, it was not until I started to lose the weight. Essentially, I have severe arthritis and both knees are bone-on-bone. Consequently, I do low-impact aerobic exercise such as bike riding, the elliptical machine, and walking on a steep incline on the treadmill.

But last night, hitting the gym when I least feel like it - in the evening of a beautiful summer night - I was just filled with energy. Energy and some very controlled anger at myself for living my weekend like a college Sophomore just finished with finals. I had A LOT of energy and A LOT of anger to expunge.

So, this new machine started whirling about and in my head I just said, "Screw it, I'm running today." And like Forrest Gump I just started running. I felt no pain in my knees, no aches anywhere, I just looked at my silhouette in the darkened window and imagined me at 12 years old running wind sprints on a hot August afternoon during football practice at Mason Park. My mind kept skipping, like my iPod which I never use in the gym (By the way, anyway to prevent my iPod from skipping songs repeatedly as is juggles about in my gym shorts pocket?). It skipped to some High School football games under the lights where I made big plays, and it skipped ahead to college where deep in the season I was filled with stamina and could play an 80 minute rugby game and still have some gas left in the tank. And in my mind as I ran down the field images of certain plays flashed inside my brain - the brawl with USC, the long run against UCLA, the tackle against Cal Berkeley, and the assist against Long Beach State. Over and over images of my youth where my body was just automatically in tip-top shape, and my only disappointment was that I was too thin. My pace quickened and I became aware of my breathing - heavy, and almost growling. Why was I running so fast? I could not stop. I wanted to run over that part of me that for 6 months triumphantly said "no," but recently could not help but say "yes" to every unhealthy eating and drinking habit a man of 42 can engage in. The minutes flew by, 5, 10, 15, 20, I was still sprinting. I was pissed, but I was getting that terrific charge of endorphins firing in my body. It felt great to feel like I was young again! I was running on pure adrenaline.

The famous Housman poem started playing in my head:

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Then I remembered the name of the poem was, To An Athlete Dying Young. Bad image, bad. Get it out of your head! Next up in my skitzofrenic imagination was the marathon. I started imaging myself running the New York City marathon, then I fantasized about what I would write on my T-Shirt, I know, "On Marathon Sunday, 2009 I weighed 302 lbs!" No need to advertise my current weight as it would be obvious as I sprinted up First Avenue.

My imagination carried me on, I was drenched in sweat, my lungs felt like the pit of a steam engine locomotive, and then I felt a little tug, and then mild discomfort, and then some pain. The wheels were coming off. I was becoming aware of my self sprinting along, and aware of those Third World structures desperately trying to keep my femur from crashing through my tibia like the Titanic through an iceberg. The calendar had reversed my merry, exhaustive, romp through my youth and quickly the pages of the months flew forward reaching the present day, and all 42 years, 1 month, and 13 days of me, still 25 lbs over weight, announced their existence and my fantasy run was over. I limped off the treadmill and to the locker room - it was like the lights went on in the movie theatre and my suspended reality was over. My knees felt like they were in a magic show, which included sharp knives through a box, that went horribly wrong.

My knees are not meant to run, at least not yet. Oddly enough when I sat down gingerly on the bench Tennyson raced through my head, "When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made!"

So, last night was a wild charge, it was my punishment for slipping a bit and I felt great afterwards. I'm limping today, definitely strained something in my bag of rocks normal people call knees. But no matter, I should be able to ride the bike, etc. And if that is too sore (I'll push sore muscles to the limit all day long, but you can't push sore joints for fear of further injury), my trainer taught me some great hard-core cardio exercise that don't even involve the bending of the knee.

Did I eye that Corona in the fridge when I limped home with urges to reward myself? You betcha! Did I leave it where it was? Abso-freaking-lutely!

Because I did not get home till after 9 PM none of my salad places were open, so I ordered in sushi - edamame, and lots of tuna, and salmon, no rice.


Vegan Epicurean said...

Sorry to hear about your knees. I have a bad ankle I damaged long ago as a cheerleader so I understand a little. I hope your knees feel better soon. I have to admit I am intrigued by cardio that doesn't involve bending your knees.

Congratulations on avoiding the Corona! ;-)

have a wonderful Wednesday,

Amanda said...

Good for you. It sounds like you were truly feeling ALIVE in every sense of the world. I am constantly amazed by my body. After a few years of not taking care of myself and rarely working out, it feels so good to revert to childhood and my lost athleticism. Hope you're icing the knees today. :)