I am not an athlete! Never have been. Never will be. Of course at age 66 the transformation is highly unlikely anyway.
I don’t want to get whiny, but to set some background: in grade school when teams were being chosen, I was always chosen last. That’s not very encouraging. From fifth grade to tenth grade, PE was a required subject. I hated PE. All the while, though, I did like my bike and rode it for miles. I did like to swim and hike in the woods. I wasn’t totally unfit. I was just under-developed.
Duane at age 10. Not unfit. Just under-developed!
Something changed when I was sixteen, and I didn’t see the change coming. In those late high school years, I had the good fortune of working for The Dennis Company, where I loaded and unloaded trucks, I delivered truckloads of bricks and concrete blocks which were unloaded by hand. I unloaded rail cars full of animal feed in 100 pound bags. Sometimes with a partner. Sometimes without. I liked the work, and had no idea that I was building muscle.
Then, in the Fall following high school graduation, I found myself enrolled as a Freshman at Grays Harbor Community College, where a “basic skills” PE class was required! What!? I thought I was done with that. But there I was again in tennis shoes and gym shorts dreading the embarrassment. Wouldn’t you know it? Early in the course I found myself in a line of boys with the instruction to climb the rope! Yeah, the 20 feet of rope from the floor of the gym to the ceiling. Just like that stupid rope at Raymond High School, where I never cleared five feet. I naturally placed myself at the end of the line, to meditate on my pending doom. I still had no idea that my experiences at Dennis Company had changed my physique. But when I placed my hands on that rope, one hand went over the other until I was at the ceiling! I looked around at the gym and the boys beneath me in utter amazement, until the coach said, “OK. That’s good. Come on down.”
In the intervening years I’ve spent about 80,000 hours sitting behind a desk, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t climb that rope today. I’m not unfit. Just under-developed. To my credit, I have probably bicycled more than 10,000 miles in the past 15 years. So the legs are in pretty good shape. The core and the upper body, on the other hand, have lost a lot of strength. Ironically, at age 66, that’s changing.
In February, I joined the VASA Fitness gym, because they sent me a pretty picture of their lap pool. Once again, I found that sweating in the gym just doesn’t appeal to me, but the pool, well that’s different. The more I swim, the more I like it! And as it turns out I don’t need to take a teenager’s job to get the upper body working well again.
After summer travel I began swimming regularly, until it became a daily habit. Then I found a swim coach at The Swim Academy, and my body started changing! I have found muscles I had forgotten. I’m swimming faster, stronger, and longer. When I started I could swim 2 lengths freestyle before needing a breather with a more comfortable stroke. Then it was 4, then 10, then 16, and then 35 for a full half-mile. I went for my swim at VASA again this morning without a new goal in mind. I swam my 35 lengths in 26 minutes, and noted that was a new record for speed. But I also noticed that I wasn’t spent! So I just restarted the lap counter and went for another 23 lengths. I was astounded. Again, I’ve reached new heights without even realizing it. I swam 0.82 miles in 46 minutes, and for an old non-athlete like me, that’s astounding!
It’s kind of a sweetheart deal: getting stronger while not realizing it. It’s pretty much like my good work at The Dennis Company, except I don’t get the $2 per hour.