One of my first columns addressed the issue of physical fitness, something that seems to be lacking in a disturbingly large segment of the population, not only nationally but on a local level especially. It’s an issue worth revisiting, especially in light of a chance encounter that I had today at Fitness USA, where I work out most days about 90 minutes.
My workout consists of mainly the elliptical machine, a torture device if ever there was one. There are three of them in the gym and I usually use the first one, but this day it was occupied so I took the middle one. I glanced over at my neighbor, a man I figured to be roughly my age (50) that I see occasionally at the gym. I saw that he had been on the machine for about 25 minutes and was already nearing three miles, which is tremendous. I got started and tried to keep pace with him, but it was a huge struggle, and I am a longtime user of those machines. When his time was almost up, I looked at his numbers and congratulated him on his workout. That was when he informed me that that he had just turned 70 years of age, and that he usually aimed for seven miles in 70 minutes, the maximum time the machine allows. I’ve done the elliptical for two years and I’ve only been able to make it to seven miles twice, and just barely when I did. I told him he should be good for another fifty years at least. He shrugged that off and said that he needed to eat better to maximize his health. We talked a bit and he finished—made his seven miles with a few seconds to spare—and left. I soldiered on for another 30 minutes, all the while thinking about what he had said about eating better.
I’ve been conscious of diet for a while now and have noticed something as I make the rounds of grocery stores and gas stations locally---almost everything on the shelves is so loaded with crap that it’s not worth eating. All of the potato chips, candy, pastries, soda, processed meats, the fast food in every one of those places with a drive through window, etc. are poison, people. Look at the ingredient labels of everything you buy. Odds are that they will include high fructose corn syrup, a cheap sweetener that has been proven to trick your body into feeling like you are still hungry, so you eat more. Soda is full of the stuff, as well as caffeine, which is, as we all know, terribly addictive. Caffeine in its pure state is awful tasting stuff, so the decision to add it to soda couldn’t have been for flavor enhancement. Think maybe, just maybe, we’ve all been tricked into an addiction by clever advertising and an addictive chemical? Oh, no, those billion dollar soda companies wouldn’t do that, would they???
Those labels will also include other things almost as bad, and yet we just eat them and suffer the consequences later. It’s time to take action, on an individual level as well as a personal level. While it’s fine to enjoy a barbecue once in a while, there are a lot of folks in this country who enjoy a barbecue every day, and as I watch them waddle and jiggle down the sidewalks of this and other towns, huffing and puffing, I envision their overworked hearts, surrounded by masses of gross, yellow fat, ready to give out. How is this country going to compete in the global market if we all drop dead from obesity before we get to finish college?
Each week I read the obituaries and note how young so many of the deceased were when they passed. I know for certain one name I won’t see there anytime soon: Charlie Holloway, retired military man, who I chanced to meet at the gym today, and who inspired me to hit 7.1 miles for the first time ever. Mr. Holloway, I salute you!