Thursday, June 02, 2005

Of dreams and yo-yo diets

I've been trying to work myself back into shape recently. I know, I know, I should just accept that at 28 the best years of my life are behind me, and acquiesce to the inexorable decline of my athletic capacity. But alas, I find myself assualted on all sides by reminders of the glory days of my past sports career, and frankly, I want them back. You see, despite being now over 200 lbs, I was once a svelte collegiate distance runner pounding out 90 mile weeks on the roads and trails near Boulder, Colorado. Running was more than just an extracurricular pursuit for me, as I structured my days -- and my entire life, really -- around it. I dreamt of running, I daydreamed in class about running, and while I was out there running, I thought about all the running I would soon do. Such an obsession seems absurd to the non-runner, but many who have succumbed to running’s whiles will understand what I mean. Err… they would, rather, if I actually had a readership of greater than 10 people. Anyways…I managed at one point to become a pretty good collegiate runner, though injuries always plagued my training and confounded any attempts to place well in big races or secure admirable times. Ultimately injuries would cut my entire career short, relegating me to the weight room in a futile attempt to keep from becoming a complete and total morass of fatty flesh. As it turns out I became a morass of partly muscular, partly fatty flesh. But I proceeded to medical school and kept myself largely busy enough not to waste wistful hours dreaming of what might have been.

As I mentioned before, though, the reminders have haunted me of late. At first, I brought it upon myself by reading a book called Running With the Buffaloes, which details the glorious 1998 cross country season of my team – during my first year as a non-runner. What a surreal experience that was, to read a book about people with whom I had toiled for hours and hours, doing precisely the things I had done and feeling remarkably similarly about them as I had. At the turn of every page I thought that my name should materialize, and that I should come running into the tale in a blaze of the glory I never had. But the book ended, and I found myself dreaming the self-flagellating dream of What I Would Do Differently If I Could Go Back, Knowing What I Know Now. With that backdrop I have found myself constantly bombarded by images of running. Suddenly my little city in the heart of Missouri has become a running mecca, and everywhere I turn I see scantily clad people striding their way down sidewalks and through parks. To make matters worse, Nike just released a new commercial to molest my memory. It is a take-off on the famous beach running scene in Chariots of Fire, only instead of a bunch of British actors, the guys running by the surf are a bunch of the top distance runners in the country. Lo and behold, after recognizing Alan Webb and realizing that, indeed, Nike populated its running group with real life running superstars, I managed to discern the visage of Adam Goucher, on whose team I had once run. How strange, to see the same face bobbing along on a commercial that I used to see every day in practice!

Anyways, to cut to the chase (yeah right, in the midst of this ridiculously prolix post) I have lately begun trying to ramp up my own running. I keep thinking to myself that the injury that ended my collegiate running has surely healed, and indeed it seems not to bother me at all. In fact, my legs have felt pretty darn good on my mediocre diet of 2-3 miles of running a day (one must build up gradually in these sorts of things). However, a large problem remains: I am one HUGE man. My body has decided, for better or worse, that I weigh 208 lbs. First, I lost about 10 lbs without difficulty over the course of a month. Then, in about two weeks, all that weight slathered itself back upon my frame as I found myself utterly incapable of controlling my food intake. Then, I regained focus and plunged once more below 200lbs. But all of a sudden…WHAM, I’m eating everything in sight and once more attaining my 208 lb set point. Why is this so difficult?

Perhaps this whole running thing was not meant to be after all, and I should just stick to trying to learn brain surgery exclusively. Ahh, the best laid plans of mice and men.


At 12:23 AM, Blogger 60 Minute Dryer said...

Hey Ian,

I have been feeling this way lately as well -- that the best years of my life are behind me. I have come to the conclusion though that it isn't true. I say you can do it. Just get addicted to running again. As for the food intake, I figure it is like spending money. Just limit yourself to a certain amount of calories and make them count. If I know anything about you, I bet you'll figure out a way to make it a little competition with yourself to make sure that you don't overspend those calories. You should keep writing about your progress. I want numbers, like your mileage and your times as well as pounds lost. Just write the words "sub 17" all over your house (I don't know maybe you are already there). It can be like the scene in Being John Malkovich except all the Malkoviches will be saying "sub 17." Alright good luck.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger kingfelix said...

