I became a jogger last July. You may wonder why? And no this is not a poem. The initial rhyming is incidental.
I’d always thought about why people do jog. Health reasons are of course the most obvious and no doubt the most pertinent. But it seemed so showy to me. You know, like the people who elect to take out a membership at one of those gyms on the high street with the big glass frontages so everyone passing by can see them working out? Yeah. Those types of people.
To me, joggers not only wanted to get fit, but no they also wanted other people to see them get fit.
Oh yeah on late spring through summer and into early autumn dusky evenings you’d see them out but what about at the height of winter? You know when it’s pitch black by 4.30pm? You never saw them then. Well, maybe they were out but what with it being dark and……..you get the point.
I’d also had this fear of it. I remember hearing this story about a local taxi driver in my home town back around 2000 / 2001. He drove for the local cab company that I and my friends used regularly on nights out both into and from the city centre. One evening someone asked the driver about a certain ‘other driver’ he hadn’t seen out on the job for a while. He was rather nonchalantly told the driver had died.
What? He seemed really young. Like just barely middle-aged. He was neither overweight nor a smoker. Not that these are the only two indicators of potential early death but they generally act as pretty strong ones. We were all shocked. Okay maybe not shocked as we didn’t know the guy well enough but pretty surprised at least. Anyway, the driver recited to us a story that sounded like he’d already reeled it off to various other patrons in the preceding weeks about two dozen times before to the point he was bored of telling it. But we were all ears.
Apparently, the driver in question, who’s name I’ve long since forgotten, was ironically a real keep fit fanatic. He’d regularly take his car down to the local park, get changed in the back seat and go for a few laps. The local park isn’t very big so he probably took in some of the surrounding streets as well to make it worthwhile I’d imagine but just as we were waiting to hear about what happened next……..that was it. He returned to his car and had a heart attack in the back seat while removing his trainers. He was found by a passer-by a short time later and, well the rest, as they say, is history.
You know we were told that story so long ago and even though the gist of it has stayed with me I’ll be honest, there probably was more to it. I’ve created a picture of what the guy looked like in my head. I remember him wearing those large, aviator-style shaded glasses. Whether he did actually wear them or not who knows. I’ve tried to ask some of my friends if they remember that story but few do. At best I get an “Oh. Yeah. Kinda.” response.
All that aside that story laid a seed. The seed of the “Don’t jog. It’ll kill you!” variety.
Of course, thousands of people jog every day up and down the country. Most do it for decades. Right up to and including old age. The vast majority don’t drop of heart attacks whilst untying their shoelaces in the back seat of their cars. But when a seed of doubt like that is laid it’s difficult to shift.
I’m also pretty sure I heard that Leonard Rossiter died while jogging. However greater research indicates he didn’t. Turns out his heart stopped just before he was about to go on stage. A more fitting finale for Rossiter. Though he did jog regularly apparently. I can just imagine him out in the country, wearing a faintly green tracksuit by Sergio Tacchini with a white hand towel around his neck. God knows where I got that vision from. Anyway, he made it only to 57 so the jogging didn’t exactly do him much good. Albeit it that an underlying dormant heart defect renders any lifestyle choice rather insignificant.
But still…….more fuel to the fire.
I was 34 when I started. Roughly a month away from my 35th birthday. I guess what pushed me over the edge was continuously seeing my weight go up in spite of 2-3 trips to the gym every week where I would spend anywhere from 2-3 hrs combining weights and cardio. No doubt diet wasn’t helping and some increased muscle mass from the aforementioned gym activity also added pounds but the place I noticed it the most was my stomach.
Back in my heyday, I was never more than 12 stone even. Whilst hardly an Adonis I was in pretty good shape. Walking everywhere combined with regular sit-ups and press-ups before bed not to mention shadow boxing in my bedroom to industrial rave music made sure of that. But a decade later and it seemed every night out, curry or pizza added a few more pounds and nothing was taking them off.
By nothing, I ‘m referring to the gym. I stopped doing the press-ups and sit-ups years ago. I mean who can be bothered with that caper right before bed, right?
Anyway, I digress.
I’d reached 14 and a half stone and was technically a heavyweight. But not of the Anthony Joshua or Lennox Lewis variety. You know towering, powerfully built fighting machines? Na. I was more the comparatively short, overweight, completely out of his depth white guy variety usually imported in from Eastern Europe to make an up and coming contender look good by being bowled over in non-matching boots and shorts in 35 seconds.
I’d grown tired of catching glimpses of myself in the bathroom mirror upon exiting the shower and nodding in disappointment and saying to myself “Something has to be done about this!”
So that’s why. Of course to begin with I couldn’t run the length of myself. Far from it. My experiences of lasting 20 or so mins, which itself took quite some time to build up, on a gym treadmill didn’t prepare me for running out in the open air.
On a treadmill, you monotonously run in a straight line at a set pace. You can adjust it of course but you can never recreate a real terrain with all of its hills, slopes, dips, divots, grass, concrete, bumps not to mention the gangs of youths drinking cheap cider you inevitably come across.
Also, the constant adjustments of speed based on how good or bad you feel at any given time in your run or the possible dangers you may encounter from speeding cars, kids on bikes, dogs off of their leashes and of course the aforementioned youths drinking white lightening and other varieties of cheap alcopops.
Even to this day and without any impending threat at times I will ask myself what exactly it is I am doing when the sweat is lashing off me, my heart feels like it’s going to explode and you get a stitch so bad you feel like your liver is about to rupture.
All that been said the proof is in the pudding. And I can exclusively reveal my weight now is generally between 12 stone 4 and 8. So roughly two stone dropped.
Not bad. Job done!
Not all jogging of course. Quitting fags, seriously cutting down on booze etc also helped but it’s definitely a contributing factor.
There’s also all the interesting places you discover. The places that have been right beside where you’ve lived for your entire life but you’ve never ventured into. All the side streets, little roads and cul-de-sacs and fields that were never of any previous interest to you.
A perfect example is a 10 mins walk from my house lies a public park of pretty significant size that I’ve passed literally hundreds of times but only ever ventured into once. Once in seven years. Now I regularly jog through it, day and night in winter, spring and summer.
Sadly the novelty wore off long ago but at least it was there, to begin with.
Also in terms of clearing your mind and blowing off some steam, there can be few greater activities. Come to think, what I’m doing right now is the only one that comes to mind.
By the way, you know those gyms with large glass frontages so you can see what everyone is doing that I was castigating earlier? I go to one of them. Its window overlooks a busy Glasgow city centre street from a decent vantage point. It’s handy for people watching when you’re on the treadmill. Alleviates the boredom.
It also demonstrates to people how hard you’re working and how they should be ashamed of themselves for not doing likewise. And completely undermines my previous criticism of them.
“If you can’t beat em’ join em’!” – some guy.
Look at the end of the day it’s your choice if you want to jog our not.
Just don’t come crying to me if you don’t end up dying of something that you wouldn’t have if you had jogged because I told you so.