Friday, August 12, 2022

Eight Days in the Grand Canyon (Supplement 1): My Physical Take-Away

A few months ago, I was texting with a friend of mine and I mentioned that I'd been working on getting in shape for our trip to the Grand Canyon. (See previous post for a full account of the adventure.) He immediately made fun of me: he had seen the trip and knew it was motorized -- not a paddling trip like one we had taken on the pretty deadly Upper Gauley river in West Virginia, a few decades ago -- so he good-naturedly accused me of being dramatic. I shared a laugh at the joke; but I told him that I really wanted to be in shape for the side-hikes and other physical challenges of the trip. And the heat. (Though, there really was no preparing for that heat.

For a few months, I went, every day, to a three mile system of trails near my New Jersey home. I'd wait for the hottest time of the day (or, at least, not worry about how hot it was) and I would walk my usual paths and then speed-climb a central hill (the lazily-named "Blueberry Hill") two or three times before going back to the trail head.

On the Canyon trip, as a result, I was pretty proud of how I held up. I felt strong on the trails, the whole time. My back was good (occasional issues there, in the past) and I suffered no aches and pains. (I had started out taking Advil, preemptively, at night, but I stopped that on the third of eight days.) My cardio was pretty solid the whole time: no excessive panting with climbs and camp setups/breakdowns; no insane heart-thumping. 

It all raises the question of the connection between weight and fitness -- a question that has been a central one for my wife and me for the past year or so. 

I am simply not at a weight I want to be. I'm at least twenty pounds over, by my standards. Maybe, at this point, I have to admit that I have been telling myself a lie for years: that wanting to be thin is not out of vanity. I think it may be, but I also think that might be okay.

I used to say that my desire to be thin is a result of two things: 1) How I feel. 2) Having this notion that I have a "thin mind," so I want my body to follow suit. It just helps with social clarity. 

Well, when it comes to No. 1: I feel pretty good now and it is because I have been moving. I'm 54. My joints and muscles feel good. My back is fine. I can motor along on a trail or scramble up rocks with the best of them... If I keep my regimen of hiking and stretching up, I should keep feeling this way. 

Then, I see myself in pictures, and I think: Who the heck is that? He looks neither like the guy in my head nor the guy in the mirror. (I can only hope that it's true about pictures adding ten pounds and some quick research shows it is probably true, so I got that going for me...) Sometimes I look at pictures of myself and tell my wife that I look like Peter Griffin, from Family Guy. I say this to be funny, but it also kind of hurts the old pride.

I do have thin mind. That, I keep in shape with constant exercise. I may not be a genius, but there is certainly no belly flab in the old mellon. 

Maybe I need to see all of this as a prompt for a separation of thought. I used to look at diet and exercise the way we are told to: as partnered weight-loss efforts. For me, it's better to think of them as separate goals: Exercise makes me feel good, physically; weight loss makes me feel good mentally. 

And both are important, right?

In the end, I guess it is more important to be strong than to be pretty. We'll see where that takes me. 

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