Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Current Challenge

To say that I am not a fitness enthusiast would be quite the understatement.  Other than cardiovascular and aesthetic benefits, I have never found myself obsessed with the gym, even with the endorphins released after working out.  Thus, I have never been, nor will I ever be, a gym bunny.

This fact has made it entirely too easy for me to simply find excuses to skip the gym.  It's too late.  I'm too tired.  I'm cranky.  I don't feel good.  I'm hungry.  It's too early to be awake.  I have other activities that take my time.  I can't fit it in.  Blah, blah, blah.  The end result is that I'm grotesquely out of shape, my resting heart rate has gone up, and my waist size has expanded as my metabolism seems to be inexorably sliding to a complete stop.  This has had health consequences from the development of a "fatty liver" which makes my enzymes screwy to an absolute warning that if I don't act, and SOON, I will become the latest citizen of Diabetes-Land.

I want to avoid diabetes at all costs.  Diet isn't going to cut it.  Even eating healthier, the slowing of my metabolism makes that route only so advantageous.  Also, I enjoy a good meal.  Always have, and probably always will.  This means that I have to increase the number of calories I burn through physical activity.  The gym is one aspect, but my history with consistent gym going is spotty.  My lack of gym addiction makes it all to easy to push that down on the priority list.  Even when I have friends to meet at the gym.  It can be as simple as  resentment of never going to the gym closest to my house.  It invariably falls apart.

I'm equally not good at solitary sports which depend upon personal drive to have the discipline to succeed.  I simply do not care enough about athletic achievements to make that workable for me.  I've never been good at sports.  I was never well coordinated.  I was awkward.  The one year I played basketball in 7th grade after being the first guy in my class to hit puberty was a disaster.  I invariably screwed up in practice, got ridiculed by the coach, felt inferior and embarrassed, and the one time I did get on the court, I was fouled and couldn't even make free throws.

I need an organized activity where it's OK to not be talented.  Where I won't have others pile onto my own sense of athletic inferiority.  The one October I tried playing fall softball, I had the definite impression that I was annoying the more talented players.  I could smell the judgment, although I will say they never vocalized it.  I may have found a sport, and a team, that can fit my needs.  It will not be easy, because I really am out of shape, but this is a mission, a challenge, that I cannot fail.

In July, I went to a Rugby 101 "clinic" held by the Atlanta Bucks rugby club.  I suppose since rugby hasn't penetrated the United States school sports that it's expected people will come this not knowing a thing about rugby.  That is certainly true of me.  I thought of rugby because I've been told on more than one occasion that I have a build made for rugby.  So I went.

Going to learn a sport in the midday heat of July during the hottest summer I have lived through in Atlanta wasn't the hottest choice.  I overheated.  I had had coffee about an hour before the clinic, so I chucked that one too.   I had bags of ice applied to my head to bring down my body temperature.  It worked, and no one gave me any judgement.  The guys were super nice, and were quite adamant about not overdoing it. In the part of the clinic I did participate in, I actually had some dexterity at catching the rugby ball, which shocked me.  I thought that perhaps I could do this.

But there's a level of athleticism required in rugby that will make this probably the largest physical challenge of my life.  There's a lot of running, and endurance.  I knew there was puking in my future.  But I also knew that there was no way to make it through that without just doing it.  My cardiovascular system needs to be strengthened for endurance and so that it doesn't so quickly escalate to maximum heart rate, and the attendant vomiting.

I went to the first Bucks conditioning practice last Thursday evening.  On the plus side, it was held from 7:30 to 9pm, at the end of the day.  It was still 90F outside but the sun wasn't nearly as intense.  We started out running a lap around the field at Coan Middle School.  I, of course, brought up the rear.  Two laps was enough to send my pulse into the stratosphere and to bring on the nausea.

I had prepared better for this practice than the Rugby 101.  I filled an old OJ 2 gallon jug with water and chilled it mostly so I could dump it on my head and try to regulate my body temp that way.  I also ate nothing after lunch earlier that day, so my stomach was largely empty.  But it wasn't enough to keep away the damn nausea.