This post stirred me, too. I did not have any wonderful athletic career, but identify closely with two points in this post.

Firstly, the notion that your best days are behind you. There's something inside our modern view of the world that seems to say, "You attain your goals by age 30 or you never attain them." I have sat around thinking, "My hearing's going, my sight is going, moment by moment I'm decaying and my dreams have not materialised..."

I have come through this patch eventually. Losing an unsupportive girlfriend helped enormously, and I set off on a new tack, moving to Ireland, becoming enthused again. If i did have something as cliched as a mid-life crisis, it is now over and done with.

The second point concerns weight. My weight has been an indicator of my psychic wellbeing ever since school. Being bullied in adolescence seemed to saddle me with a dysfunctional relationship with my body and I found sanctuary in food. In a poor relationship that lasted 3 years, I ballooned to 215 pounds - i am 5'10, so that's a lot.

I found a way out of this situation while I was in Ireland, finally finding freedom for the first time (or finally finding how to appreciate freedom) and this proved the Ultimate Slimming Aid. the pounds flew off.

unfortunately, since december, the new US diet i have been exposed to has seen the weight return. but i am doing what you are doing and exercising 3 times a week, cycling and weight training, and the weight is coming off again, i am 185 and all the old clothes are fitting once again and i look more alive.

so the purpose of this long comment was just to offer my own little tale and to say, keep fighting the good fight to shed the pounds, and although, yes, your body may have passed its physical peak, your capacity to enjoy your body's performances may still have room to grow!

At 9:34 PM, Blogger L said...

after 30 is when you REALLY have to keep up, or everything goes to pot. I've been trying to job more frequently also, but it isn't fun anymore, I'm afraid...

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Mena -- Glad to see you have a blog now! I'll link to it, and I look forward to reading more. Thanks for your comments! I don't know about providing too much detail on my progress in this forum -- writing "20 minutes of easy running" seems rather shameful at times -- but I will try to provide a broad overview. As far as goals, I just want to start running regularly and then see how my body remodels. If it seems as though the old bones don't want to play the running game, I may never resume any racing; however, if I manage to shrink below 180, I'll probably shoot for running under 15 in a 5k as a long-term goal.

Pinhut -- Thank you for telling your tale! I think of Eliot's words, "I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker/ And I have seen the eternal footmen hold my coat, and snicker/ And in short, I was afraid." That's really the key, I think -- not being afraid of striving for the peak of one's expression long after the circumstances were presumably most conducive to it. Now to quote Beckett, "Perhaps my best years are gone...But I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now."

I'm glad to hear that you're also fighting the good fight against the American Body Habitus!

L - I have two more years!

At 8:35 PM, Blogger L said...

oops-- I meant "jog", not "job"

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Ian said...

But really, is the job any fun any more either?

At 11:36 PM, Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

Y'all are making me feel ancient. . .

At 12:27 PM, Blogger phoenix said...

Get lost again? :P

At 1:33 AM, Blogger Stuart Ressler, M.D. said...

Here's your challenge: Residency, mortgage, marriage, children. Turning 30, then 35... THEN try to keep in shape. What did yoy dream about, will your dreams be fullfilled? Being a neurosurgeon, is that your dream? Oh, I can identify with every one of you, so easily. Where did this belly come from (OK, it's not disastrous, but it wasn't there before..). Who is this agile, fit person in these old photographs? Why does my back hurt all the time? Why haven't I seen my old friends in years? What am I to do with my remaining days? Will I live my dreams? What, indeed, were those dreams?

Remember that one post in my blog about looking in the mirror each morning? This is closely related.

These questions have been boiling inside my head lately, and a couple of days ago I came across something that made my cup overflow - of all things, a speech by Steve Jobs. Check it out HERE

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