Currently I’m on my spring cleanup campaign, which, unlike most people’s, doesn’t involve my house — it involves me. It’s my long-overdue and desperate attempt to get in shape.
In my old age I’ve become a winter wussie who jogs maybe once or twice a week. It’s enough to delude myself into thinking I’m staying in shape, while in reality I’m not.
So when the last of the snow has melted, I’m confronted by two harsh realities. One is a vast acreage of brown stuff (namely dog crap), no longer hidden by the white stuff. The other is my vast acreage of flab, no longer hidden by the plaid stuff (my oversized Pendletons).
Getting rid of dog crap is easy — provided anyone actually wants to do it. Getting rid of my flab, however, is darn near impossible — no matter how much I want to.
Not that I don’t try — I do. But due to my winter layoff and its resulting combination of decreased strength, flexibility and ambition, combined with increased weight, girth and self-loathing, it’s a real struggle.
Since jogging is my exercise of choice, my first steps to fitness are painful — both literally and figuratively. But I’ve developed three strategies to cope with that.
One is I look at pictures of me when I was in my prime, trying desperately to remember when running was fun. This stratagem meets with limited success. I know I once enjoyed running, but recalling it is as impossible as recalling when I found faculty meetings interesting or adolescents understandable.
Another thing I do is buy new running shoes. They serve two purposes. One is practical — they make running more comfortable. The other is magical — they’re a totem that I hope, by their powers alone, will put me in shape.
“Yeah, baby,” I say to myself, as I walk around my living room in my new shoes, giving a little hop here and a little skip there, “we’re gonna fly up and down the roads in these bad boys, aren’t we?”
Finally, I indulge in a process called “creative visualization.” I imagine myself a perfect runner — loping over the roads, effortlessly, almost weightlessly — and this is supposed to make me more relaxed and efficient. This theory is brilliant and foolproof. Unfortunately, the reality is neither. And the reality hits me as soon as I’ve started my run.
When I say “reality hits me,” it’s NOT a metaphor: It’s a pain that drills into my left knee every time my left foot strikes the road. It’s due to wear and tear on my ilial-tibial (I-T) band, which is a chunk of tissue somehow attached to my knee. The condition is chronic, but the good news is it’s not injurious, just painful. The bad news is it’s painful.
Thus, I no longer run, nor do I jog. Instead, I “stobble.” This is a portmanteau word describing what I now do — stumble and hobble.
New Age in my old age
And in the middle of stobbling around Moody Pond a couple of weeks ago, I happened to meet my uber-New Age friend, Ralphie Stardust. We exchanged greetings, and I decided to chat with him for a while (in the hopes of regaining my breath and some of my dignity).
“Like, you seem to be limping,” he said. “Got an injury?”
“Not really,” I said. “Just I-T band trouble.”
“The IT Band? They’re awesome! I saw ’em at Phreaque Phest in Colorado last summer. Blew my mind!”
It took me a little while to get through to him that the IT band (or at least my reference to it) was a body part, not a jam band.
“Ooooh, sounds like a mega-bummer,” he said. “You ever consider mineral therapy?”
“Mineral therapy?” I asked. “What’s that?”
“Oh, simple. It’s using crystals and such to heal illnesses. I think, like, for connective tissue you’d use malachite, since it’s got an esoteric number of 7, or 12 or something like that. Or maybe it’s tiger eye I’m thinking of. But one of ’em is a sure cure.”
He fingered his rainbow bag pendant and then went on.
“Yeah,” he said. “They’ll set up vibrations that’ll heal your injury. Plus, if you can focus and set up a resonance between your inner and outer Dopes? When that happens — Whew! You won’t be runnin’ … you’ll be flyin’!”
Then, since he was already late to his drum circle, he said goodbye and we went our separate ways.
I thought about what he’d said, and as spacey as Ralphie’s recommendation was, I figured, what did I have to lose?
That afternoon I hied down to Twin Crystal, the Riley brothers’ fabulous rock shop, conveniently located right in the center of My Home Town, and bought a chunk of tiger’s eye and a chunk of malachite.
I admit I was skeptical about all the mineral mumbo-jumbo, but I gave it an honest try. I carried my minerals everywhere, being sure they were in the pocket of my jogging shorts when I ran. I sent good vibes to my I-T band and concentrated on getting my inner and outer Dopes to resonate (whatever that might mean). And I kept running.
At first there was no difference — as I’d expected. But then, after only a week, something changed. OK, so I wasn’t flying down the road, but I wasn’t stobbling down it either. My stride was lengthening, and my pace was quickening. And while I didn’t bother checking my times, I sensed they were faster.
Ah, yes, due to the miracle of New Age wisdom, I was a new Dope — inside and out. And more than that, I was now a believer in All Things Esoteric, which, if properly tapped, could make me a man of infinite powers.
However, I did have one moment of doubt.
I was in the Post Office Pharmacy and was chatting with Jimmy, Ann-Marie Peer and Mrs. Bevilacqua when Mrs. B. said, “I passed by you the other day.”
“You did?” I said, taken aback, since I couldn’t remember seeing her anywhere outside the store in months.
“Yes,” she said. “I was driving home, and you were walking down the highway.”
“Wal—?” I started to blurt. Then I caught myself, and faked it a bit. “Why, um, yes,” I said, “I was walking down the highway.”
But of course, I wasn’t walking — I was running!
But Mrs. B. didn’t realize that.
At first I was confused. I mean, how could she — or anyone — mistake my running for walking?
And then it hit me: The poor dear — she obviously needs new eyeglasses.
But, gentleman that I am, I did not point it out to her.