by C. Patrick Neagle
When I went out on a ship this last time (I teach college English classes on US Navy ships as a hobby), I found myself with a great deal of spare time. To occupy the hours, I decided to start exercising more. Also, I wanted to be irresistible to women when I got back to the States.
Television had taught me that to be the aforementioned irresistible stud muffin, I could start jogging, buy a Bowflex(tm), or be incredibly wealthy. I couldn’t afford a Bowflex(tm) or the shipping charges required to have one delivered to the middle of the Mediterranean; an inability that also precluded, obviously, the option of being incredibly wealthy. Instead, I took up jogging.
I’d tried jogging once before, years back. I made it around the block, thought I was going to have a heart attack; stroke; hallucination of giant, talking pandas; or all of the above, and so decided never to jog again.
As with most of my vows of that type, here I was, breaking it. It would join the vows of “I will never eat broccoli!”, and “I will never become a teacher!”, and “I will never work in food services!” Okay, I’ve managed to avoid that last one. So far.
Jogging on a ship sailing the high seas is an exercise in itself. Said sea is not usually flat; therefore, neither is the ship. One side might be tilted up on one rounding of the deck, then tilted waaaaay down on the next. Builds good ankle strength.
I got used to that, though, as well as being occasionally sprayed with seawater as wind kicked a wave up over the side of the ship. I also got used to dodging weird things scattered around the decking: buckets, rope, power tools, machine guns … that sort of thing.
At first, the jogging was painful. Six times around the ship was roughly a mile. I started at three miles, with two miles of walking scattered in. Okay, okay, possibly three miles of walking scattered in and two miles of actual jogging. Even so, my legs hurt, my back hurt, my arms hurt, my legs hurt, my feet hurt, my legs really, really hurt. Still, not bad for a guy in his fort … er … early thirties. Especially one who had never jogged before.
By the time I left the ship, I was jogging four-and-a-half miles a day, three or four days a week. I looked forward to it, even. But though the pain everywhere else had worked out, it was still hard on my knees.
People always say that: “Jogging is hard on your knees.” What they don’t say is that “hard on your knees” means that said knees will feel like tapioca spooned into a boiling cauldron before being dumped out into a seething brine of piranha, all while each individual tapioca bead is connected to your brain via a network of nerve endings constantly being diced by some chef or another from the Food Network.
This awareness-opening pain gave me an excuse to cut back on the jogging when I returned home. Also, I started dating (Hey! It worked!). Also, it was hot. Also, I was whiny. Four times a week became three. Three became two. Then two jumped straight to lying on the couch watching re-runs of “Ghost Hunters.”
Strangely, I could feel the lack. I’d had a lot more energy when I was jogging. I did more, even wrote more. I didn’t feel the need to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. I ate better. I drank more water. Life was gooder on the drug of jogging. Yet I just couldn’t bring myself to go outside, stretch, and just … um … do it (Sorry, Nike, I wear New Balance shoes).
Then one day I said, “Darn it, self, I’m going to go out and jog.” So I did. Right after I helped a friend of mine move something, waited for the rain to quit, hung out on Facebook for a few hours, made lunch, brushed the furballs out of the cat, read a chapter in my book, wrote some e-mails, took out the trash, lay on the couch wondering about the pain tolerance of tapioca, and did the laundry. After all of that, and after fighting off the urge to just take a nap instead, I put on my New Balances, went outside, stretched, and took off down the sidewalk.
I’m not to where I was. I’m only jogging three-and-a-half miles a day, once or twice a week. Toward the end of a day’s jog, I notice that my gait is more like a shambling lumbering rather than a gazelle’s prancing. Also, I notice that I’m being outpaced by anorexic sorority girls hurrying to class while carrying armloads of books. Still, I feel the energy coming back. I almost look forward to going out for a jog.
In any case, it’s better than working in food services.
The author would like to note that he has nothing against those who work in the food services industry and that if they see him dining at their place of business, they shouldn’t do anything too horrible to his food as a result of this column. He just doesn’t want to work there himself.