Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

It's been a while since I have made a post. I have been as sick as the proverbial dog, and I just didn't have the energy to spend on anything beyond basic functions. Several of my friends had the same bug. It left me almost completely debilitated. Even when I began to get better, all I had to do was climb a flight of stairs and, as soon as I reached the top, I would have to stop for a spell of spastic coughing, followed by the production of things better left to the imagination.

Last Wednesday night I tried going out for a walk at the park, adn that worked well enough. So last night, Monday, I actually went back to the gym. I got in 4 miles on the treadmill, followed by a couple of hard rounds hitting the punching bag, and I felt good. For a change.

This brings me around, interestingly enough, to my real topic - marital conflict.

Every married couple has to fight about something. I think it's actually in the rulebook. It's not the same thing with every couple, but everyone has something. If you don't, either your spouse is actually a paid employee who puts up with you for the money, or one of you is the reincarnation of Mahatma Ghandi. For my wife and I, it's my desire to exercise. Or, perhaps more precisely, my desire to train.

And there is a difference.

On just about every other aspect of our lives, we use one of three models that pretty much works everything out for the best: compromise, delegation, or assumption of responsibility.

Compromise is easy to explain. On some things, we work it out and come to an agreement. Disciplining the kids. Meals. Extra curricular activities. Do we or don't we ride up to Canobie Lake Park this weekend.

Delegation is easy to explain, too. For some things, one of us is just better at it that the other, or cares more, or has more time to do it. I already wrote about how much better my wife is at monitoring the kids' health and wellness. On my side, I have an economics and mathematics background, so she told me that she would feel better if I handled our finances and investments.

And as far as Assumption of Responsibility goes, we have a rule in our house that has solved many an argument before it started: if you don't like the way I do it, feel free to do it yourself. Earlier tonight I was putting my 5 year old daughter to bed and telling her one of my famous "Blue Monkey" stories. These are loud, raucus tales involving a nerdy college student who spontaneously turns into a giant blue monkey in conditions of stress, and then proceeds to do all kinds of bizarre, socially unacceptable, and sometimes disgusting things. They are very entertaining to a 5 year old. My wife doesn't think they are the best thing before bed - they might get the kids too riled up. Maybe she's right, but she never says anything. If she asks me to put the kids to bed, she knows there will often be a "blue Monkey" story. If she doesn't want the story, then she puts them to bed herself. On my side, my wife doesn't always do things around the house the way I would do them, but I'll be darned if I am going to say anything about it. She has a lot to do, and if I don't like it, I am welcome to go do some of it myself - any time I want.

I love going to the gym and training hard. Before I got married, I used to run about 30 miles per week, plus martial arts, boxing, swimming, and weight lifting. I took enormous pride in what I could do physically - how strong I was, how fast I could run, how far I could run; how tough I was, both mentally and physically. Then I got married and, more importantly, had kids. Especially my five year old. I know you have heard of sympathy weight. Well, when my wife got pregnant, something flicked a switch in my head. After work, instead of going to the gym, I wanted to come home and cuddle with my wife, rub her tummy, and go out for ice cream.

And that's the insideous part. I wanted to do it. I was happy skipping my workouts and coming home.

I don't even like ice cream!

The diet and exercise industry in the US is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry. I can sum up the entire combined wisdom and efforts of this entire industry in on equation. Ready?

"Eat Less" + "Do More" = "Lose Weight"

See? Very simple. My problem was that this equation has an equal and opposite equation.

"Eat More" + "Do Less" = "Gain Weight"

I was eating all the regular meals I had always eaten, plus taking her out for ice cream sundaes all the time, and I went from about 1500 calories per day of caloric expenditure from exercise on average to 0. In the 9 months she was pregnant, I put on 90 pounds and 14 inches on my waist.

I'm not as heavy as that now, but I'm still fat. My wife just doesn't understand why I want to get back into "fighting" shape. She was never a big exerciser. The only reason she can rationally understand for why a person might want to run is if they were in a building that was on fire. She loves me just the way that I am, she just doesn't understand why I am unhappy. In a sense, she is right. It's one thing to just want to be healthier, it's quite another to want to be able to run a marathon - or step into the ring and fight for 6 rounds.

It's because of who I am. It's not that physical things came hard for me, but it's that anything intellectual was always so easy for me by comparison. I could give a 50% effort in school, and still be #1 - so I never valued my accomplishments there. I never took pride in them. But in sports, my talents were only a little better than average, so if I wanted to excel I had devote myself with a passion. When I boxed and kickboxed, I often fought somebody who was naturally stronger, faster, or more agile than I was. The only way that I could win was by trying harder, preparing better, working harder on technique, and having better conditioning. When I won, it meant something to me. I was proud of myself, and what I had accomplished.

Today, it's sad to say, I really lack any pride in myself, because when it comes to my physical self now, I am really very average. Mediocrity isn't cause for pride, it's cause for shame or embarrassment. It's very difficult to do anything about, because training takes time - time to run 8 miles instead of just 2, time to hit the puching bag, and the speed bag, and to spar, and jump rope, and lift weights. Time to do it 4 or 5 days per week, not 1 or 2. Time away from my wife and kids who love me, and need me, and have the right to have me around. And my wife just can't understand why I'm not that guy who was content to sit on the couch and eat ice cream with her while she was pregnant, any more than she can flap her arms and fly.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Very eloquent, and you explained it better here than you have to me at any other point :-).

And I still do miss going out for ice cream sundaes a couple times a week.