They gasp and wheeze through just a few minutes on the elliptical. Sweat drips from their brows and soaks their t-shirts as their trembling fingers reach for the “stop” button on the treadmill. They can only muster one or two incline presses before calling it a day. It’s January so that means all kinds of gyms and fitness centres are overflowing with the overweight and the unhealthy. Countless people who have resolved to finally get back into the shape they were in their “prime”. Well I think new year’s resolutions are bullshit. We should always be trying to institute positive influences in our lives, whether physical, emotional, professional and so on. Physical fitness means a lot to me (although I could be in way better shape) and I think it’s crucial to stay active, mix it up, and most importantly, have fun.
Both of my parents were pretty dedicated athletes when they met in high school. In fact, my dad was the 1974 Ontario high school wrestling champion and competed for many years on a national level. But I think I was born at a slight disadvantage when their genes mixed. He was a massive Ojibway dude, and she was a short white chick. I grew up with his bulk, but with her height. My childhood fluctuated between being chubby and awkward and athletically apt. But by the time I got to high school I blossomed into a pretty competent athlete in hockey, baseball, soccer, rugby, and karate. I gave all that up when I went to university, and ended up putting on 30 extra pounds I didn’t need by my third year. When you’re overweight and Aboriginal, diabetes and other health issues stare you right in the eyeballs, so I made a serious effort to get back into shape. I started lifting weights and running, and returned to my “prime” by 23. The Winnipeg winters have put some of that insulation back on the old midsection, but I’m working on getting rid of that for good. Today, this is how I stay active:
These guns aren’t just for show. I started lifting weights seriously when I was about 19, and found it pretty easy and rewarding right away. I work a different muscle group each time, and to keep it interesting I always try to find new lifting routines. But picking stuff up and putting it down for an hour can get pretty boring. And in those early days, although the cannons were beefing up, I still had a big powder keg in the gut that I had to do something about.
Running when you’re fat is hard. But it paid off quickly, and got easier and easier. Today I try to run at least four times a week for about 45 minutes. When Winnipeg’s not coated with snow and ice, I enjoy running down Wellington Crescent to Assiniboine Park. Otherwise it’s treadmills at the Y. I just learned how to run intervals from Vic and it’s a fun new challenge.
I’ve always been a huge fan of mixed martial arts. For months, a couple of buddies encouraged me to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and I finally gave it a shot in August. I went to a couple of classes at Team Canada MMA here in Winnipeg taught by Rodrigo Munduruca and was hooked. Now I try to go about three times a week (which is about as much as I can handle). It’s the toughest workout I’ve ever done. Every class is an intense physical and mental challenge that pushes your lungs and every muscle in your body to the limit. Plus, you’ve never been humbled until you’ve been arm-barred or choked out.
As serious and intimidating as BJJ can be, dodgeball is a nice respite on the other end of the recreational spectrum. “Dodgeball?!?” you may ask. “ADULTS play that?” I had the same reaction when a friend at work asked me to join her team. There’s some pretty serious weekly co-ed action through the Winnipeg Rec League at various gyms throughout the city. There’s lots of running, throwing, and, um, dodging that can really get the heart racing. Some geeks take it pretty seriously, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
So this has been my workout routine since October. Who knows if all of it will return me to my “prime”. I am entering my 30s, after all. But I’m having a blast doing it, and it’s keeping me from making lame proclamations every January 1st. Hey diabetes – BRING IT!