I've lost it

Once upon a time, I had it. “It” being my state of fitness. Back in early 2003, my friend Arthur put me on an exercise and diet regimen. Over the course of a few months, I shed something like 30 pounds of flab, and gained at least 10 in muscle. (I surmise that by the slimness, combined with only a 20 lb difference on the scale.) Back then, I was in the best fitness I’d been in for years. Probably in my life.

So, here I am, a scant seven years later, probably at the opposite end of the scale. No, I haven’t ballooned out to slovenly proportions, but I’m definitely not where I was by the end of 2003. I’m far, far from it. How do I know this? Because I biked today, for the first time in (what Alex figures) is about three years.

All I gotta say is: Holy crap, I’m outta shape.

I have a whole whack of really lame excuses, most of which start with “I want to spend more time with my family”. That meant a need to get to and from work faster (therefore maximising my time at home), not going out for bike rides or runs, and generally not doing anything to avoid the pudginess forming around my middle. My former four-pack (never quite got the six) waned to a keg…

I honestly tried to make an effort in Costa Rica. But because of our general feel for the area, the heat during the day, Avalon Condominium’s outright lies about a fitness centre (they stopped construction about six months after we arrived, and may not complete for at least another year), and my general distaste (read: hatred) of running, I didn’t really get much further than our weekly walks to the market and back.

Which lead me to where I am now: spectacularly poor stamina, and highly weakened strength. I am not the man I used to be.

Now, I knew I wasn’t particularly well-off before today. Once the weather had moved away from the evil, nasty cold stuff (which I haven’t the equipment or interest to ride through), I hauled out the bike and checked to see if it was still rideable. About the only thing it needed was air in the tires. Finding my tire pump, I had little other excuse. So this morning, I set forth the mission: bike to and from work.

That’s when I realised my pump is actually crap, and couldn’t even inflate Rush Limbaugh (remember, he’s self-inflating). Having no backup, I had to walk 30 minutes to the nearest gas station to get my tires pumped up. Then I hit the road … and the bike paths, and the fields, and the roads, and an elevator at the other end.

Getting to work? Not too bad. Not as fast as I would have liked, but I also intentionally kept it light. Until today, I didn’t even know that there was a shower at the office (I hadn’t actually looked). I felt winded, but not so much that I felt things were in anyway amiss.

Then I went home.

From the office to the Bow Trail/Crowchild interchange, not too bad, but I had a hint that this wasn’t going to be as normal as I had thought. By the time I got to the trail that leads up the side of the bluff to the area I live, I already feared the worst. I geared down. Way down. To the first gear. I never use the first gear.

I chose the paved route over the switchback, thinking that the paved route might be a bit easier on my street tires. It’s also in two stages, giving a bit of a breather as you scoot up the 150-odd metre climb. The lower half rises maybe 15 metres before turning and going to the top of a 90-ish metre climb. Then down a block, turn to the right, and up the remaining 60 metres. Ish.

I think I made it up 50 metres before I stopped. I was so ashamed that I faked a leg cramp for the “benefit” of the mountain biker who tore past me going up like he was on flat ground. I stared down and tried not to think of how high I was still having to go, pedalling as steadily as I could.

I took my time going down the block, waiting for my heart rate to resettle a little. Then came Stage 2. I didn’t make it a third of the way before I finally dismounted and walked the rest. If I could have hung my head in shame without gagging on the heaving breathing, I would have. I had suspected I’d gone a little, but never dreamed I’d lost so much.

What this really means, though, is that I gotta get it back. And without a second car to drive to work and back, I have little other option. If nothing else, this sets a baseline from which I can work my way up to a level of fitness I’m comfortable with. And no, I won’t be posting pictures of my progress — I’m sure that me posting a “before” picture would somehow constitute an attack on the well-minded populous of the world and land me in … well, probably a bootcamp, which really wouldn’t be so bad.

In the meantime, though, it’s the pedal to the pavement, and a lot of wheezing. Hopefully, within a month or so, I might be at a point where I can look like I belong biking up a hill, rather than a wannabe.

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