Recently a friend asked me to participate in a charity 5K race.
“You like to exercise,” she said.
False. I do exercise, regularly, but I do not like to exercise. At least not as much as I like, say, remaining inert. Or wine. Or some combination thereof.
I like the benefits of exercise: being able to fit into my clothing, maintaining physical health and mental well-being, setting a healthy example for my kids. Finding some use for the Wii other than “Skylanders.”
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Although exercise has its perks, it comes with its fair share of embarrassment.
When I was in ninth grade, I decided to join the track team. Slow runners inevitably end up in the longer-distance events, so I ran the 1,600-meter (that’s almost a mile) run, the 800-meter run and the 3,200-meter relay.
Whether it was nerves or being out of shape, I experienced, shall we say, motion sickness at almost every meet.
Problem was, there were not always adequate facilities for discreet regurgitation, or I was on another team’s turf and didn’t know my way around. So I was usually ill within at least partial view of others.
Then there was cross-country. When track didn’t prove to be punishing enough, I went out for the one sport in which you could get lost in the woods.
The embarrassing thing about cross-country was our fan base. It consisted of four parents, one vice principal and two senior boys who thought it was hilarious to videotape us struggling through the last quarter-mile.
Maybe I dislike exercise, but I dislike even more the documentation thereof, especially considering that our uniforms were 20 years old and two sizes too small.
In college, I tried inline roller-skating. I could already roller-skate, and the new fad seemed like a fun way to take it outdoors.
The first time I tried it, though, I was touring Austria. There were inline skates for rent by the Danube River. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of putting on the blades at the rental booth, which was uphill from the scenic, flat path along the river.
By the time I reached the path, I had built up enough speed to launch myself into the water. Instead, I dove headfirst onto the grass near some other tourists.
Fortunately, my German wasn’t good enough to understand their reaction, and those two boys with the video camera were stateside.
These days, I’m content to go for brisk walks around the neighborhood.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll add in the two-mile loop that skirts the lake nearby. One afternoon I headed that way and, when I rounded a blind corner, I was face-to-face with two sizable dogs.
I tried to make my body look big. If you’ve been exercising regularly for years to achieve the opposite effect, that’s kinda hard. So I stuck my arms out to the side and yelled “Go on!” in my best snarl.
When that didn’t work, I added the classic, “Get on outta hyuh!” I sincerely hoped no one was watching from one of the surrounding houses. Or filming.
One dog, the meanest-looking one, stood its ground while I backed away. The other must have appreciated my display of authority and decided to devote itself to me.
I spent the next half hour alternately jogging toward my house and turning to face my pursuer, yelling at it to go away. The damn thing followed me all the way home.
I couldn’t just leave it in the road, and I wasn’t about to return to the house where the other, mean-looking dog was lurking. So I shooed it into the back yard and called the number on the dog tag.
The owner answered right away, thank goodness. “Well, this is a little embarrassing,” I said. Exercise always is.
So I’m sorry that I will not be helping my friend and whatever charity she’s running for. I really don’t think they want the kind of embarrassment my exercising seems to attract.
They say charity begins at home. I think, from now on, I’ll exercise there, too.