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January 4, 2008

Sympathy for the Slacker


“Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints –
As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer, ‘cause I’m in need of some restraint.”

- The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”

*
I don’t necessarily mind being a role model to someone – as long as he or she sees the bad along with the good. That was the intent of this week’s Monterey Herald column, co-written by my friend Mike.

As I indicated before, the column is generally targeted toward newbie runners, whose ranks tend to swell at this time of year. And – for reasons I’ll never fully understand – seeing my picture in the paper twice per month occasionally makes people think that I’m some kind of authority figure or role model in regards to training.

The problem, of course, is that I’m frequently guilty of some of the worst habits imaginable. I blow off workouts, spend way too much time watching TV - not to mention blogging - and can make a stack of cookies disappear faster than my favorite character on Sesame Street (who, in newly introduced “healthy habits” segments last year, has been seen eating vegetables so that he doesn’t set a bad example. Am I the only one who thinks that we’re needlessly sucking the joy out of being a kid nowadays? It’s not like Cookie Monster is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to childhood obesity. But that’s a whole separate post.).

To some extent, these are issues that all of us face on a regular basis. Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints, so too is every triathlete a slacker in certain ways, at certain times. And that’s the point of our column: you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be good more often than you’re bad.

***
Running Life 1/3/08 "Having a Bad Day"

Wait! Don’t tell us – you made a resolution to lose weight and get healthy this year. Now it’s less than one week into 2008 and you’re already struggling and having second thoughts.

Everybody sabotages their fitness plans from time to time – even your local running columnists. So we’re not going to beat you over the head this week about all the reasons you should be running.

Instead, we’re going to take you through a typical day, and show you just how many opportunities there are to screw things up. Remember the Daniel Powter song called “You Had a Bad Day”? Here’s a small sampling of the ways you can neglect your fitness plan during the course of 24 hours:

*
Last night, you ambitiously set your alarm 30 minutes early in order to exercise before your work day. But when the alarm goes off, the bed feels so warm and comfortable that you hit the snooze button to linger a bit longer. 10 minutes later, you do the same thing again. And later on, once more. So much for morning exercise.

As you shower, you tell yourself that you’ll compensate by hitting the gym at lunchtime, so you pack a duffel bag with workout clothes and figure you’re still right on track for fitness.

You’re running a bit behind, and you really aren’t too hungry, so you hurry out the door without eating breakfast. But you’re not fully alert yet, so you swing by Starbucks for a little pick-me-up. You received a gift card for Christmas, so it’s not like you’re spending real money.

You order a grande caramel macchiato and a big cranberry muffin. It’s fine, because you skipped breakfast – and now you’re at the top of your game.

Arriving at work, you park as close as possible to the building and take the elevator up to the 2nd floor. You stow your duffel bag and sit down at your computer and catch up on e-mail. 90 minutes later, your office neighbor comes by with some leftover Christmas cookies that his spouse made. (He’s getting rid of them because he resolved to eat healthier in 2008.)

You smell the cookies and realize how hungry you are. So you grab a few cookies, which is OK because they’re little ones, and because you didn’t eat breakfast. You eat one of them now, and put the others on your desk to save for the afternoon. 10 minutes later, those are gone as well.

At 11:30 your coworkers stop by to invite you out to lunch with them. You stare at your duffel bag for about 2 seconds before agreeing. It’s OK, because you might be able to quit work a bit early and go for a quick run before going home.

You go to your favorite restaurant and order a large meal, since you’re still catching up from breakfast. It’s OK to eat big though, because you’ve started a fitness program, and you’ll burn all those calories off soon enough.

During meetings and phone calls after lunch, you gradually feel your energy level wavering. At 3:00 it seems like a good time to visit your coworker who always keeps a bowl of Reese’s mini Peanut Butter cups at his desk. It’s OK, because those are your favorite candy.

You talk to him a bit and idly eat 3 minis, then decide to grab a couple more as you head back to your desk, which is OK, since they’re minis. You sit back down with renewed energy, a smile on your face, and a bit of chocolate on your cheek.

You finish the work day make it all the way to your car before you realize that you left the duffel bag in your office. At this point, it’s a total hassle to go back inside to get it, since you’d have to wait for the elevator, then say goodnight to everyone all over again. Besides, you figure that traffic is crazy, so you don’t really have any extra time to work out. It’s OK, because you’ll have three chances to exercise tomorrow.

