Wednesday, June 30, 2010


For as long as I can remember I've been active. I still remember my Dad taking me to the park and pushing me on the swing set. Hell, I remember learning to tie my own shoes plopped down in a dandelion field somewhere and giggling nervous laughter when I actually figured out how to do it. The point is, since I was little I have always made a concentrated effort to be outdoorsy and physically active. Mind you, not all of my endeavors (little league baseball) proved to be things that made me - or anyone else watching - proud, but regardless of the fact, I was still out and still doing something. Not only did I learn how to keep an aluminum bench toasty and warm, but I can eat sunflower seeds faster than most anyone I come across.

Yeah, I was pretty much the 'Smalls' of my baseball team(s), for about 8 years.

When I finally realized I wasn't going to be the next Ozzie Smith, my Dad told me I was going to have to do something, and that I wasn't going to be allowed to "sit around and do nothing." Being a rebellious, slightly dumpy 12 year old, however, didn't give me many choices. I had tried soccer and finished playing sometime before I was 10 (I think), and aside from baseball there weren't many other sports I even knew of. I mean, curling hadn't even made it big in the States yet, so I figured I was shit out of luck. Then one fateful day my Dad told me I needed to start going to wrestling practices at the high school, since that is where he was going to pick my brother up from anyway, and figured he could save a little gas on his commute, and maybe convince me to do something active again. I now know he was heavily leaning toward the latter.

For the better part of my life since then, I have attacked any sort of physical challenge placed in front of me with a bit of an obsession. Anyone who know a wrestler, knows they are a little crazy when it comes to working out and mental toughness.

No, not that kind of wrestler. Although the late 80s-early 90s wrestlers were definitely "crazy" - to say the least. I'm talking about real wrestling. The original Olympic sport, type wrestling.

Wrestling is by far the most physically/mentally demanding sport on the planet. I can't remember how many times I saw a 'tough' football player come out to a couple of practices and quit not even a week later. It's not for everyone. As Jimmy Dugan said in A League of Their Own, "it's the hard that makes it great." But the mental toughness, the discipline required, and a little bit of the crazy needed for wrestling is what has helped keep me athletic and physically fit my whole life.

At a time when many of us are getting our careers started, families started, or just moving back in with our parents post-college, it becomes much more difficult to keep a schedule of physical activity that not only keeps us looking good, but also keeps us healthy and feeling good. For some of the blessed few out there who have metabolisms like spider-monkeys on meth, they are lucky enough that they can get by eating whatever they want and working out on the rare occasion they get chased by a rabid dog. For the rest of us however, as we get older our metabolisms start to slow and we really need to take care of ourselves.

Sitting at the eye-doctor yesterday I stumbled upon a Q&A with Jillian Michaels in Newsweek, (she being the trainer from The Biggest Loser television show). One of the questions that I found particularly interesting was when somebody asked her, "Is obesity about emotional trauma, bad genes, or poor habits?" Her response was pretty much in line with my rationalization of the issue.

"You can be predisposed genetically, but it's not a sentence. I'm genetically predisposed but I manage my weight. The root of obesity, though, is usually emotional. The poor habits are a symptom of a deeper emotional issue."

Pretty interesting right? How many of us have broken up with our significant other, lost our job, been late on a payment, had crying kids, etc., etc., and the first we did was reach for a tub of ice cream instead of going to work it out? Not only is the exercise good for your body physically, but it also raises endorphins (same things that make sex so awesome) which are good for your body emotionally.

I'm not saying that I don't occasionally skip the gym and veg out on the couch. Everyone needs a little bit of that in their lives. However, I choose not to make it a habit. I choose to get out and do something. It is funny how often I hear twenty-somethings tell me they don't have time to go to the gym, or workout, or go on a run. Yet, they have plenty of time to watch multiple hours of TV in a day or spend countless hours stalking people on Facebook. I think one of my favorite artists/social commentators, Paul Madonna, put it best:

So the next time your pants are a little too tight or you don't have any energy, don't blame anyone or anything else. Stop making excuses and put in the work. I'll see you out there.

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