Zen and the art of driving stick

It was 1940 and Oldsmobile introduced the “Hydra-Matic,” the first automatic transmission. They sold something like 200,000 units and it was that same year the very first case of road rage was documented.

Driving automatic

Drivers of these new-fangled automatics began to suffer a disconnect between themselves and their vehicle because they found they had too much time to seethe over every single road incident and perceived wrong.

Drivers of stick, of course, were more zen-like, tranquil in their oneness with their automobile. They were absorbed in the moment, hands, feet, and mind all focused on the very act of driving, and didn’t have time to waste on frivolous external stressors.

That first incident of road rage occurred on Route 66 somewhere between Holbrook, Arizona and Williams, Arizona. 

Pepper McHilheney,  a spitball pitcher returning from a loss that had raised his ERA to an astronomical 37.3, was driving in his brand new black Olds Hydra-Matic, fuming about being tossed out of the game because he beaned the ump with a fastball after said ump had called the 90th ball that inning, when along came Biff Melonmeister, a traveling anvil salesman out of Davenport, Iowa, driving a similarly equipped Olds, but in cream, who was worrying that if he didn’t find a blacksmith soon who needed a new anvil how was he going to make his next car payment, when he inattentively cut off Pepper.

Pepper, of course, beeped and shouted, “Get your head out of you ass!” while making obscene gestures with his free right hand that, had he been driving stick, would have been otherwise occupied.

Biff, seeing the gestures, returned several of his own, because he too had a free right hand.

Soon the two were racing side-by-side down Route 66 cursing and throwing hand gestures at each other until tragically for both Olds involved, they went off the road and crashed into some shrubbery.

The two drivers extricated themselves from the bushes, gave each other the finger again, and fisticuffs ensued.

Meanwhile, Irving Potash, driving his trusty old 3-speed stick on the column two-tone Nash, went by and said, “Dudes, chill.” He then responsibly returned all his attention to driving and made it to his destination safely, on time, and with a smile on his face, proving the adage: a stick in hand is worth two birds in the bush.

There are many more anecdotes about the superiority of stick drivers to automatic, but a recent survey by the prestigious Institutus Ferretatus proves it best.

According to their study, drivers of automatics have a higher incidence of heart disease, hypertension, headaches, and are more likely to die of a heart attack, stroke, or road rage incident. Additionally, they are more hostile and impulsive compared to their stick driving counterparts.

Stick drivers on the other hand, live longer, have significantly lower stress levels, are much happier, and of course, are much more fun to be around.

Stick drivers today are known as “the seven percenters” because only about 7% of Americans drive stick. These seven percenters generally lead healthier and happier lives than the other 93% of drivers.

So next time you’re in the market for a car, consider the stick. Your heart will thank you.
#savethestick

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The lost weekend

I had a bad weekend. I gained 2.6 pounds.

Should I throw in the towel? Give up? Become angry and depressed over that?

Or should I just take the setback in stride? Refocus on what’s really important, like where I’ll be down the road instead of worrying if I’ll fit into that cute bikini for this upcoming season? Well, since I’m a guy I’d probably look silly in a bikini, so that isn’t the point.

The point is, when you suffer a setback in the short term, you should refocus on your long term goals. When you look at your overall progress, where you were and where you want to be, that 2.6 pound gain will appear to be nothing more than a tiny temporary blip on the entire weight loss graph.

I admit, there are times when it gets frustrating. For instance, when someone says they lost 50 almost overnight, you can’t help but compare. Why has it taken me over 2 years to lost 30 pounds and they did it like that? (Snap your fingers.)

You need to focus on the fact that you lost 30 pounds and not how long it took. That deserves congratulations, not chastisement.

Comparisons are self-defeating. People have different metabolisms. Some lose weight easier while others struggle. Accept that fact and move on.

I work with a guy who was overweight and now he’s not. He did it with an extremely restrictive diet, denying himself all foods that weren’t considered healthy.

If someone brought in donuts to work for their birthday, he wouldn’t eat one.

Wouldn’t. Eat. One!

That’s crazy talk. One donut won’t kill you.

Neither will one bad weekend of fast food and over snacking.

