Coming to the conclusion that it’s time to get fit is not easy. Most people who face the decision know it’s a pretty big commitment. Whether you commit to cycling, running, swimming or shedding the extra pounds in the gym, you know it’s going to take some cash and time. It’s going to hurt and it most certainly won’t be fun… Then there’s the diet! Oh, dear God, it’s going to be salads and veggies and no more bacon! So we make the decision to keep getting fatter because once thought through, we simply enjoy eating too much (and too much). I was at this crossroads, many years ago.
Fortunately at that time I had one really great asset working for me: I was (and remain today) a recovering drunk. I’ve been recovering for half of my life: 21-1/2 years sober, 43 years old.
Now, I couldn’t blame anyone for looking at those years, doing some quick math to figure out I quit some time between my 21st and 23rd birthday. Let me make it easy, four months after my 22nd. Knowing that, you might believe that I didn’t drink enough to know, couldn’t drink enough in that short time to know I was a drunk to begin with. Or, you correctly assume (it won’t make you or me an ass in this case, I assure you) that I drank so much in a short period of time that I had nowhere left to turn. So how could that be an asset? Recovery from alcoholism is a really cool thing. I had to put into it only what I put into drinking. So I was a two-fisted drinker, with the case in-between my legs – I gave drinking everything I had so that’s how, once the decision was made, I approached recovery.
Most people, when they’re faced with choosing whether to quit or not, dabble around the edges: “Well, I’ll read the book and work some steps but I’m not going to get a sponsor”. “I’ll work most of the steps but that fourth and fifth are for the birds, I’m not doing that”! “Well, I’ll go to meetings and I’ll quit drinking but I need my medical marijuana”. “Those sober people are nuts and talk like they’re part of a cult, I’ll just stop drinking on my own”. Folks, this is why only 3% of people who try actually make it five years or more without a drink. I didn’t just dabble around the edge, I didn’t make up little rules about what I would or would not do to stay sober… I found myself floating on a 2’x2′ raft in the middle of the lake so I stripped down to my boxers and jumped the fuck in the lake and swam to shore! I did it all, to the best of my ability, and it paid off. I have been enjoying the fruit of the decision for more than two decades now. I know freedom, happiness and a new peace.
When it came to getting physically active again (I went through a five year period where I became friends with the couch), when I found myself 45 pounds heavier than when I started my little couch experience, once I knew that I was in real trouble – immediately after making a decision to “just get fat” rather than get off the couch, I found myself on a 4×4 raft in the middle of a different lake. A little more room to move around on and in a different lake, but trying to sleep on that thing was no fun. Again, I jumped in the lake and got my butt to swimming.
Oh, there were choices: Do I go hippie and try a vegetarian diet (oh, hell no), do I run or ride a bike (run – I couldn’t afford a nice bike at the time and I had quite a few friends who ran), do I quit soda (no)… I suppose one could say that I didn’t really go all in because I didn’t go tree-huggin’ hippie vegetarian or give up soda right from the word go, but I didn’t think that I’d have to. I have skinny genes so I figured if I just added running three days a week, the weight would burn off. It did to a point but after a while I decided that four two-liter bottles of Coke in a week was probably making the whole weight loss thing a little more difficult so I broomed that. The vegetarian thing? I’d sooner stop eating altogether, that’ll never happen. Running? Well I haven’t given up on it completely but I’ve been at this sobriety thing long enough that I now make a decent enough living to thoroughly enjoy cycling so I don’t need running like I used to (and I enjoy cycling a lot more than I ever did running). The point is, when I started running, I got into it. I ran three or four days a week and didn’t stop until well after I was ready to replace it with cycling. It took a while to learn that the whole “gene” thing works a lot better when you’re 20 than 40.
All too often, I hear people dabble around the edges of the raft: Oh, it’ll hurt (of course it will but only until your body gets used to the activity, and eventually you’ll learn to love the pain and realize it actually hurts a lot less than the couch did). I have bad knees (so ride a bike or rollerblade). I don’t have the time (keep getting fatter, you’ll have the time when you’re recovering from your joint replacements, or worse, when you’re dead)…etc.
Do yourself a favor, get down to your boxers (and/or underpants and wonder bra), quit dipping your toes in the water, and jump in the freaking lake. The water’s cold at first but you’ll get used to it – and it’s really quite nice after a minute.