Updated: Jul 11, 2020
I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. It blends Murakami's memoir with great running stories. The book has sparked my own exercise thoughts...
My relationship with exercise has certainly grown over the years as I've become more aware and comfortable with myself. When I was a kid, I biked a bit and played around the neighborhood. However, I rejected all attempts to be in kid's T-Ball or basketball teams, reflecting both the sedentary lifestyle of my parents and of my husky stature as well.
When I was in high school I used to go walking and later jogging with my dad, who had to exercise to keep his strained back limber. That led me to sign up for the school cross country team in a moment of ambitious blindness. After the first team training run in August, I realized running the hills of Mountain Brook was quite exhaustive so I quit once we returned to school.
Much of my 20's and 30's was a swinging pendulum of good intentions and gym memberships countered with lost motivation and clothes-line treadmills.
But in my 40's, while working in London, I joined a gym in the basement of the Shell building. My workouts weren't too brisk, but I built a habit which helped me limit my stress and weight to barely acceptable levels.
When we finally returned to Houston in 2008, Shell had built a new gym on campus so I began to workout four times a week. However, the big jolt to my exercise regimen happened in 2011 when the family decided to buy bikes for everyone so we could float around the neighborhood enjoying the mild spring temperatures together. Though the casual 30-minute rides were soon shelved when conditions better resembled a sauna by June, I had rekindled my boyhood passion for bike riding.
From there, my addictive personality took over and before long I was up by 6am on Saturdays to ride 30, 50, and soon 70 miles across town. My son, Noah, once asked what I thought about while I was riding for three to five hours. I thought it was a great question because my introspection had really come naturally for me. It was at that moment I considered that perhaps biking was more conducive to introverts the world over.
I typically started my rides thinking about work projects, deadlines, relationships, successes, and problems. I then migrated to family topics like vacations, weekend activities, special moments with my kids and wife, Jennifer. Sometimes these thoughts were fleeting and other times they would occupy my mind so much that I discover the last mile pedaling was a blur.
Eventually, especially with my longer rides, my list of thoughts and dreams were exhausted and I relegated myself to thinking more about my speed, how much more time I had to ride, or the inevitable cramps or fatigue that was overtaking my body. On one such ride, I found myself staring through the fence at the end of a Bush Intercontinental Airport runway after riding 40 miles during the early hours of an August morning. Suddenly, I realized I was a LONG way from home and a very hot afternoon ride away from relief.
But generally, the solitude of those rides was heaven. I not only enjoyed the serenity but I needed it to balance the stress of my weekdays seemingly filled with social anxiety and conflict management. In 2012 I reached the pinnacle of my riding by completing a couple of 170-mile, two-day biking events. Not bad for a pudgy couch potato!