Friday, June 21, 2013

Here Comes the T-Rex from the Rear

Don't you just love the whole atmosphere of a gym? Cardio, fitness, ambition blazing in the sweat-soaked faces of hard-core people bound and determined to burn at least 500 calories in the space of 20 minutes?
I like watching the joggers. Lithe, smooth, graceful. Kind of like gazelles. They push off from one foot, the opposing leg stretching forward in a smooth arc, landing in a light roll from the heel to the toe. Repeat as needed. 

I wish I looked like that when I run. A graceful doe bounding at the head of the pack.
I'm more like the T-Rex, lumbering along at the rear. Thud THUD, Thud THUD. Thud THUD. Clear the track! Ponderous heavyweight coming through!

I certainly don't resemble the majority of gym-enthusiasts who frequent the fitness facilities, muscle tone oozing from every pore of their bodies. “Tone” in my book runs more along the lines of a spot-on musical note. But that's beside the point.

The point is, I am bound and determined to succeed at health. 

But I don't eat salad every day. Protein smoothies do not constitute a major portion of my life. I even sneak a brownie into the closet now and then out of view of my kids' prying eyes and attack it like a starving animal.

However, in my slow, determined, lumbering way, I drag myself to the gym (or the track or the street, or to the front of the TV for an aerobics routine) and doggedly burn away those calories. 

When the mental fatigue hits (usually about a mile into my run), I think, I can't do this anymore. My feet plod slower and slower in front of me as I heft my weight from one foot to the other, to the first one, to the second one. Just. One. More. Lap. I. Can. Do. It. No. I. Can't.

Enter the good guy. The Encourager.

I like to call him that. He's a regular at the gym at which I often run. He's always there, pink cheeks glowing from exercise. He wanders around the weight machines, nodding to one person or another, always giving a word of encouragement. “Great job!” “Five more reps, you can do it!”

He usually comes out of the weight room about the same time I'm rounding the curve of the track to cross the mile-marker. My mind has shut down. All I can think of is taking the next step. And the next. And the next. My lungs are burning, oxygen is short, and I won't be able to sustain even that much effort very long.

Then the grin crosses his face like lightning, shooting a bolt of new energy into my tired muscles. “You're doing great!” he says. “Keep it up!”

And suddenly, I find I can do one more lap. Sure, why not? What's a little fatigue when it's all said and done anyway?

I've often watched the other people at the gym, most of them petite, fit and and obviously in better shape than I am. I wonder what they think of me, trotting around the track at a snail's pace, gasping for air like I've just swallowed a gallon of sea-water. I think to myself that I'm doing pretty well, with three young kids at home, a side-career as a writer vegetating in front of a computer, carving out a few extra minutes to get some cardio in. But that pep talk doesn't even cut it in the throes of fatigue.

What does cut it is that one encouraging word. That extra smile that boosts me for another lap. The smile that says, “We're all in this together; it doesn't matter what your body build is or the amount of sweat you drop in a twenty minute period of time.”

So when you hear the tell-tale thunder of Jurassic Park behind you on the track, think about how that person may be watching you with a little admiration, even a little envy, and throw a smile their way.

We can't all be gazelles.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Human Agriculture

I went out to the garden this morning in the early hours (and by early, I mean, 9:30 a.m.). I took my hoe and my muscle power and my determination, and I pulled every single weed out of that rectangle of land. I squashed the grubs and shooed away flies and applauded the ladybugs and earthworms, and I caked layers of dirt under my nails that will take days to clean out. I turned over dirt and threw rocks into the rock pile and weeds into the compost pile. Those suckers didn't stand a chance.

I had a grand ol' time.

On what seems like a completely unrelated note (but really isn't, so stick with me), my oldest daughter will attend Kindergarten next year at the public school just up the road from us. She spent the last year at a private Christian school in our area, and we absolutely loved it. The teacher was amazing, and my daughter would come back every day that she went with more things she learned. We would have really loved to keep her in that school, but of course, expense was the major issue.

The last day of preschool, my husband and I attended the preschool award ceremony. The school principal gave a short speech, where he said he was excited to see the ones that would return next year, and the ones that didn't, his prayer was that they would bloom where they were planted.

See? I'm actually going somewhere with this.

Back to the garden. My little plants growing in that patch of dirt are doing remarkably well. The corn looks great, the tomatoes are just getting ready to blossom, the beans look healthy, we just had a lovely lettuce salad last night from the garden, and my cukes are spreading nicely. But I've put a lot of back-breaking work into that tiny little plot of land. I've hoed it and pulled weeds, I've watered it meticulously when the rain has been slow in coming. If I see the pests trying to take control, I make my own natural bug-repellent and declare open warfare on the little creatures. As a result, my plants are loved, nurtured and healthy. The day I stop taking care of my little garden is the day my little plants will get choked out by weeds, dried up in the sun, or eaten up by pests.

My little girl is going to a school in the fall about which I've admittedly been nervous. But her soil has been tenderly raked. Undesirable characteristics have been carefully plucked. Detrimental outside influences have been chased away. A daily watering of love and nurture has been poured over her. There is no conceivable reason why she will not bloom where she has been planted, as long as we continue the process of careful human agriculture.