Throughout my entire life, until about 10 years ago, I had been
skinny svelte yet wiry. I was one of those people that overweight people hate because I could eat anything without gaining an ounce (other people hated me for things unrelated to my weight). Suddenly, in my late thirties, I started gaining weight. Not a lot. About 15lbs over 10 years. Since getting this job in KAF, I’ve begun to put on a few more pounds but, more aggravatingly, my general fitness level has plummeted.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I was ever some sort of athletic Adonis. Hell, I could never wear shorts because my skinny chicken legs frightened the children. Additionally, I was in the Air Force where physical fitness was not prized near as much as being able to find cheap beer in foreign cities. I was, however, lucky to have a genetic makeup that allowed me to have a great VO2 max (no, I don’t really know what that is but a good one is important for some reason). I recall one annual medical during which the medical assistant looked at my fitness test results and asked me if I was a distance runner. Ten minutes later, during my interview with the doctor, she asked me what I did for exercise…and berated me for my answer of “nothing”. I was like “Hey, the damn Med A just told me I’m in awesome shape!” “It won’t last forever”she warned. I hate accurate prognosticators.
The air force fitness test consisted, at one point, of a step test, situps, pushups and a grip strength test. During my debrief, the tester told me “Sir, your VO2 max is excellent…top 5 percentile”. I smirked gloatingly. “Your situps were very good, well above average” he continued. I wasn’t surprised as I had no upper body
strength weight. “Your pushups were ok…you met the minimum” The smirk began to fade. “But, Sir, I’m afraid your grip falls into the wimp category”. The smirk was gone. “Oh yeah” I thought “Well, I found cheap beer in Bodo, Norway, motherfucker”.
All of this to say that while I was always a somewhat
weak strengthily-challenged guy (except for about 3 glorious months after basic training in 1981), I was always in good enough shape, due exclusively to genetics (Thanks, Mom!), until about age 40. As my wife so aptly put it, “It’s no fair! They can’t just change the rules when you turn 38!”
It’s especially unfair to change the rules on someone like me who abhors exercise. It is invariably mind-numbingly dull and, frankly, hurts…and hurts even more the next day! You’d think that if genetics made it possible to be adequately fit without exercise then genetics would also influence one’s love/hate for it. Oddly, I have two older brothers, both of whom seem to really enjoy causing themselves physical pain. My oldest brother is an avid bike rider. He owns a single recumbent bike, a dual recumbent bike and god knows how many others. He once rode his bike from Vancouver to Winnipeg…a distance of 2300km. My other brother hiked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro on one “vacation” and climbed to the Everest base camp on another…he’s also into cross-fit in a big way. Weirdos. Only thing I can figger is that they’re both adopted.
One of our guys, DB, runs the Kandahar Crossfit club. Having heard me whine about being out of shape, he told me to come out for the beginners’ class (Mondays at 1630, in the old tent lines near the PX). “It’s fun” he lied. So I bought new running shoes at the German PX (to replace the $9 ones I got for my annual air force fitness test 15 years ago) and off I went. The Crossfit area is outside (under some shade thankfully) and it was probably about 30C or so. There were over 30 people there, mostly beginners like me…but, unlike me, most of them were under 30. At 49, I was the second oldest one there…the only one older was B, another one from our team. I’d like to use my age as an excuse for what comes next but B’s performance puts the lie to that. There was one young US Army guy who answered “Hooya” or some damn thing every time the instructor gave a direction. I found this unpleasant.
Apparently, Crossfit is basically a bunch of exercises based around 9 basic moves. There are, if I remember correctly, 3 types of squats. They made us practice them several times with a broomstick to simulate weights, by the end of which, I couldn’t feel my thighs and was almost unable to walk. It felt as if my thighs had been disconnected from both my knees and my brain. By the time we got to the final exercise which involved picking up a medicine ball and some other moves, I couldn’t bend my knees without collapsing. I wasn’t particularly winded or tired or even sore…my legs would just not obey any commands from my brain. The instructor told us to put away our broomstick and medicine ball. “Thank fucking Christ, it’s over” I thought. But no. Then they went into the workout.
“Everyone who can do 3 chin ups on this side, those who can’t, on the other side” called out Welshie, the Australian
overseer instructor. So, there I was with all the women and a few of the less svelte guys. The workout they had us do involved doing five burpees followed by 10 situps (each set called a “round”) over and over again for 10 minutes. A burpee involves squatting down, kicking your legs back so you’re essentially in a push up position, doing a push up, bringing your legs back in under you and jumping up. Please recall, that at this point, I could not feel my thighs and my legs were not under my control. I had to bend down like an old man…one hand on the ground at a time to avoid falling, move one leg out, slowly, at a time, do the pushup, pull my legs back in…one at a time as they would not move together…and stand up very slowly trying not to fall over. Once I got the initial 5 burpees done, the situps were a welcome respite…but then it was back to the burpees. Anyway, after about 4 hours, the 10 minutes was up. The instructor asks “How many rounds did you do?” A little wisp of a woman confidently replied “10!”. One of the heavyset gentleman called out “9 and 1/2!”. It was at this point that I concluded that yelling “Hooya! 2 and 1/2!” would likely not garner the praise I was seeking.
It finally ended. I wanted to change out of my new shoes for the walk back to the shacks but I was unable to sit down to do it. B and I walked back together…she very graciously refrained from tittering too much each time my knees buckled and only briefly mentioned that she is older than me and did many more “rounds” than me. She also offered to let me use her Travel Roller Acupressure kit to reduce the intensity of the inevitable pain I will face tomorrow. I really appreciate the thought but now that I’ve looked at the instructions, I realize that I am completely unable to get into the positions required.Thankfully, J gave me some Advil…better living through pharmaceuticals is more my style.
walk hobble to dinner tonight, J, who’s a bit of a fitness buff and is familiar with crossfit, noticed my obvious discomfort and preached “For years you’ve prided yourself on not exercising…now your body is trying to tell you something“. “Yeah“, I replied, “it’s saying ‘You were right’”.
As much as I fucking detested the whole experience, I think I’ll give it another chance in a few days when I can move my legs again. If I keep with it, I think my big regret will be losing my beer belly that is finally starting to take shape. I’ve spent about $300,000 on that thing…it seems a shame to just throw that investment away.
“Exercise is bunk. If you are healthy, you don’t need it: if you are sick you should not take it” – Henry Ford
“I don’t know about you, but every time some joker points me out as I walk through an airport wearing extra-small Dolfin shorts, a tank top and leg warmers, I get a little upset.” – Richard Simmons
“If god had meant man to walk, he wouldn’t have invented the internal combustion engine”- The (Old?) Kafoodie.