When it comes to exercise, even those of us who struggle at making it a habit have our favorites. Some of us enjoy running or walking outside, others go mountain biking. Some play tennis or take aerobics classes. For me, it’s walking…and it’s the treadmill.
It wasn’t always this way. During a stretch in 2009 when I was unemployed, I was struggling with my beloved treadmill. It was in the guest room collecting dust, facing a blank white wall. Boring. Friends and family had all kinds of suggestions for me to try:
• Move a television in the room and watch tv while I walk
• Take a good book and read
• Move the treadmill to the living room so I didn’t feel so isolated
• Vary my exercise routine with some bike riding mixed in
Isn’t it funny how everyone you know is suddenly brimming with advice when you embark on a healthy eating or fitness goal? It’s amazing how many experts just spring up out of the ground like the critters in that “Whack a Mole” game. I recently read a quote by my other husband, Robert Downey Jr, that nicely sums up what to do in the face of unsolicited advice:
Well, I didn’t listen to dear Robert and I tried everyone’s suggestions. Sort of. We didn’t have the money for a second television for the guest room. I tried reading, but I would get so absorbed in the story that I would actually forget to breathe. When it comes to reading, I discovered that I don’t like to multi-task.
After much agonizing, I had the Hot Mess Hubby drag the treadmill into the living room. This went against every fiber of my being. For years, I have dangled a very financially unrealistic goal over my head: to have a home so tastefully and fabulously decorated that it looks like it came right from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog. Obviously, a treadmill is completely out of place in this scenario – unless Pottery Barn comes out with the Rustic Treadclimber 2000 with a realistic tree bark frame, canvas slip covered belt, and whimsical votive candle holders to match.
Nevertheless, I had the hubs drag the treadmill out into the living room and put it in a corner so I could watch tv while I walked. Hated it in 3 minutes. That’s when I realized: I don’t want to have to pay attention to anything else when I’m walking. I want to zone out while I’m walking. After only a few days, I knew it had to be moved again.
I was unemployed at the time and my schedule was pretty clear every day – so I decided to try something new. I would get up at the crack of dawn and go walking on the trail that runs right through my neighborhood. It’s a good 22 miles or so of paved path that goes right through the woods, linking neighborhoods together and creating quite a beautiful place to run, walk, or bike. I loved walking outside, in spite of the fact that the Texas summer was fast approaching. It was so peaceful to be out there with the trees and the birds…and the squirrels. Beautiful. There was only one problem…
I am a city girl from southern California. I was not raised in rural Texas like the Hot Mess Hubby. Add in my intense fear of anything creepy crawly and we’ve got ourselves a bit of a problem.
As I was walking down the path one day, I approached a foot bridge over a creek when I saw it on the path ahead: a bug. Not a mere ladybug or grasshopper, the latter of which would have been enough to send me into a screaming frenzy. No, nothing like that. This was a cicada – and it was bigger than my first car. (Bugs 101: it’s pronounced si-KAY-duh. Like Al Qaeda, but for bugs. Probably not a coincidence either. I like them both about the same.)
I stood on the path and watched as it crawled down into a hole in the cement, which it probably chewed itself. It was certainly big enough to chew cement. I shudder just thinking about it, even now. I scurried around it very quickly. Just as I was congratulating myself for being so brave (brave = not peeing my pants), I ran into his older sibling about 300 feet up the path. It sat in the middle of the trail, fluttering its wings at me as if to say “Bring it, bitch!” As it took flight, so did I…back up the path towards home. Screw this! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him fly off in the direction of the dog park…probably on his way to grab a terrier or two for lunch.
I decided to try the path in the other direction. I walked very quietly by the cicada hole in the cement, lest I wake him from his creepy nap and send him buzzing at me. Once clear of “danger”, I set off in the other direction and tried to shake off the creepy crawly feeling.
I focused on the big, bright blue, beautiful Texas sky and the gorgeous green grass & woods. I was instantly glad I’d decided to be “brave” (retreat and go the other way). I was determined to make this a good walk. Two bunnies were eating grass in a clearing in the woods. Adorable. A squirrel scampered up a nearby tree. It was almost as if I was a Disney princess, dancing my way through the woods to a merry tune without a care in the world.
As I approached a bend in the trail, I saw something on the edge of the path ahead. Another bunny? A raccoon, perhaps? What else could possibly be on this trail on this absolutely perfect day?
I could see its head sticking out from a hole under the path ahead. What was it, though? I stopped in my tracks. As if on que, a big, black 3 ½ foot long freaky deaky snake shot out and slithered into the woods. That sucker was fast. Not as fast as me.
Even though he didn’t slither in my direction, I screamed bloody murder and RAN back up the path. I screamed and I ran, I ran and I screamed…until I got back to the trail entrance. I stood on the sidewalk in my neighborhood, doing that wiggly ninja dance we all do when we walk through a spider web or see something incredibly creepy. To add insult to mental injury, a cute guy on a bike whizzed by just as I was checking to see if I actually did piss my pants. (I didn’t.)
I did the walk of shame back to my house. Actually, it was more like the waddle of shame. Never run with an extra 200 pounds of weight hanging off your body. My back, my butt, my knees…everything was suddenly hurting.
I look forward to walking the trail in the fall and winter, when the snakes and the 30 pound cicadas have gone back to hell – or wherever it is they come from. The trail is beautiful no matter what time of year it is, although it’s unbearable for this California girl in the hot Texas summer.
The trail has taught me to appreciate my treadmill for the non-threatening, bug and snake-free zone that it is. And my treadmill will help me get down to a weight where I can go bike riding and rollerblading on the trail, which seems like much more fun to me than running away from bugs. At least I’ll have wheels and I can just zoom by the creepy crawlies when I see them, flipping them the bird as I whizz by their startled asses.
After a lot of eye rolling on his part, Hot Mess Hubby finally agreed to move the treadmill into our bedroom – where it sits happily next to Hemi’s cat tree. She keeps an eye on my form while I’m sweating like a pig. Occasionally she reaches up a tiny black paw and swats at me as if to say “Faster, Momma! You still got four butts chase’in you!” I don’t have the heart to tell her that her belly looks like she swallowed a large grapefruit. Chubby.
Most importantly, I can see the treadmill every day. It’s a huge, honking reminder that I need to get on it. It’s impossible to ignore and it’s no longer standing in the way of the Pottery Barn fantasy living room that I will never be able to afford.
In other news, it’s 4 days to my showdown with Mr. Scale. My goal is to hit 349 by the end of the month…which is Saturday. Hitting 349 has an extra little victory attached to it: I will officially be closer to 300 pounds than 400 pounds. Then I’ll be working my way down to the next set of tens: 339 pounds.
I think Mr. Scale is worried. As I stumbled in the bathroom to brush my teeth this morning, I swear I saw him shudder a little. He knows. I’m coming for him and he knows.
In the meantime, here’s hoping we all stay clear of exercise fail!