OUR CORNER: Fitness a lifestyle change for 2011

I’ve never been one for new year resolutions, probably for the same reason I don’t care for the New Year’s celebration itself, my birthday and most holidays. Recognizing any of them isn’t mandatory, but the cultural pressure to do so is overwhelming enough to disrupt everyone’s schedule. And for new year resolutions in particular, I think that, considering the calendar is made-up and arbitrary, it’s expecting a bit much to completely reinvent yourself when the last digit of the year rolls over.

That being said, I recently started a lifestyle change that coincides with the onset of 2011: for the first time in more than a year, I’m exercising regularly.

I woke up later than I wanted to earlier this month. It was a Monday, the day we lay out the paper, and I like to have two hours before everyone else comes in to finish up stories. At the rate I was going, I would have half an hour at best. I half-heartedly lurched out of bed and swore my way to the bathroom.

Just as I had invented a particularly intriguing new curse, I felt all the blood in my body rush to my chest. Everything slowed down and the room spun. The next four heartbeats from my chest were all I felt and heard. The sink was my friend. As long as I held onto the sink, I wouldn’t fall over. And the only thought I could muster was: “You know all those things you were just worrying about? I guess they’re not that important now, are they?”

I’ve had similar anxiety attacks in the past, but only after hearing devastating news or during a particularly intense high school wrestling practice. Never had I experienced one from something so lame as, well, waking up.

But after I had come down from this episode and forced myself to get through the rest of the day calm, it made sense. For the past year, I’ve essentially – and pardon my crudeness – been a sack of crap.

The best way to put it is I was 23 going on 90, and that can be embarrassing on the job sometimes. For example, Mayor Pat Johnson of Buckley hikes Mount Peak in Enumclaw every day. Every. Day. Meanwhile, I’m at risk of croaking during a vigorous floss.

At 280 pounds, even with my considerable height and build, I fall squarely in the category of “husky,” with a chronic risk of upgrading to “guy wearing a T-shirt to the pool.”

I don’t drink or use anything stronger than ibuprofen, but I do smoke, never quitting for much more than a month since I started at 19. My worst vice is probably “Pizza Payday.”

I call it “Pizza Payday” because I started out buying – and enjoying! – a pizza strictly on payday. That soon evolved into “Pizza Friday,” and, inevitably, “Pizza On Every Day I Want Pizza.”

And, like I said, I wasn’t exercising and hadn’t since shortly after moving into my own place. Which can at least partly be attributed to my general sloppiness. I used to exercise all the time on the clean, unlived-on floors. Today, my thought process can be summed up as: “Well, I could do some push-ups...but that easily moveable book is in my way.”

With this month’s anxiety attack, I figured I had two options: I could figure out how to spend all my time sleeping, thus avoiding future waking up-related injuries; or I could take a precious half hour after work each day to force myself into my apartment’s gym.

God help me, I chose the latter.

So far, it’s not bad. I’m doing a half hour of cardiovascular exercise five days a week, usually on my apartment complex’s elliptical machine. I wake up sore each morning – despite the fact I’m doing an exercise doctors recommend to pregnant women – but I feel better overall than I have in the past year. Missing a day actually causes me terrible headaches, so I figure I’m pretty much locked into the good habit via the miracle of addiction.

In that vein, no I haven’t quit smoking. That may come next though. I’ve read that exercise helps expel nicotine faster and, quite frankly, it just makes sense. I’ve been smoking for a little more than five years of my life – nearly a whole quarter, people! – and I don’t particularly want to make that percentage much larger.

Don’t expect me to give up Pizza Payday anytime soon, though. Last I checked, science has still failed to perfect a patch to effectively combat sauce and cheese.

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