Keep Chugging, You’ll Get There

I like to get out of the house every day and at least go for some kind of walk. At the old place it was a track behind the YMCA about 1/2 a mile away. It looped around some ball fields, and one figure-eight circuit was about a mile-and-a-half. Out where we live now, this summer I was walking around the track behind the Frenchtown Elementary school fairly regularly. I’d do two or three miles, then go jump in Frenchtown Pond. It wasn’t a particularly strenuous workout, but it was over an hour outdoors and it was exercise that I desperately needed.

The other night I didn’t have time to go anywhere, so I walked near the house. There is a road that connects us to the main road to our place that runs about 1/2 a mile. So down it and back is a mile. Depending on the time I have, I’ll do two or three. As I was finishing my last stretch, there was an old lady out on her porch. When I looked in her direction, she raised her fist in the air and shouted, “Way to go!” I smiled back at her, but was cringing on the inside.

Three cheers for the fat guy out trying to get in shape.

I’ve come to realize that my self image is tied very closely to my ability to do the things I most love to do: hiking, being active, doing stuff that has me on feet, usually huffing and puffing. But I kinda fell off the wagon at some point last year, I really can’t say when, it just happened. Not the alcohol wagon, as I’ve never been much of a drinker, but just anything resembling any kind of “healthy” lifestyle. It wasn’t a complete collapse, but it was bad enough. I slipped into a habit of eating shitty on the road, traveled a TON last year, and carried too many of those habits home with me without the amount of exercise I need to engage in to keep it at bay. And man, does it sneak up on you. 2011 was a good year, I got out a lot, regularly went on long hikes, etc. But 2012 . . . let’s just not talk anymore about 2012.

Had a couple injuries earlier in the year that hobbled me a bit, but I’ve worked through them. I’ve taken some longer hikes; six, eight, even ten miles at a pop over moderately difficult terrain doesn’t bother me, though I still get post-activity flares of aches and pains 100% resulting from carrying the extra weight. I did the Mount Si trail outside Seattle a couple weeks ago — four miles from trailhead to the top, with something like 3500′ of elevation gain, and back (and when you’re a lardass, the downhill is where the real punishment is) — and didn’t cripple myself. Bottom line is I’m getting there.

I’ve been going up the M here in Missoula whenever I get the chance, and man, does it challenge my ego. It’s only 600-odd feet of elevation gain over about a 3/4 mile or so of switchbacks, but it can be a haul. I’ve always felt it’s a pretty good barometer of fitness. At my best, I’ve done it in just under 15 minutes, bottom to top, but I’m not close to that at the moment. In fact lately, every time out there the friendly people of Missoula hit me where it hurts. Yesterday, a woman who had hiked up behind me, then ran back down past me on the descent was in the parking lot when I finished. As I passed her on my way to the car, she said, “Good job! Keep doing it!” As ridiculous as it is, I felt kind of insulted. Or at least my significant ego did. But I smiled and said, “I’ll do my best.”

Tonight I went again. About halfway up, a guy on the way down said, “Keep chugging, you’ll get there!” I wanted to snap, “Do you know how many fucking times I’ve been up here?!” but I didn’t. I smiled. Two switchbacks from the top, a young woman said, “You’re almost there!” I Smiled. At the top, some people sitting on the concrete surface of the M said, “Good job, you made it!” Smile.

I know there is absolutely no malice in these people. They are being encouraging, and their friendliness is one of the things I love about this town. But the guy I see in my head isn’t the one they see. They don’t see the guy who would not only buzz right up it at a quick pace, but would also do sprints training on the paths, which was the guy I was not so long ago. They just see some fat dude slowly putting one foot in front of the other, willing himself not to stop and rest. They aren’t seeing what I was, they are seeing what I’ve become, what I’ve done to myself.

I’m usually a little ashamed at my competitiveness, but not this time. I’m not competing with those people, or anyone else . . . I’m competing with myself. And I won’t be happy until I can get where I was, and beyond. I’ve always wanted to get to a point where I could run right up that fucker. And I’m going to get there.

View from the top via iPhone on a blustery day
View from the top via iPhone on a blustery day

Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He lives and travels from Missoula, MT.

8 thoughts on “Keep Chugging, You’ll Get There”

  1. I feel your pain. In the last two years, I’ve put on about 15 pounds, most of it due to stress eating (I do that way too much). I walk to and from work every day, about a 30-minute jaunt, and it is good exercise, rain or shine. There have been days when I’ll take a cab if I’m running late and I need to be there on time, but I always feel ashamed that I didn’t just crawl out of bed earlier / move faster.

    I’ve also got a long-suffering back injury, and I am *supposed* to do about 20 minutes of PT every morning. I know it makes a difference, I’ve experienced it making a difference, but making the time and effort to do it is like pulling teeth, every morning.

    What’s worse is, at 36, I know it just gets harder from here. Every year I’ll have to make more of an effort to keep myself in shape and so on, and every year the motivation to do so becomes more of a grind. I’ve read that Early Man had a life expectancy of only around his mid-30’s, and that our bodies are really only built to hold out to peak performance about that long before stuff begins to slowly wear out. This is not encouraging news…

    1. Yeah, the hill definitely gets steeper, but it isn’t insurmountable. I got myself into pretty damn good shape in my early 40s, and held it pretty well until recently. Knowing it’s possible certainly helps.

  2. You know, I feel this so hard. I have been slacking in the exercise department as well – but don’t beat yourself up about why you’re struggling to get back to where you were. Just be proud that you’re out there doing something to change. I definitely keep in the front of my mind that it only gets harder as we get older, so I better start doing more! I was on a running (jogging, honestly) kick for a while, but something like this appeals more to me lately.

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