J isn’t an athletic sort. I think anyone who sees his hefty frame, and watches him walk (gambol?) to the mailbox can tell that he’s more awkward than not. His toes turn slightly in, and he doesn’t necessarily keep pace with anyone who walks with him. Neither can anyone keep pace with him. There’s a bit of a skip, and a bit of a sway. He looks joyful when he’s walking, but he doesn’t look athletic.
J only actually runs (the proper definition of “run”) when there’s some sort of thing that freaks him out; dragonflies, moths, butterflies, dogs, birds, or any other imagined threat will make him break into a trot, canter or gallop. There isn’t, let’s face it, a single chance in this world that he will ever excel in track-and-field events. He cannot keep up a proper pace, and his breathing is laced with laughter and humming. He sometimes runs out of breath and coughs, all while smiling broadly and laughing.
J running is reminiscent of the screaming boy in Robin Hood: Men In Tights, or Phoebe Buffay jogging in Friends.
As you all know, if you’ve been reading this, J is a fan of using his elliptical machine while watching musicals. I have to leave the garage because this is a thing he likes to do by himself. Whether he’s watching Guys and Dolls, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Gigi, South Pacific, or The King and I, I am not allowed to burst in and sing while he’s working out. I get a firm (but broadly smiling) BYE! While out on our walks, I am his personal jukebox, and I take (of course) requests, but while he’s exercising…nope…not allowed.
J alternates his elliptical machine workout with his Wii Fit. This, my friends, has been tricky. A) The Wii Fit isn’t smart enough to know that it’s dealing with a person who doesn’t understand some of the instructions, B) J has trouble fulfilling some of the requirements of the correct form for the exercises, and C) running was something we had to do with him whether we wanted to or not.
Ah, yes…aging is not easy, friends. Aging after you were an extremely active youth who had very little respect for all the fine mechanisms within one’s body is a pain in the ass. Our knees (oh, our knees!) creak, crack, snap, squeak, and make us yelp. There are days that, as with life in general, easier than others. On those days, we are as bouncy, flouncy, pouncy, trouncy as Tigger himself. Other days are laced with groaning and dread at the thought of running.
It was on such a day, not that long ago, that J insisted on running with the Wii Fit, and I had to accept that, unless the Wii Fit was the thing to use, exercising wouldn’t happen. After slathering myself with Tiger Balm (which promises to become the fragrance that my body exudes as I age further) I told J “we’re going to figure out how to run with this thing.”
When I say “figure out how to run” I really mean it. J, left to his own devices, will get the Mii to stand there while the clock keeps time, and every other Mii in Wii Fit Island passes him while looking over a shoulder. So teaching J to “run” (something we all basically take for granted) had to be done. Stability, something to anchor him, was the key. The first time (after the Tiger Balm and some Tylenol,) I ran next to him as he held on to…drumroll, please…a stepladder!
Look, it’s not the most gracious running you’ve ever seen. It’s nowhere near a cheetah, a gazelle, or Usain Bolt. The pace continues to be choppy and less than consistent, but now J runs with the Wii Fit, and he listens to his music while watching his Mii being waved at by his relatives’ Miis. The musical selections are eclectic: some days he starts out with Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, and works his way through Christina Aguilera’s What a Girl Wants, and sometimes he’s bouncing around to Todd Rundgren, The Spice Girls (don’t tell him I told you that,) Beck, The Cars… He started running for five minutes, and now he’s up to 30 minutes. He covers about five miles in that time. He sweats and drinks lots of water. He laughs as I do the chores in the kitchen and dining room, or take care of the plants in the driveway.
Like I said: not the most elegant runner in the planet, but he works at being fit. He knows he’s doing better than we (the old, creaky people) are doing in that department. He actually stands on the doorway and giggles when he sees us doing our run in the evening before we cook dinner. He peeks in on us, and shakes his head as if saying “that’s all you’ve got??? HA!” And off he goes to set the table for dinner, or to get things lined up for dinner prep. J will never be thin, or graceful. J will always go into interpretive dance when telling me if he wants to do the elliptical or the Wii Fit. Saying RUN sounds more like “WUHN,” but I can tell from his arm and leg movements what he means: expansive back and forth with deeply bent knees means elliptical and musical, and a quick back and forth of close-to-the-chest arms, and tiny, quick steps means Wii Fit and iPod.
We are, like just about everyone else on the planet, following the Olympics, but not with the TV…we know who has medaled by reading the news and following the medal count. We know the greatest athletes in the world are out there achieving great things. And then there’s Robel Kiros Habte, the Ethiopian swimmer who has received attention for being the least Michael Phelps‘-like swimmer in the competition. Like Florence Foster Jenkins, he is probably the best example of doing what you do because you love it, because you want to, because you have a right to be there with everyone else.
Not everyone will live up to what they see in Michael Phelps. THAT is why he IS Michael Phelps. How long did it take for Michael Phelps to outdo Mark Spitz? The thing is that the chubby kid, the uncoordinated kid, the awkward kid, the clumsy kid, the asthmatic kid, the kid who is afraid of water have as much right to dream, and maybe their dream won’t be to BE Michael Phelps, but rather to BE there, too.
So, yeah, J runs…sort of. He doesn’t win medals outside of our home, our garage, our milieu (limited as it is.) But he runs. He didn’t before. He does now. You do what it takes, and you should be thrilled when it works out. I know we are.