One of my jokes over the years has been, "Sure I'm in shape. Round is a shape." Well, it's a joke that's not so darn funny anymore. I've been carrying a few too many pounds for a few years now, but before it was manageable. I kind of put it on in my late 20s when my metabolism started slowing down, and then I was able to kind of halt the gain for a while and stay at a steady weight, not really losing but at least not getting any bigger.
That was until last year when I started going over the road. Long haul driving is not the healthiest lifestyle and I was blindsided. It's easy to fall into a destructive pattern, especially when you find yourself pulling all night drives after being up all day. It's midnight and you stop for fuel. You have a 6:00 am delivery time and you're 375 miles away. You do the math and there's no time for a nap. What will do the trick? You can't be late with the load and you're already getting tired. So you start the pump filling the tank and go inside to empty your tank. On the way out you grab a Mountain Dew and something either sweet or salty. It doesn't matter, as long as it will keep you going for a couple hundred miles when you'll have to go to the bathroom from drinking the Mountain Dew and you'll only replenish that with something else caffeinated.
So you're munching and sipping and the miles are ticking away, but the only thing running hard is the engine. You're just sitting there with the cruise control on, your hands on the wheel, and your eyes on the road, and occasionally on the GPS screen where it seems the remaining miles aren't decreasing fast enough. You justify what you're munching and sipping because the thought of nodding off scares you. You get to the delivery with 15 minutes to spare and congratulate yourself on another successful run, another satisfied customer, and another good payday.
Then it's off the the truck stop, or Wal-Mart parking lot, whichever you can find first. Paperwork has to be faxed and then you hit the sleeper bunk for some much needed sleep. Your body is saying, "Hey idiot, what about all that junk you just put in me?", but you're too tired to do anything about that. You need your rest. A few hours later you wake up, well rested and ready for another day. You grab a quick shower, a bite to eat, and then you start looking for loads. You find another load and the cycle starts again.
You don't notice the change, but when you get a load home your wife says, "You're putting on weight." You brush it off because you're still wearing the same clothes, but then when it comes time to put on nice things on Sunday, you start realizing that your choices in the closet are somewhat limited. You change the subject quickly because you don't want to hear her harping on it, but in the back of your mind you know she's right. But when you get back on the road, you forget all about that because nobody is watching you. No accountability is a dangerous thing.
So you find yourself justifying it because you got back from the doctor and your blood pressure is still find and your cholesterol is still ok. If those things are fine, what's the harm in a few extra pounds? Then you take your canoe out and you're practically winded by the time you get it in the water. You only paddle about half the distance you used to and loading it back into the van for the trip back home wears you out. You try to say that maybe you just didn't get enough sleep the night before, but then the next day your take your bike to the park and those hills that were child's play a couple years ago are now kicking your butt. One lap around the path, take a break, another lap, another break. Where is the stamina that used to be there? You used to enjoy riding your bike, now it's hard work. You're driving back home and you hear that voice in the back of your head telling you that your wife is right. Those extra pounds are getting to be a problem.
So that's where I am now. I got home from Texas a couple weeks ago and I've been doing a lot of short runs: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indy, etc. I've been home a lot and I decided I needed to do something. The problem is that something should have been done years ago when it would have been easier. I live close to Winton Woods and I used to be able to do so many laps around that bike path around the lake and now after a couple I'm wiped out. I'm back on the road now and I brought the bike with me so I could use it in my spare time. Just a short ride here in Atlanta wore me out again. I'm just a little over two months away from my 40th birthday (yeah, still a young pup compared to some around here) and the metabolism isn't getting any better. I know I need to get more exercise to increase it, and I need to watch what I'm putting into my body. I guess I'm going through what a lot of people go through at this age, having to make the changes necessary to keep from blowing up like a balloon.
So where do I go from here? I know that the exercise has to be done, as frustrating as it is when my stamina isn't so good. I also know that the stamina will improve if I get rid of some of the pounds. But it can be so darned easy to get lazy out here on the road, and you all know the kind of food that surrounds you in truck stops. So I sit here typing this and at the moment the will power is pretty strong. I'm drinking water and eating cucumbers. I like raw cucumbers, but they make me pee like a racehorse and that's not the best thing when you're on a run and trying to make good time. At the time I can sit here making my plans for the day ahead. Find a church in the morning and then go back to that park and get back on that bike for a bit more. Then I think that maybe I'll walk some after I ride.
It's easy right now to make those plans, but when the time comes, I need to follow through with it, and I need to follow through on a consistent basis. I don't know what good telling you all this story will do, except maybe I'm not the only one struggling with this and someone else will see in me something of a kindred spirit. Maybe this will serve to not only encourage me but someone else who also needs to do what I need to do. Maybe it has something to do with confession being the first step toward accountability, but I don't really know. I'm not a psychologist. I just know that I have to do something now, something that should have been done long ago. If this wakes someone else up as well, then that's a good thing.
And if you're young and you can eat anything you want without consequence, you might want to rethink that a bit. You might want to start making those healthy changes now while it's easier. Those foods that you burn off now aren't so easy to burn off when you get older, and the sooner you wean yourself off of them, the better. But by all means don't wait until you're pushing 40 and already overweight to decide that it's time to start taking your health seriously. By that time, it's a lot harder than you think.