For the last few years I’ve promised myself from time to time that I would begin the process of getting back into shape.
I ruled out running, an activity I performed for about 10 years back in my mid-30s with alternating feelings of elation and—more often—intense drudgery. Three decades past my running prime I fear the drudgery would overwhelm any sense of elation and would render me, if not prone on the sidewalk, a quivering mass of puffing flesh by the time I could get back home. I now have bad knees, a balky Achilles tendon and more pounds to carry around.
I swam for a time, got up to a one-mile swim once but usually managed a half-mile, which left me pleasantly tired for the rest of the day but apt to nap if left alone. And I think the chlorine gave me split ends.
I’ve tried a stationary bike. The problem with a stationary bike is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Riding a bicycle that doesn’t roll is about as boring as walking on a treadmill—tried that, too.
I have, on several occasions, tried walking—also boring. I’ve seen my neighborhood. It’s interesting for a few minutes. It’s a very nice neighborhood, but one is unlikely to encounter interesting wildlife or unique vegetative specimens.
But now I’m motivated. It’s not that I have to buy bigger jeans every time I wear the old ones out. And it’s not that my favorite tee shirts are a bit snug. And my doctor’s suggestion that a little exercise would be good for me provides little incentive.
It’s serious. My sedentary life is beginning to affect my fishing, as I discovered last week when I was seeking trout in Arizona with my good friend Ted. We had walked down a set of rustic steps—about 50, I’d guess—and then meandered over a span of boulders about the size of big watermelons, to get to the stream—a clear, cold creek with ripples, runs and currents that promised to hold trout. It held them very well—did not let them go easily.
We had a few hits; I had a nice brown on for a few seconds and Ted says he landed one, but I was not there to witness it. We moved downstream, over more rocks the size of hay bales, and through brambles and brush. We had no luck, so I started back. I was getting a bit thirsty and was beginning to breathe heavily.
I worked my way back through the jungle that had grown up since I had passed a few minutes before, and crawled over boulders as big as Volkswagens until I reached the steps—457 of them—that separated me from the car. One step at a time, stop and rest, another step, stop and rest. By the time I reached the last of those 1,262 steps I could hardly breathe. I shucked off my fishing vest, ripped off my jacket, opened the car and plopped into the seat. I felt around for a water bottle left from the day before and finally found one that was half full. The spout had lipstick on it—didn’t care. I thought, briefly, that I should save some for Ted. My Christian charity disappeared almost as fast as the half-bottle of tepid water.
I decided I was not having a heart attack. My legs eventually stopped quivering and my breathing got back to normal. For the rest of the trip, we sought flatter places to fish.