20. The Day My Metabolism Died

20. The Day My Metabolism Died

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

The Day My Metabolism

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
 ~Jim Rohn

When I hit thirty my metabolism went into a terminal nosedive. One week I was eating 16-inch pizzas by myself with no consequences. The next week I couldn’t even lick a postage stamp without gaining two pounds.

First came the love handles. I’d always felt good about my midsection, never shying from removing my shirt at the beach. Then I hit thirty, and I treated my torso like a valuable family heirloom: I showed it to no one unless I absolutely trusted them, and even then I’d only bring it out on special occasions.

What had happened? The National Guard. I’d been in the National Guard for eight years, and so I had to run in order to stay in shape to pass the biannual Physical Training tests. Once I got out of the Guard, one of the first things I did was throw my running shoes in the Dumpster behind my house. No more running for me!

That’s when my love handles, and their companion, my gut, showed up. So in order to get back into shape I bought another pair of running shoes and hit the streets. But there was one problem: I suddenly hated running.

Running was boring. Beforehand, I could imagine myself being deployed to a warzone and having to dodge bullets. Now the only thing I was trying to dodge was that annoying gut. Because I didn’t have some short-term goal to shoot for, like passing a Physical Training Test, I kept finding excuses not to run.

But as I deluded myself, my belly grew. It had to be stopped. So I tried something drastic: Tae Kwon Do. I’d passed the sign many times while running, and when I peered in the window once to check it out, I saw 10 adults in white outfits kicking the air, or kicking targets held by the instructor, who I would come to know as Master Jung.

I forked over the cash and was immediately rewarded: the first hour-long class was brutal, full of painful stretches and cardio-revving kicks. At the end of the class we’d meditate, and when I got up the instructor would shoot me a look, as if to say, “Is that a pool of sweat from just sitting their cross-legged, or did you have an accident?” I was the only student who needed to wipe the mat every time I fell or sat down. I was like a giant snail, leaving a wet track wherever I went.

Having some financial difficulties, I could only stay enrolled in the class for three months. I lost 10 pounds. But more importantly, I learned an important fitness secret: find fun workouts. It’s been years since I studied Tae Kwon Do. But instead of paying the monthly fee, I simply bought a heavy bag for $15 at a yard sale and hung it from a tree in my backyard. I practice all the kicks and exercises Master Jung taught me. And when I tire of that, I stop for a little while and rollerblade. And when I tire of that, I box for a little bit. And then there’s basketball.

I’ve gotten myself back into shape more or less, if only a bit older. And rather than dread the prospect of running a few miles, I can roll out my exercise mat and get some frustration out on the heavy bag. When I tire of that, I’ll go on to something else. There’s always more fun to be had. I try to think of myself as a dog: If you throw a dog a Frisbee, he’s not thinking about the exercise. He’s having a blast. If you can trick yourself into having fun while exercising, you’ll be more successful. So get out there, find something new, and have a blast.

~Ron Kaiser, Jr.

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