On your way home, you call your family, and decide that it would be a lot easier to go out for pizza instead of cooking dinner tonight – so you meet them at the pizza parlor.

You have 3 pieces of pepperoni pizza, 2 pieces of garlic bread and a glass of red wine. It’s OK, because garlic and wine are good for your heart, and because you’re going to skip the spumoni dessert.

At home you spend two hours sitting on the couch, catching up on TV and reviewing the newspaper and magazine articles about exercise that you’ve been collecting.

As you climb into bed, you try to get a little loving from your spouse, but she complains that you smell like garlic. So you go into the kitchen and have a big bowl of ice cream. It’s OK, because ice cream is your comfort food – and besides, you’re going to set your alarm early tomorrow to start exercising.

*
So you had a bad day. These things happen to all of us. The trick is to make sure it doesn’t become a cycle that repeats itself day after day.

Bad days don’t become perfect ones overnight, and fitness doesn’t happen immediately. Changes are small, and gradual, and usually happen one at a time. But if you dedicate yourself to achieving them, you’ll gradually make big improvements over the course of the year.

We hope that your 2008 is filled with many more good days than bad ones.

14 comments:

Running Chick 1/4/08, 11:51 AM  

totally 100% right on target, donald.

i've done all of this before. you nailed it with "all the way to the car." i can't possible go back to the office once i've left for the day. not even for the ipod that i've left plugged in to my computer. i just call my office mate so he can store it for me until the next day. lol.

Annette 1/4/08, 12:08 PM  

How true it is. We can always think ourselves into or out of anything, can't we? Great article! (Good thing I already ran today or I might be feeling guilty.)

Did you make it out for your stormy run? ;)

21stCenturyMom 1/4/08, 2:51 PM  

Donald have you been spying on me?

I blame my daughter for making the chocolate chip cookies - or something.

Rainmaker 1/4/08, 7:25 PM  

Wait - You're not supposed to eat a big lunch and snacks all morning and afternoon? Hmm...I thought that came with the double-workouts. I'm feeling cheated!

:) Nice article.

Spokane Al 1/4/08, 8:05 PM  

I definitely prefer your Stones references to the previous Harry Potter ones.

Now, back to the ice cream.

Makita 1/4/08, 9:17 PM  

"They" are also trying to alter our image of Santa... have you seen this??

http://keepsantafat.com/dnn/

Great article! It's easy to talk ourselves out of working out even when we've already made the lifestyle change... so easy to fall off. :)

Backofpack 1/5/08, 4:27 PM  

Funny, but true. I am always laughing at the folk who cruise the parking lot at the Y for the closest spot. Thanks for sharing!

Darrell 1/6/08, 12:48 PM  

Does that really happen to people? (wink, wink)

I think its funny that you used the Foo Fighters song last post and had Cookie Monster in this post. Whenever I hear that Foo song I think of the Sesame Street ditty about "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong..."

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 1/6/08, 2:29 PM  

Hey Don,

Happy New Year!

I am behind on blog-reading, but I think you haven't been tagged yet on this round (let me know). If you haven't, I'm tagging you.(Click my link for the questions--I'm actually cheating since I haven't finished answering myself.)

But no working on this without working out first!

Mark

P.S., By the way, in case I haven't yet-- congrats on the well-deserved award-- some of the best (as well as prolific) blogging around.

Pete 1/6/08, 9:52 PM  

Well said. The games we play with ourselves are pretty funny.

Oh, just one little unimportant thing, but you might be interested: the line is, "as heads is tails, just call me Lucifer 'cause I'm in need of some restraint."

Fe-lady 1/7/08, 7:34 AM  

Great article!
Cookies...?
Ice-cream?
Sounds like a good day...but only if you got in your workout(s) first! :-)

olga 1/7/08, 12:17 PM  

Awesome story! Let it be a lesson-reminder for one of my resolution:)

robtherunner 1/7/08, 10:09 PM  

I hope for more good days than bad days as well. Maybe a 70 to 30 ratio. I think that's achievable. Great article!

Taryn 1/9/08, 5:08 PM  

That's it... I'm calling you out for plagiarizing my diary....

Here's to an awesome 2008!

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