Now that I declared my independence, there was the matter at hand of taking that first step. I began at a conservative pace: One mile an hour. It wasn't very impressive by any stretch of the imagination. My goal was to make it to 20 minutes without coding. I slowly turned my head to look around. I hadn't mastered the walk-and-look-around technique yet and I didn't want to trip and winding up kissing the console as I fell. I looked at the nearby treadmill masters demonstrating their skills: speed walking, running, juggling; running with their machines inclined to match the slope of Mount Everest, all wearing headphones. And no one breaking a sweat. While they all skipped along, I was already experiencing burning in my legs, stabbing knee pain, labored breathing, drenching sweats, blurry vision, and severe depression. I knew I had to be close to my 20 minute goal. It would be worth the pain.
With the prospect of a Rocky Balboa moment awaiting me at the end of my torment, I looked down to see how far I had come. I wiped my eyes with my towel, and as my corneas cleared, the numbers came in to focus:
One minute. That was it. Good Lord, help me here. I felt like the Hebrews in the wilderness, when they asked Moses, "Have you let us out here to die?" I asked myself how I got myself into this mess. It had to get better. My weeping was not helping.
And it did get better.
I had water, so I knew I wouldn't die. I slowly reached for my water bottle carefully, trying not to trip or lose the cap (an OCD thing for me), and balanced the walking and cap-turning motions (step, turn, step, turn) to open the bottle. Finally the bottle was opened and I was able to enjoy the feeling that a model on a bottled water commercial is supposed to make us imagine it feels, and I took a big drink. After recovering from my choking episode, I was able to regain my balance and continue at my one-mile-per-hour rhythm. Finding that experience so enjoyable, I decided to have a second experience, and reached for my towel, wondering what would happen by doing this. Surprisingly, I accomplished my goal without trauma, and wiped my face and regained focus. I began to speak positively to myself, that I was going to make it, that it would be worth it, that I needed counseling.
Things were starting to smoothen out a little bit; I think I was a little overwhelmed from the excitement of starting something new. I was beginning to develop a cadence in my step and starting to feel confident. I was still crying, but no one could tell.
I sped up the machine and I was now up to the blistering pace of 1.2 miles-per-hour. I felt like I was really flying now. I looked down at my shirt, which was now starting to accumulate a parabola of sweat on my shirt. For the first time in a long time, I was actually sweating on purpose. I was starting to feel better; I was on my way, even though I smelled funny.
I was starting to move more gracefully. I was starting to feel pretty confident now. I even nodded my head and managed to smile (or grimace) at a gentleman as he walked by.
I was beginning to feel like one of the regulars now. My coordination was to where I could actually drink water, wipe my face, and smile without stumbling. At this point I could actualy lift my head and look up and start to enjoy one of the amenities of the club - television monitors - a multiple number of television numbers suspended from the ceiling within eyeshot of any glance that I make, and headphone ports located on the treadmill console, but there was no way I was going to attempt the headphone thing, so I chose to utilize my reading skills, following the closed-captioned text on the screens. Since it was mid-afternoon, I had the pleasure of watching Oprah on the television monitor in front of me and was able to educate myself on the risks and benefits of living life as a polygamist with four wives. Actually, it was rather interesting. I just wonder if this polygamy guy can remembers his anniversary dates.
I was pretty amazed that I was still actually in control of my involuntary muscles. But I was tearing it up now. I was actually feeling pretty good and thought I'd see if I can bump it up to 2.5 miles per hour.
Bad decision. Decided not to do that again. I looked like George Jetson. I went back to my Oprah-watching pace.
I wasn't dying, had no chest pain, and was still maintaining continence, so I so I made a decision to up my goal from 20 to 30 minutes.
Original goal was met. I was stoked! I bumped it up to 1.5 miles per hour. I looked around, knowing that the people around me were cheering me on! Well, that wasn't happening, but I was still pretty excited.
I could see the end in sight! There were five more minutes to go, the polygamist's wife wanted a divorce, and I began to slow down the pace, thankful to have only one wife. As I was bringing the machine to a stop, I glanced one last time at the television and saw a Burger King commercial advertising one-dollar chicken sandwiches only through the 4th of July weekend. I picked a bad day to start a diet.
After creeping it down to 0.7 miles an hour on my cool-down for the last five minutes, I was done. Victory for me. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Where's the ibuprofen?
Still trying to figure out how to lift my legs so I can get off the machine.
I took the first step off the treadmill. The floor felt like mush. I took a second step. I was walking like I was in a "Thriller" video. But I now had both feet planted. I wasn't going to fall. So I staggered to the locker room, panting and sweating like Homer Simpson in a donut shop.
I walked to the back of the club and into the locker room and sat on a bench for about 15 minutes and recuperated. My knees and back hurt, but I knew I was going to be all right. I was no longer crying.
First days of anything are memorable, so it's always good to write about those experiences. After that, it's pretty routine.
UPDATE: Two weeks have passed since that day, and since then I've made slow progress; however, by the end of the first week, I was able to make it to 60 minutes and walk 1.6 miles; the next week I was up to 65 minutes and 1.75 miles...
It hurts right now, but it'll be so worth it.....