Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

A Wino’s Mentality on Exercise | August 17, 2009

This post is in response to this Food & Wine article on the Bordeaux Marathon. A special thanks to Ivy at “Shut Up & Love” for sending it to me (although I’ve been sitting on it for 2 months…)

My wife and I have decided that we’re going to run the annual Atlanta Half-Marathon on Thanksgiving Day; a 13+ mile endeavor that- I must admit- I’m fearing with the same terror that Jimmy Buffett must experience when asked to explain how to write good music.

And why would I possibly agree to do this? A couple months ago, I sweated, trodded, grunted, and shuffled my way through my 4th Peachtree Road Race, and annual gathering of 50,000 folks in the streets of Atlanta- coming together with the stupid idea that running a 10K in the July heat is a good idea…

…alas, there’s a void in the “ill-conceived Atlanta street gathering that causes many traffic woes” game that forces the Peachtree Road Race to persist. RIP, Freaknik; we hardly knew ye.

Quite frankly, I’ve agreed on the half because I need the exercise. I need to get on a program and shed a few pounds. While I’d rather settle- once and for all- whether Funyuns or Sour Cream & Onion Pringles are the true king of onion-centric snacky treats, I’m not getting any younger, and preventative measures now could ensure me several more years on Earth, full of tortuous workouts and Healthy Choicebrand food-like substitutes. If a product has to tell me that it “tastes good”, that as sure sign that it sucks…ever seen a package of bacon say that it “tastes good”? Not needed. Your reputation proceeds you, bacon.

I’ll stick around long enough to subject myself to grueling tests of endurance, only to be rewarded at completion with rice cakes and club soda labeled as “beer”. Seriously, the end of the Peachtree is always soaked with bottled water and Michelob Ultra. After all our hard work to cheat death, our society tells us to “celebrate” with dumbed-down versions of our vices. It’s as if they’re saying, “okay, now that you’re a ‘runner’, it’s time to deny yourself the pleasures of the world. Healthy living can only be achieved through sacrifice, deprivation, and struggle.”

But is my mentality way off? Am I in need of a paradigm shift? It’s the classic “binge & purge” mentality of our culture. Society tells us not to, so we overcorrect in rebellion, overdo it, and then our guilt causes us to again overcorrect- and this vicious cycle causes all sorts of stress. It’s exactly everything that’s spit-in-the-eye by the Bordeaux Marathon. No wonder France is kicking our butt in life-expectancy.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to pack up and head overseas. But I do think we can take a page out of the Food & Wine article’s revelations. The Bordeaux Marathon is so much less about wellness (in the sense that we tend to think), and so much more about living WELL. To us Americans, food is all-too-often considered as fuel, exercise as preventative maintenance, and revelry as taboo. The writer needs sleep, dwells on the event, avoids the party, and generally seems to consider the marathon as less of an event and more of a job. It’s Puritanical logic, and it’s mirrored in many religiously-extreme parts of the world. You know religious extremists: the ones who deny themselves in the name of God, only to usually end up killing someone or blowing something up. Pretty healthy, huh?

Rather, I’m determined to take this article as a lesson and subscribe to the proviso that exercise needs to be enjoyed. But my exercise isn’t going to be coupled with a strict diet with no loopholes. It needs to be part of a life filled with good food, good drink, friends, family, and spiritual health (not fanaticism). I’ll use my granddad as an example: he’ll be 101 on December 1st. He still lives by himself, drinks a martini every day, eats red meat cooked in butter, and is known to enjoy a cigar. He also goes to Church every Sunday, spends time with family, and is still sharp as a tack. He didn’t do this by eating soy shakes every day (or by downing 5 bottles of wine). It’s all about moderation and balance. This- I’m convinced- is the key to a long and happy life (although I haven’t mastered the “moderation” thing…call it environmental conditioning).
So I’ll run a half-marathon, but maybe I’ll eat a steak half-way through. I’ll go to the gym, but have a glass of wine afterwards. I’ll work my hardest at the office, but not forget that I have a social life as well. I don’t know for sure if I’ll live longer, but I know I’ll be living better. Without the intention of being preachy (or even worse, “Hollywood” preachy), I hope those who are reading this that are piled with stress might try to do the same. Who knows? We might all laugh a little more and enjoy.
And seriously, Peachtree, time for some dark beer, tasty wine, and roast beef sandwiches at the finish line. Maybe some wine stops at the 3-mile mark. Rename Cardiac Hill to Cabernet Hill. It might just save the world…
…or at least get me off your back. In the meantime, I’ll raise my Michelob Ultra and toast you anyway: Cheers, Sláinte, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!
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