Friday, May 07, 2010

Killing Yourself For Health

Two days ago I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I wasn’t really surprised because I could tell something weird was going on with my body the last year or so. I’ve been frequently tired, my heart seems to skip a few beats now and then, I get dizzy every so often, and I’ve reached, as my doctor so eloquently put it, “the magical age of fifty.”

And so now I see the immediately need for more exercise. I should get this old body back in shape. Drop the flab and get back the toned and tight body of my earlier years. Become once again that lean, mean fat burning machine I was when I got married some 24 years ago. Re-create the Greek god Adonis physique that….

Aw, shucks, I need to drop about twenty pounds and hope my gut decides to recede just a bit so I can see my toes again.

That’s all I ask.

I saw a young man today on the drive in to work who seems to share my need and quest for health. He was dressed in what I’m sure is expensive bike riding clothes, riding what I’m sure is an expensive bicycle. He had that look of fierce determination you see on the faces of athletes. That look of getting into and staying in shape. That look of willing his body farther and farther no matter how painful the exercise, no matter how much his body screams for rest. And I applauded him (silently, of course, I was driving). I wanted to shout, “Go, man, go! Push it, push it, kept it up! Be a role model for all us fat slobs to look up to, give us the “after” picture we should be striving for, give us motivation!”

But I didn’t shout that. Instead, I shouted, “Watch out! You’re going to kill yourself!”

A strange thing to shout you say? Not really. See, this young man was straining on his bike pedals, powering himself up a steep grade of the four-lane road, in traffic, in the right-hand lane, IN THE ROAD. That’s right, in the road, mixing with heavy morning traffic, dwarfed by all the other vehicles driven by people trying to get to work.

When he first came into my field of vision, a very large, very scary tanker truck was bearing down on him. I said a quick prayer that the truck driver had seen him and would start applying his brakes. My prayer was answered, but almost too late. The enormous truck began jumping and skipping as the driver apparently just noticed the bicyclist and tromped on the brakes. As I went by in the left lane, the truck switched lanes behind me to get around the young man, opening a spot in the right lane into which roared a large delivery truck. In my rearview mirror the delivery driver was visible through the large windshield of his truck. He seemed to be interested in the car next to him. I think he was planning on changing lanes, and was checking to see if there was room. When he turned his eyes back to the road ahead and saw the bicyclist, his look of surprise was complete. He, too, applied his brakes quickly, his truck leaning forward as its momentum was checked.

From my angle, it looked as if the delivery truck was now inches from the bike. Impossibly close. I steeled myself for the sight of the boy flying over the handlebars to receive the ultimate case of road rash. But, luckily again, the driver missed and went around, leaving the healthy young man to take his chances with the next motor vehicle in line.

At this point, the bicyclist was out of my line of sight and I continued on, somewhat shaken, to my place of employment. And I started wondering. Is getting and staying healthy worth the incredible danger he was putting himself into? Are tight, lean, healthy muscles a just reward for staring Death--taking the form of multi-ton vehicles--in the face every day? I don’t think so, especially when there is a five-foot wide, freshly paved walking/biking trail paralleling the road where all this was taking place!

I guess I’m thinking in some silly, old fashioned way and, I don’t know, maybe I’m weird, but it seems to me you shouldn’t get healthy by trying to kill yourself.

Hmmm. Makes me wonder. Oh, well. I guess I’ll just go downstairs now and plug in the treadmill. And hope the stupid cat doesn’t try to jump on there with me, ‘cause that’s dangerous.