When I spent three and a half months in China last year, I adapted to the local customs and cuisine -- to my great pleasure, I might add. I gained the most in humanistic aspects of course. But there were physical side effects; I lost nearly ten pounds without even trying. And while my general state of fitness was nothing to write home about, neither was it anything to be ashamed of.
I've been in the USA for eight months now and I feel right at home. The culture and customs are mostly very familiar, and the food is easy to like. Nay, too (gr)easy. After a winter of deep hibernation (WITH nutritional intake) my waistline has expanded to Plutonic proportions (i.e. not quite planetary, thank you very much IAU) and so I have decided to give in to one of the few local customs that I had been resisting.
Jogging. Yech. The very word makes me think of Norwegian pickled fish yogurt (which exists only in my mind -- I hope). I know, jogging is not strictly USAmerican -- but the way it's done here is on a whole other level compared to, say, Europe.
Physical exercise in general, in fact, is like that here. It's riddled with bizarre cultural paradoxes. Everything in everyday life is designed to make people's lives easier, allow them to walk less (the Car is Almighty Master of the roads of course), carry less, move less. All week/day long this economy of movement is at full throttle (or minimal throttle, rather?). Then, evenings and weekends witness an explosion of physical activity, in (expensive!) gyms and on sidewalks. People running like hamsters in their little wheels, walking up endless flights of invisible stairs, activating levers and executing exercise routines to the beat of the latest sport/dance fusion frenzy.
Well I say (with no pretension to originality whatsoever) hook up those machines to a set of electrical batteries and power the Eastern seaboard for a year. Solve the energy crisis, yeah?
These criticisms observations aside, my point was, I'm giving in to it. Not the gym thing -- I refuse to pay just for having a place to sweat -- but jogging. Even though in my heart of hearts I still believe, like Frodo's character in the delightful teen horror flick "The Faculty" (which also brought us the twin revelations that snorting aspirin powder can get you high and will help identify alien impersonators), that a person should only run when they are being chased. Though I would add trying to catch a bus or a train to the list of reasonable reasons for running. And maybe performing a flanking manoeuver during a bunker raid in a paintball game.
So today, full of good resolutions and no small amount of self-deception, I got my kit on (including the iPod-in-an-armband, this season's must-have for style-conscious jogsters) and went out for a run in the early morning (11 am) sunlight. Hah. The title of this post says it all. Suffice it to say it's not so much a muscular problem (I'm actually of rather sturdy construction) as a cardiovascular/pulmonary one. There was way more wheezing than running going on. I did stick with it though, and I'm not giving up -- I'll just try to focus on building up my pulmonary capacity for now.
Gosh darn it, that last bit sounds like something the locals would say. I really am going native.
Still not touching peanut butter though.