Don’t Ask…. Just Do Not Ask

I have a friend, a lovely fellow whom I have known for almost twenty years, and the most common epitaph affixed to his name is, “The Runner.” Let’s call him, “Denton, the Runner.”

Not a jogger. This guy’s personal best mile was around 4:20, and that was before Nike was a gleam in anybody’s eye. When training for an ultra, Denton would log 100 mile weeks. He once won the JKF Fifty Miler (the oldest ultra in the country) and popped up to Boston and did the marathon in the next week. I know he’s won the JFK at least three times, possibly more.

 So—serious runner, yes?

I am the ultimate endomorph, a body at rest thrilled to remain at rest unless there’s a horse to be ridden or a book to be purchased. When I met Denton, I was jogging maybe 15 miles a week, hating every step. I’d do some strength training, but the whole business of sharing a sweaty weight room with sweaty men… nasty-gaa-gaa. (Though sweaty horses are just fine, of course.) Nevertheless, as somebody prone to chronic overweight, I was determined to exercise if it… killed me.

I recall one conversation where Denton, in all sincerity, asked me, “But don’t you feel better when you exercise?”

You know those images of the space shuttle taking off? All that exhaust pouring from the bottom as the thing incongruously lifts away from the earth, slowly, slowly, defying gravity by inches, then feet, then yards? That’s me, trying not to react to the idiocy, the lunacy, the sheer, unmitigated cluelessness of the poor man’s question.

Feel better? FEEL BETTER?!

Physically, I feel like crap much of the time, and after exercising, I feel like exhausted, stupid, betrayed crap. I’m prone to anemia, have thyroid disease, and suspect myself of a number of other energy-sucking conditions. I do not now and never have felt better for expending calories in the name of that elusive concept (probably a complete boondoggle) know as fitness, and I believe endorphins are something created by the sports industry’s  advertising weenies. When I informed my friend of this, he got quiet—he didn’t ask the question again—but there was a lingering scent of bewilderment in the air, and quite possibly, pity.

We are still quite cordial as long as nobody mentions the state of my fitness.

I was writing my fourth of fifth manuscript, barreling along at, say, 4:20 mile pace on some scene with Lord Fairly and his dear Letty Banks, when it occurred to me: If the phone rang now, I probably wouldn’t pick up. If the house were on fire, I’d take the computer out to the barn with me and finish this scene. If I had to pee… wait.

I did have to pee, badly, but by God, I was not going to let something as silly as biological imperatives interfere with my once-upon-a-time’ing.

In that state, I finally understood why my friend was so devoted to his running. That enraptured quality, enthralled, swept up, that was the “feel better” he was after when he headed for the gym and for him, running and working out reliably provided it.

My fitness is worse than ever (though I did join the gym Nora Roberts opened in Boonsboro, and I am hopeful—ever, ever hopeful), but my tolerance and understanding took a major leap forward that day.

Whatever makes you lose track of time, forget where you are, and not want to quit until you absolutely have to, that’s your Zone, and I hope you get to spend a lot of time in it. Good things happen there, good books, good runs, good insights–though I still don’t believe in endorphins. .

But tell me this: What is the question that has made your space shuttle lift off, steam come out your ears, and lectures worthy of your own mother come pouring out of your mouth?

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8 comments on “Don’t Ask…. Just Do Not Ask

  1. Oh my goodness, I’m so relieved I’m not alone in this! Exercise is the worst!

    I have three perfectly lovely children. The question that irks me more than any other, “When are you going to have more kids?” Usually people are joking, but I don’t think it’s very funny! 🙂

  2. My mother had seven lovely children, and at a time when Zero Population Growth was a popular topic. People would ask her how she could bring so many “extra” people into the world. Her response was that HER children were going to contribute to solutions rather than problems. I’m sure she wanted to say something else entirely…

  3. Being a girl, and being almost 5’11” is not always fun. I’ve had to deal with variations of “My, you’re tall!” “How did you get so tall?” “Why are you so tall?” (and those are the “tamer” ones, I won’t get into the downright insulting ones.) Although, I suppose I’ve mellowed somewhat over the years, comments or questions like that can occasionally still send the shuttle into orbit. Insensitive people. Yep, that does it for me.

  4. I hate exercise. Would much rather sit at home and read good books, Can;t see the fun in getting hot and sweaty or of muscles hurting. I do pilates once a week and that is enough. I am a staff nurse so am on my feet when working so that is my exercise

  5. Jayne! Wonderful to hear from you. I not only don’t enjoy getting hot and sweaty, I also don’t enjoy being in the testosterone miasma of most public gyms. Fortunately for me, Nora Roberts has opened up a little bitty gym in nearby Boonsboro and so far, I haven’t seen even one guy there, much less an article of the sweaty juvenile variety. There’s hope!

  6. I’m so happy I found this blog. Anyway, I do love to exercise (sort of). I like to run (slowly). I love my CrossFit box. I’ve missed them the last month that my back has been healing.
    But watching perfectly capable students waste their time (and mine) by being convinced they can’t do Algebra will make me go off an a tangent lecture in a heartbeat. There are many days I’d like to find elementary & middle school special education teachers and slap them for allowing students to use a learning disability as an excuse. Hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.

  7. Sabrina, I ended up in law school because I was “no good at math,” then found I had to use math all the time, and that lo, I may not be very accurate at crunching numbers, but my grasp of algebra has held up just fine. I even… ENJOY it (are you listening, Mr. Mosteller?!). I think in any field, the people who grasp it intuitively can be the ones who end up teaching it, and they are not the best resources for explaining what the rest of us have to grasp step-by-step. I would rather have somebody like you explain the CrossFit to me than somebody who’s training for a marathon.,,,

  8. Oh, I majored in History in college! Shhh, don’t tell, but I only took one math class in college (a little Math 101). I was so not into math growing up which is why I feel like I do a good job of teaching it to kids. I look for the easiest most common sense way to teach it.

    CrossFit is great because it is not a place where big, bulky boys stand around looking at themselves in mirrors (we don’t have mirrors but the trainers are always watching form). My box is small and often it is either just me or a handful of people doing the WOD. I can gush about CrossFit because everything is scaled to what I can safely do, it is something different every time I go in, and everyone is so encouraging of everyone else. You’re not trying to be better someone else; you are trying to better than you were yesterday.