Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Take A Hike

Lately I've noticed that I'm overweight. As my friends have been noticing that same thing since 1977, I can only remain humble with respect to my learning curve.

Being overweight means imposing physical limits on oneself. That's a non-too-pleasant thought when your friends are active while you make a fence post look like a marathon runner. I guess it was with that in mind that I decided to become more active. I don't own any exercise equipment, unless the Israeli military hand-to-hand combat book on the top shelf of my book case counts. What I do have, however, is a willingness to replace the sensation of Crisco-filled legs with genuine, honest-to-goodness endorphins.

Recalling the stretching exercises learned in a physical fitness course taken while pursuing my degree, I've been stretching. If you want to see something entertaining, watch me struggle to make my head touch my knee. If you listen carefully, you can hear lungs moaning "Oh, no!" as I meander my tighter-than-a-diamond torso down, down, down to the left kneecap which is busy itself trying to remember who the president was the last time we explored this motion range. I decided to do something about my fitness after a friend mentioned that he occasionally hikes on the parkway. That struck a nostalgic cord with me; when I was nineteen (which was thirty-three years ago, give or take a president), some of my friends and I routinely walked steep, challenging trails not far from where I live. Call it a mid-life crisis if you want to. The idea of being outside, walking through the woods and getting fresh air suddenly seemed like the most important thing I could do.

Now, when I look down and see enough of a gut for the Cleveland Browns' entire middle line, my self esteem decreases as much as my worry increases. The fact that I could only run a mile if I were being chased by my student loan director meant that I had to address the aerobic issue.

It was with all of the aforementioned in mind that I scoured the parkway for a good beginner's trail. I was already feeling less guilty as I pulled into the parking lot. I felt rewarded in advance as I trekked over to the lookout area. Spanning below me was a magnificent valley view capped off by an entirely unobstructed view of Sharp Top Mountain. One is overwhelmingly compelled to take in such a vista. By now, I felt inspired to hit the trail like a Green Beret.

As it turns out, I hit the trail like a forty-pound-overweight, fifty-two year old man with bad knees and feet. Don't misunderstand. I feel great about my new-found love for hiking, even if it is the hiker's equivalent of a skier's bunny trail. Still, hiking up a fairly steep hill (built with slate steps) proved that I have a way to go in terms of endurance conditioning. It didn't help my self esteem when I came upon several cigarette butts at the top of that hill. The fact that the Marlboro Man can out-hike me is a serious blow to my already fragile male ego. Maybe they're putting vitamins in the filter tips these days. Actually, each time I hit the trail, so to speak, it gets a little easier. I hear stories about a trail called Dragon's Tooth. In my imagination, it's a trail which becomes a near-vertical ascent, narrowing to ten inches' worth of rocky ledge overlooking a mile-high drop ala Wile E. Coyote's cliff. One wends one's way past the dozen or so rattlesnakes, muggers, and high crosswinds in order to catch a beautiful view of some castle-laden valley.

Then again, in my imagination, I'm still nineteen and, seemingly, able to handle anything.

In reality, I can handle the surge of endorphins which I haven't felt in a long time.

Like when I was nineteen.


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