As the 2010 Tucumcari Rattlers football, volleyball and cross country seasons loom ever closer, and my colleagues at work and neighbors at home increasingly discuss and debate the finer points of prospective state champions and Super Bowl contenders, I find myself reminiscing more than usual about the days of my youth when I actually went outside and exerted myself for the sake of exertion.
I was never a world-class athlete by any standard, but there have been on-and-off periods in my life where I did curls besides those resulting in Cheetos meeting my mouth.
The first great epoch of non-sedentariness began in the sixth grade when I joined the McLean Junior High football team in McLean, Texas. This period mostly involved long stretches of running because my coaches were far too merciful to actually put me on the field.
As an 11-year-old falling under the 80-100 lb. weight range, I proved myself as a free safety who could predict offensive plays like a wizard, barking commands to linebackers so no ball carrier could get past them. This worked very well for me unless a running back broke a tackle or a wayward pass would come my way, in which cases I would duck for cover and swat the ball as far away from me as I could, respectively. In the seventh grade, I totally dated a junior high cheerleader for some two weeks, marking the peak of my middle school athletic career.
I hung up my cleats after the eighth grade when I moved to Pampa, Texas, where twice as many boys who were twice as big would take the field at the same time. The team gave me the nickname “big Russ” because I was woefully small.
In high school, I blew up my floaties and joined the swim team for two years. I faked vomiting during the first day of summer practice so I would not have to finish my drills. How embarrassing! The cardiovascular intensity was initially way too much for my Kool-Aid-and-soda infused blood cells, but swearing off carbonated beverages and swimming for multiple hours every day made me an actually decent swimmer. Eventually I would specialize in freestyle distance events, completing 500-yard races in (barely) under six minutes. And I could swim 50 yards without taking a breath. No kidding.
Then I got lazy again for about four years. Finally, in my junior year of college, I started lifting weights and running regularly. There was a time, not too long ago, when I could run for an hour or more without stopping, completing five-mile stints and experiencing the indescribable somatic bliss of endurance-enhancing exercise. Then I got lazy again for about eight months.
Now as I stare down at my Oreo Sonic Blast and think about the cheeseburger and fries I had for lunch, I recall my last noble effort to attain fitness when I ran around my block last week for a good, solid 15-minute stretch. I was so spent when I hit the showers that I felt slightly dizzy, nauseated, and could not catch my breath for a few minutes. It makes me marvel at how the human body weakens so quickly and requires so much maintenance.
Maybe I’ll get back into my rhythm once or twice more in my lifetime. Until then, I just hope the girls and boys at THS have been doing their jumping jacks this summer.