trading one pain for another (or how i have gone from an XXL to an XL)

I’m sitting in the sauna in my gym. I can feel my heart rate is sustained at about 155 bpm and quite possibly higher. I am listening to the third movement of Low– a symphony originally composed by David Bowie and Brian Eno. This version is rendered by Philip Glass and is one of the most beautiful things i have in my music collection. Drops of sweat are falling off me with like leaves in autumn. I am drinking water but it feels as though i am losing it at nearly the same rate.


I am back at the gym. I started going back about three or four weeks ago. I don’t like the gym, per se, but the way i see it, it’s a specific set of tools that i can use to achieve specific results. In my recent trips to the Red Cross, my basic readings have been creeping upward- the inevitable price that neglect and bad diet force all of us to pay.

My bill has come due and it’s now time to replace one pain with another.

In years past, i spent 30 minutes on the treadmill walking at a decent clip with a slight incline. I would do some core exercises and maybe a few reps of weights and, time permitting, some time in the sauna. The sauna. The special place where i learn to find new and exciting ways to be disappointed in humanity.

A couple of weeks ago, i dared myself to run for a few minutes. So i ran. I went for 10 minutes i think. I hadn’t run for 10 minutes for no apparent reason since i was in my 20’s. Two days later i upped it to 15 minutes. Then the last time and then again today, i went for 20 minutes.

I do not like running. I don’t even like lifting weights. I do it because i focus on the way i feel afterward. I do it because i know my family genetics and i will not be some goddamned “victim” that bitches and resigns himself to a life of lethargy because, “That’s just the way my biology is.”

I do it because i fucking DARE myself to do it. A little bit of self inflicted contempt; a touch of malice for allowing myself to have become complacent. I am not a competitive person with anyone but me, so sometimes daring and challenging myself to be more tomorrow than i am today is what i need. As sure as can be, no one else is going to challenge me so it has to come from within.

I almost didn’t make it today. At fifteen minutes, i am a mess. My heart is sustained at 171 bpm and on one occasion, i have pushed myself to 200 bpm for two minutes. I hurt in ways i haven’t hurt in decades but i have five minutes to go.

I fucking DARE myself to keep going. Sweat is falling into my eyes and my heart is redlining.

When it’s done and after i cool down, i am wobbly. I have trouble getting off of the treadmill and as i walk towards the stairs, i feel like i am no longer in my own body. My bones are floating within me, my mind is incapable of thought. Everything that i have left in me is to manage to get down the stainless steel staircase without losing my footing. If i slip there, i will not be able to stop my head from cracking against the edge of the stairs. Steel is many things but forgiving is not one of them.

And then there’s the sauna. I know there aren’t a lot of health benefits to being in the sauna compared to say, weight lifting and aerobics but it’s yet another type of pain that i need. My heart rate picks up the tempo; sweat pours out of me with regularity. I keep drinking water but it’s falling out of me almost as fast. By the time i am done, the world is beginning to fade and brighten at the same time. I’m close to passing out again.

I do not care.

The tile stings my feet as i try to stay in control of my muscles, the metal of the handle burns my palm as i push it open. I enjoy both types of pain and if i weren’t so close to losing consciousness, i would gladly endure more of both.

I’ve been out of the gym for an hour or so now. My muscles are still quivering, my co-ordination is still shot. On the other hand, i have already dropped one shirt size and i can feel the change in my heart. I cannot afford to let my family genetics; a propensity towards obesity and even alcohol, to be a part of my life. There is nothing good that can come of that. I have to be better, stronger and more determined and for now, i am if for no reason other than i just fucking dare me to be.