Tuesday, August 21, 2012

1, 2, 3, 4... Am I Really Up for a Lifetime of This?

That's the question I ask myself five or six times a week, every morning when I get out of bed at 5.30am and prepare to go running around Lumpini Park, or hit the gym downstairs. Then I express gratitude for the promise of a new day, even if it's going to include at least an hour of sweat and torture.

Then I repeat the question: Am I up for a lifetime of this? To be perfectly honest and just a tad glass half empty, I probably have less than half a lifetime to go, but will even another 30 or 40 years be three or four decades too much?

When I bought my first-ever gym membership in 1995 at New York Health & Racquet Club in New York City, I wasn't sure how long I would last. I was giving it one year (that was the minimum membership requirement), but who knew what the future past 12 months from then would hold? If it included further renewals, I was going to make age 45 my cut-off point. At 25, I didn't want to be one of those fortysomethings trying too hard to look half my age. If I lived to be that old, I would have earned the right to let myself go a little, right?

What did I know? When I was a kid, I always thought I'd be married with children by 25.

When I was 29, I was supposed to stop going to bars at 30!

At 37, when I moved to Buenos Aires, I never dreamed I'd turn 40 there.

Now that I'm two years away from my initial workout finish line and in far better shape than I was half a lifetime ago, I'm less likely than ever to stop when I hit my mid-40s. I feel like the millionaire who needs to make more millions every time he makes another one. (If I were that guy, could I hire someone to wake up and go running for me?) How long will it take fab to turn to flab? I swear I can feel that dreaded F-word moving in after one sedentary day!

Several years ago, when I was in my late 30s, I decided that I'd probably keep it up until 60, if I live that long. By then the only difference between fab and flab would be a little L. That's what I told myself, while wondering, Who wants to be lifting weights and running around town when they're approaching retirement age? Now sixtysomething is looking younger every day. Maybe 70?

The good news is that my motivation for rising early and repeating "no pain, no gain" is no longer purely physical and visual. I can honestly say that my favorite benefit of keeping fit is the mental one. It clears my head, keeps me sane, inspires me. I'd say that I write at least half of my blog posts and most of my freelance writing assignments in my head while I'm on the run.

But I'd be fooling myself, lying to us all, if I said that the visual benefit no longer means anything. If I couldn't see the results of my early morning runs and regular workouts whenever I stand naked in front of the mirror (and trust me, that doesn't happen too often), I'm pretty certain that I'd try to find some other way to clear my head and get inspiration.

Maybe parenthood or a full-time 9-to-5 office job (which I haven't had since the summer of 2006, before which my hours were more like 10 to 9) would change everything. I'm still up at 6 even on days when I don't workout, but I'm pretty sure it would be considerably harder to do if I had to change diapers, feed the baby or be in an office by 9am. I probably wouldn't have to go running to think of things to write about, though, and I'd have a lot more to worry about than how I look when I'm standing naked in front of the mirror, like whether pushing my kid around in a stroller while running around Lumpini Park is good for me but bad for him.

My Facebook friends insist that the baby would be just fine. Either I'm not completely convinced, or I'm just looking for ways to get out of going running.

This Week's Best Workout Song Ever!

"Destiny" (Photek Mix) Zero 7

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