You’re not an idiot, just human

Face it, we all fail from time to time. We sneak that donut. Eat nearly a whole bag of Xtreme Cheddar Goldfish (guilty!). Go on vacation and enjoy all sorts of good foods. Overeat during the holidays.
Everyone except that guy at work, but then he’s always Grumpy and has become a judgemental asshole. “You’re not going to eat that, are you?” “Do you how many calories are in that?” 

Don’t be an asshole.

Treat yourself once in a while. There is no ice cream in Heaven, that’s why we eat it here. Just don’t overdo it.

And when you stumble, pick yourself back up and continue down your path as if nothing happened. Don’t look around to see if anyone saw, their opinion shouldn’t matter.

This is why you shouldn’t check your weight obsessively. I used to check it only once a week on our old mechanical scale so I probably wouldn’t even have known I had trended upward when I finally checked on Friday. That’s my fault for getting a cool new smart scale with a phone app that shows me all my stats. I need to focus on just the Friday readings, as I did before. 

Don’t let one misstep derail your whole program. Think of it this way, sure you might fit into that cute bikini this summer, but if that was your only goal, you’ll just yo-yo back up over the winter and be stressing again next spring.

Think about the long term and how good you’ll look next year and the year after that and about all those nice outfits you’ll be able to fit in for the rest of your life.

I just purchased a cool pair of running tights, something I never would have even thought about 10 years ago. And no, I’m not posting any pictures. 

Stay focused. Think long term. Don’t give up. Don’t be an asshole.
Side note: I had to completely rewrite this entire article because, as I discovered, if you don’t put in a title when you’re writing using the phone app, it forgets the entire post when you close the app. I reopened it to continue editing and it was gone! I could have given up and not posted anything today, but I didn’t. I rewrote the entire thing from scratch. You’re welcome.

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New year same old goals

Yes, yes, I’m well aware it’s already the 6th of January and I haven’t posted my 2017 New Year’s resolutions yet.

That’s because I don’t have any. Not really. Not any that I sat down and agonized over.

My goals for this year are the same as last year and the year before. Just keep getting better and better, every day in every way.  But if you want something more specific than that wonderful life philosophy, then here, they fall into the following categories:

Health & Fitness: My goals here are simple. To keep losing weight. To try to eat healthier, with more fruits and veggies and a lot of pasta and cheese. To keep improving on my running, distance and speed. And to keep trying to sculpt my aging body through weight training by adding muscle as I lose fat.

Writing: Again, simple goals. Keep reading and keep writing. Try to write something every day. Maybe go back to keeping a journal of ideas and stream of conscious thoughts, like I did back in my early days of writing. I will also try not to get discouraged and try not to take Rejections as personal insults. That last one is a hard goal, because every Rejection sends me into a blue funk. I need to change my thinking that they aren’t rejecting me, they’re rejecting my story.

Mental Health: Yes, OK, let’s move on, nothing to see here. I’m working on dealing with my ADHD in all its manifestations.Maybe I’ll try to get back into meditation or something.

And that, as they say, is that.

Well, I do have one new unspecified goal and that’s in regard to politics. I intend to get more involved, contact my Representatives more often on issues of importance, and to join the resistance against the big orange turd in an attempt to prevent him from destroying all the progressive advances we’ve made as a nation over the past 100 years. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and only won the Electoral College by 80,000 votes in three states. He does not have a mandate. He’s disliked more than any other incoming President in history. He does not even deserve to be President. He represents the worst qualities of Mankind: hate, bigotry, intolerence, zenophobia, homophobia, and sexism.

Join the fight. Let your voice be heard. The election is only lost if you give up and normalize ignorance  and racism.

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Run Ed Run Part II

Revenge of the Splints.

And then …

I had no and then. Sorry. But what I did do is over the last two years, I’ve tried to lose a little weight. I ate salads for lunches and managed to lose 16 pounds.

And I managed to gain ten. But I didn’t become disheartened. Instead I took a long hard look at my eating habits. I’ve learned that I don’t eat because I’m hungry. I eat because it’s a mindless habit. 10am is snack time. Noon is lunchtime. 2pm is another snack. And so on. Well, I’ve tried to limit how much I eat. I’ve become a nibbler. Between a good breakfast and dinner I will now eat a few pretzels, some carrots or snap peas, an orange or an apple. And that’s it.

