The 2011 Tri season is brewing. A little over a month ago, the local club held its kickoff meeting. Workout programs were handed out, goals were set, safety pitched, and the room veritably overflowed with good people and great expectations. Lots of newcomers eyed their first Triathlons, and more seasoned athletes were either looking to up the ante and increase their distance (Olympic to half or full Ironman), or pick up new strategies to improve times. Enthusiasm abounded, and triathletes were pacing like big cats eyeing the cage door, waiting for the ice to thaw and the season to open.
I on the other hand, found myself uncharacteristically underwhelmed; just barely dragging my Achilles-strained paws through the Kitty litter. I was only half heartedly listening to the motivational tips for building a solid training plan, not drowning, and avoiding cardiac arrest. My get up and Tri had got up and hibernated. I’ll take an Olympic training program, the works, hold the malaise. When I got home, I further contemplated the dawn of this new season by unceremoniously pushing the workout schedule to the far side of my desk mumbling under my breath, “whatever.”
A few Monday’s back, I was still in a lethargic funk. I saw the kids off to school and stood outside holding a hot tea and shivering, thinking how for a couple of months now I had only been working out a few days a week. I hadn’t run for over a month. As if underscoring my thoughts and prodding me to some sort of action, a trio of joggers hollered at me as they hoofed it up the hill in minus 1 degree weather. I waved and retreated back inside. Whatever.
I reheated my tea and explained to the dog, who was quite sensibly and comfortably curled up on the couch, that anyone who runs in sub-zero weather is an idiot. Then I settled into my day, and started scrolling through my Monday suppository of emails.
It was the third subject line that gave me pause and took at gentle slap at my off-season indifference. The subject line was, “Everybody Dies…EVERYBODY!!!!!” It wasn’t a tweet or a Facebook post or a gentle life affirming reminder along the lines of “live every day as if it was your last, and one day you’ll be right” type of sentiment. It was a personal missive from a business associate I barely knew, and he was positively jeering.
“So LaLanne has finally died,” is how he began. If he had been speaking, he would have followed that with a “HA!” Jack’s death had somehow uncovered for this Mensa graduate an illuminating and previously unexposed truth, a health and fitness “gotcha,” which he underscored with the ever clever use of all caps and frenetic punctuation. Despite a lifetime of fitness, a stellar diet, and an impeccable lifestyle, Jack LaLanne had died. “SEE?!?!?!,” he asked (more caps, more punctuation, now bolded) . “Lot of good all that working out and carrot and beat <sic>juice did for him.” He ended his ramble emulating one of the deepest thinkers of our time, Sarah Palin, by writing, “How are you feeling about that whole hope and Tri thing now?”
I read his note twice, not sure whether I was more dumbfounded by what he said, or why he had actually sent it. I resisted a slew of tempting replies, most of which consisted of a single word, and others that took swipes at his general stature (wider than tall) with a comment like, “If you’re not Happy, which one are you?”
I started to type that my whole Tri thing was just fine, when I suddenly found myself hovering over the keyboard thinking about my recent litany of lethargy and excuses. I have a family. I’ve started a new business, and I find myself waking up occasionally on the ceiling late at night, screaming, which startles my wife and makes the dog bark. I could use more sleep, and I have a dozen projects stampeding along side by side. I don’t have the time, and where will it get me anyway? After age 50, no matter how long you train, it takes only 22 hours of inactivity to atrophy, gain 12 pounds, and assume the general shape and tone of a bean bag.
And on top of everything else, everybody dies. Which is the point, actually.
Yes, everyone dies. But Jack and my “Tri thing” have nothing to do with living forever, especially since during so many of the workouts you feel you may die at any second. On the other hand, it has everything to do with living. It’s about not looking or feeling like you’re 96, when you’re 50 (note to Grumpy – see mirror). It’s about pushing past limits, caring for yourself, and stepping outside of your regular grind (not a Starbucks reference). It’s about dropping “I can’t” from your internal lexicon, and despite the occasional sprain, pothole induced intimacy with your bike seat, or the rare face plant into a jellyfish, it’s about feeling absolutely amazing. You drop weight, sleep better, gain perspective and focus, and evolve new degrees of confidence, calm, and discipline that seep into just about every other part of your life. You tune in.
It’s fun. The camaraderie is amazing, and the endorphin rush is to die for. So to speak.
There’s nothing easy about it; it’s a bit daunting, and only the right mix of commitment and discipline will bring success. But there is no more effective elixir in my life to accentuate the living, which is the point the dim reaper was so busy missing with his Chicken Little headline of “Everybody Dies.”
Lethargy. Excuses. What was I thinking? The next thing you know, I would be considering the water aerobics class an actual form of exercise. I slid the training handout back in front of me, put on my damn (#%$!@#*) reading glasses, took a breath, and set a course for 2011.
I’m all in.