I hate being nauseated more than anything.  I can take things hurting.  I can even take vomiting, even though it's very difficult for me to actually vomit.  Nausea drives me nuts.  It's enough to basically cripple you, but nothing that anyone can really recognize except you.

I had to stop and start a lot.  It was really embarrassing, even though I'd warned the guy leading it that I was coming to him from a zero fitness level.  The guys were quite encouraging.  I didn't get the impression that I was making people roll their eyes at how lame my physical reactions were.  Gary was really good about telling me not to overdo it, and to encourage me to do what I could.  This was the first time doing a lot of these exercises, so I had the awkwardness of  that combined with an overwhelming nausea that would start up again soon after I got going.

Even with the leg throws, my issue was getting my legs up to where they could be grabbed.  Joe was kind enough to realize it would be better to hold my feet up, let my legs fall, and have me bring them back up.  The last lap around the field at the end, I ended up walking it.  But for me, walking it after I had vomited bile and felt like utter crap, was a victory.  I really wanted to just say "screw it" but I couldn't.  I knew I had to finish this workout for myself.  Killie (that spelling may be off for the nickname) came back around the jogged with me, asking if I thought I could do a slow jog.  I told him it was a victory for me to be even walking it, and he noted that my walking was keeping up with his light jog so it was all good.

The conditioning left me drained.  I was basically a zombie afterward when I went out to eat.  I'm sure my dinner companions found me less than charming.  I also wondered if some of the guys thought that would be last they'd see of me.  The next conditioning is scheduled for Tuesday night, and I will be there.  I hope it will be better physically than it was Thursday.  Gary gave me some pointers about what I could do at the gym to get my body used to sustained effort on a treadmill.  There is a bit of fear about what happens when actual practices start.  Gary made mention to all of us how the coaches would put us through hell.  The conditioning kicked my ass... I can't imagine what the coaches have planned.

My mom did not greet the news of me vomiting well.  Maybe I shouldn't have shared it on facebook, but oh well.  I need to share because I need the encourage to fight through, to improve, and stick with it despite the physical misery I will experience early on.  My mom both emailed and called me to express her concern.  She has visions that I will end up one of those people who just drop dead in a practice because I will push or be pushed too hard.

I'm not concerned about the being pushed too hard with the Bucks.  So far, they've really respected limits, and I have no reason to believe that won't continue.  This is definitely something I need to do for me.  It's going to be hard.  I'm not whining; I'm simply facing the facts.  I have to prepare myself mentally to face up to the regular embarrassment of not being able to do what other guys can do on the team.  I usually haven't participated in things in which I am not naturally talented.  From childhood through adulthood, I followed things that ran along with my passions from drama, to school honor societies, to politics.  I have established myself as a credible contender for the activities I've participated in.

My parents never pushed me to play sports, and I certainly wasn't inclined to pursue activities where I had zero natural talent.  But the stakes are too high for me now.  It's important for me to pursue this despite the difficulties.  Despite being pretty sure that I will see next to no playing time, and I certainly won't be a benefit on the pitch.  Knowing this, I still need to pursue this rugby thing, push my physical fitness into healthier levels that will keep me away from diabetes and hopefully improve other aspects of my general health.

 I need to face down something that has a lot of natural negatives for me and my ego, and to not give up.  Maybe I will find a natural talent in some aspect of rugby.  Maybe the game will click for me in a way that will allow me to make a REAL contribution.  I have to do this for me.  I feel that if I fail at this, the consequences for me personally will be bad.  What's worse, I'm afraid I'd lose respect for myself.  I'm a tough bastard in many ways, and I've faced down a lot of personal crap over my lifetime so far.  But now I need to prove to myself that I'm more than just emotionally tough.  I need to prove my mettle to myself.

But I may go through a personal hell to do it.  And I'll need the help and encouragement of friends, especially new friends I'm making on the Bucks team.