So I’m down six pounds at last count.

As the weight has come off, I’ve tried to run. And I discovered something else about myself: I’m an impatient bastard.

I want to be in shape NOW. I want to run fast and long NOW. So I started up on the treadmill a couple months ago and instantly set it for a 12 minute mile.

I did that a few times the first week. At the end of the run I was gasping for breath. And my shin splits started to nag me again.

It was a conversation with my doctor that made me see the light. I said, “I can’t run like I did in my twenties.” And he said, “That’s because you aren’t in your twenties.”

Well duh. Obvious, now that someone said it.

So how do I run at my age? Slowly. Building up gradually. I went back to step one. I used my treadmill’s programmed functions to run a slower pace.

I started running at a slow pace for 12 minutes. Just enough to sweat, but not so much that I was winded.

And it’s working. In the last few weeks I’ve worked up to running 1.5 miles in a little under 20 minutes. Still not so fast that I’m gasping like a fish out of water, nor too stressful that my shins are protesting.

Plus I’m doing various lower leg stretches and using a yoga roller tube thingie.

I just have to be patient, no matter how much I’m chafing at the bit to set a personal best in time or distance.

One step at a time, as they say.

I just have to remember to go slow and easy and with time, I’ll improve.

I’m running again and that makes me happy.

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Run Ed Run Part 1

Back in 2007, I bought a pair of running shoes. Brooks Beast I think they were. I still have them, but I never used them for running, despite my best intentions. They became walking and everyday shoes, which seems like an awful waste of money since they were top of the line, around $130 at the time, with all the lateral support an overpronator like me needed.

The problem was two-fold. I was overweight by a lot and I had shin splints.

I’ve always been a runner. A casual runner. As a kid I loved to run. Growing up, I was the fastest on the block and on the playground. I remember the girl down the block, when were were in middle school, challenged me to a race. I forgot what I was supposed to do if I lost, but she said if she lost, she’d kiss me. To be honest, I’m not sure if I won outright or if Linda lost on purpose just so she could kiss me.

I used to brag that in high school I teased the kids on the track team because even they couldn’t catch me, but I think I made that up. I only teased the football players.

But I never ran in organized competition. I wish someone had encouraged me to back then. Running and swimming were my two best recreational sports, but my parents never pushed me to participate in athletics.

My mom wasn’t a sports mom and my dad probably gave up after I showed I had no aptitude for baseball. My defining moment came in the outfield when someone hit a ball to me and I was sitting on the ground reading a Bazooka Joe comic from my gum wrapper. The ball rolled by and my dad never spoke of sports to me again.

I was in my twenties when I started running more seriously. I ran on the road. I ran at my college’s indoor running track. I ran fast. I ran for distance. At one point, I managed a mile in 5:30. Not bad for a two pack a day smoker.

In distance, I was running 12 plus miles a day. I tried to eat right. I read and subscribed to every running magazine.  I even read The short story, “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” by Alan Sillitoe (I wonder if that was a pseudonym? Sillitoe, writing about running?). Jim Fixx, despite his untimely death, was my hero.

Yes, I was a runner.

And then, shin splints. I tried to run through the pain, it did go away after about 3 or 4 miles, but it hurt the rest of the time and I barely had the strength to walk up stairs.

So I quit running. I tried biking. That was OK, but it’s more dangerous in winter and it just didn’t give me the same endorphin rush.

Then my thyroid went wonky. I gained so much weight and was so puffy, I looked like the Michelin Man before my doctor finally diagnosed it.

And the weight has been slow to come off.

I’ve tried running a few times since I quit, but the shin splints kept coming back and because of my weight, I didn’t have the wind any more for.

So I thought running was gone from my life. But then, last year, we bought a treadmill. I had so many plans for that! Yeah, I was going to get back into running, lose weight, and yeah! I bought myself a new pair of running shoes: Asics Cumulus 16. I had plans!

Yeah. The treadmill gathered dust for almost a year, as did the shoes. I refused to wear them for any reason but running. To put them on and go outside to the mall, well, that would be admitting defeat, wouldn’t it?

And I didn’t want to admit defeat.

So the treadmill languished. The running shoes silently mocked me on the floor by my dresser.

And then…

(to be continued)

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