Friday’s Weekend Column
Getting in Shape

by James Glaser
February 24, 2006

We all have some sort of shape to our bodies, but few of us have the shape we want. Once you start working out, you find another meaning to the word shape. Getting in shape means not only changing what your body looks like, but also have enough muscle and stamina to make that change.

Every year I start a new workout routine. That was mostly because in Northern Minnesota you live like a shut-in for most of the winter months, and going for walks in sub-zero cold is the pits. It seems like every spring you are starting over. Kind of like the bears when they wake up from their winter's sleep. Kind of like that, but the bears lose a half or third of their body weight, while people in the northland tend to put on some weight every winter.

Now I am in Florida, the land of no excuse. It isn't too cold—it isn't even too wet or too dark. The truth is it is just perfect for working out. Walking, running, exercising, sports, anything you ever wanted to do that didn't involve ice or snow is in season all winter down here. Yes, the native Floridians think it is too cold for some things right now, but for a Minnesota transplant, this is early fall or late spring weather. It's just perfect, so if you don't work out, you are hit with one giant guilt trip.

I am on a two walk a day routine, and I now have one of those Sunday morning Chuck Norris Total Gyms. The one that Chuck demonstrates where he is lying down on an incline bench that slides up and down as he works out. Chuck is in shape!

I don't run, but I do walk and I now walk faster and farther than I did a month ago. Last week I started walking at night on the Leon High School track. Knowing how far you are walking and having the ability to time yourself is a real incentive. Last night I passed a person walking on the track and was that ever cool. Of course I am constantly being passed by joggers, but I was watching a woman who was on the other side of the track when I started and then forgot all about her until the forth time around I looked up and saw I was not too far back. I started taking a longer faster stride and passed her before getting to my finish line. I about died. I had to stop and laugh at myself. I think it is about a half mile from my house down to the track, and so my speed tends to slow on the walk home.

Actually, walking the streets is far better for me. This part of town is all hills. Not bad hills, but when you first start working out, any incline is a hill. In just the month I have been hitting it hard, I have noticed that my wind is better, and what used to be a good walk is no longer enough. That thirty minute distance is now twenty, and when I get done I am no longer exhausted. In fact the morning walk and the short time spent on the workout machine gives me a real good start to the day, and it is no longer something I should do, but something I want to do.

I have even made some friends along my morning walk down the streets of the neighborhood. They are the dogs in people's yards. They no longer bark at me. In fact, one large blood hound wants a morning pat and talking to every day now. He used to howl and put up a real racket. Now he has his paws on the top of the fence, and his tail is just a going back and forth as he watches me come down the street.

The birds sing to me, and just like up north, the squirrels say "che che che" to me. There are other people out early in the morning, and those are the ones walking their dogs before work. I wonder if they are training the dog or if the dog has trained the owner. The dogs seem to be upbeat and ready to run and have fun while their owners seem to be just going through the motions, like they would rather be back in bed.

I don't know when the heavy heat is going to hit down here, and maybe when it does I'll be doing my walking in the very early morning. I do know that I am going to keep up with these workouts, because they make me feel good. Who knows, I just might be able to change the shape I am in this year.

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