I love to lift weights. I always have. At one time I had aspirations of competing in local amateur body-building contests. Yeah, I know, the tiny swim-suits, fake tans and oil. But years ago I had the physique for it. Back in my mid 30s I was about 4 months away from my first show and I blew a knee doing 300 pound hack squats. After the surgery, rehab, and the responsibilities of raising a small child, I didn’t really have the desire or the time to do that anymore.
I still like to lift weights though. Many of you know that my latest weight-lifting activities led to shoulder surgery. So, more rehab. I missed the whole fast-pitch softball season. My shoulder is still a little weak 4 months later, but it’s almost back to normal. But for now my weight lifting is taking a back seat to another endeavour. I am running a triathlon.
Wait. Not really. Let’s look at the back story.
My girlfriend Suzi is a competitive swimmer. She was on the state championship swim team when we were in high school together many years ago. Currently she swims with the Wisconsin Masters, and competes in a few local meets every year. She can swim thousands of yards without much effort. Me? I can’t swim 10 feet to save my soul. At least I couldn’t. For the past 8 months Suzi has been teaching me how to swim. I never learned as a kid. And, because I didn’t have much body fat growing up, and I had a lot of muscle at one time, I tended to sink instead of float. I am making slow progress, and am now able to swim about 500 – 600 yards in the time she can crank out a couple thousand.
This gets me to the triathlon. I’ve never been big on cardio. I quote Gimli (for those of you who know me, you know I’m not the tallest person around) – “I’m wasted on cross country – we dwarves (I’m not a dwarf, but the quote still fits) are natural sprinters. Very dangerous over short distances.” Anyway, the local YMCAs came up with a September challenge to help people get in shape – run a triathlon. During the month of September you need to run 26 miles, bike 110 miles, and swim 3 miles. Claiming temporary insanity, I signed up for it.
I started out by running/walking a mile a day. Walking I could handle, the running part was harder. Since I don’t have a working odometer on my bike, I use the Y’s stationary bikes. I figure they’re calibrated fairly accurately. I usually sit and crank out 5 miles at a time. The iPod helps pass the time for both. I’ve steadilly increased my distances, and now I am up to running 2 miles at a time and am about to add another 5 miles to the bike.
Swimming is a different matter. My shoulder still tends to give me problems, and I haven’t done very well with the swimming. I still have about 3500 yards to go. That’s a lot.
But I am pleased with my progess. So far this month I have run 18.5 miles, biked 40, and have swum for about 1500 yards out of the 5,280 that I need to do. I have never done that much cardio in one month ever. I don’t think I’ve ever done that much cardio in a whole year. I still have a week and a half left, with two weekends in there to crank out a few thousand yards in the pool. I know I can do it.
I used to have to drag myself to the gym to do any cardio. After a couple weeks I realized the goal of the challenge was not to test my endurance limits, but to get me in the habit of doing something active. I now go to the Y not because I have to, but because I want to.
Because of all of my new found activities, I am noticing that I have more energy in the afternoon (as opposed to wanting a 2:00 pm nap). My active heart rate is down, my resting heart rate is down, my blood pressure is down, and I am hoping my cholesterol is also lower. I’ve lost a few inches off of my gut (damn you, Spotted Cow, for contributing to the expanding waist line), and I feel really good.
After I finish the triathlon I have another goal: To travel to Fort Lauderdale next April and swim in the YMCA Nationals meet. Thankfully, as a Y member, I don’t need to qualify, but I want to be able to swim well enough to be competitive. I won’t win or set any records, but when the Nationals are over I will be able to say I went from not being able to swim to swimming in a national meet in just over a year.
After that – bring on the fast-pitch softball season.