So many folks read about my running experiences I thought I would continue with some stories about my personal fitness journey, too.
When I was young, fitness meant playing with your friends. We lived in a neighborhood with somewhere around fifteen boys my age. We played touch football and stickball in the street, where manhole covers, car fenders and fire hydrants served as the bases. The real fun was the baseball, touch football and basketball at the “ball field” about a half a mile down the street from our homes. It was just an open field where we played ball.
I had a 26 inch single speed Schwinn bike. My best friend had a ten speed Schwinn string ray bike. (Not many choices besides Schwinn back then.) We went on some pretty long rides around Delaware County in Pennsylvania, sometimes riding four hours or more.
I’m also old enough to have gone to school when you had physical education, or “gym” every day. We played kickball, dodgeball, touch football and a little basketball in the winter. In high school we added track and field, indoor soccer, wrestling, archery, some gymnastics and softball. Twice a year we would test for the Presidential Fitness Award. That was kind of a joke. I could run 600 yards, do some sit-ups, pushups and the shuttle run. But no one could do a pull up. Just like no one could climb the rope.
In my sophomore year, I tried out for the soccer team. A lot of other guys knew much more about soccer than me, so I didn’t get very far. In my junior year, I tried out for the tennis team. Me and some friends messed around with wooden rackets and thought we were pretty hot stuff. We weren’t. And I wasn’t anywhere close to being a high school tennis player.
When I got to Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, I discovered some new fitness opportunities. There was a pretty nice weight room in the gymnasium. A few weeks into my freshman year, I went down there to lift some weights. I did a few upper and lower body exercises on the Universal, and then threw up on my way home. OK, that was not my style.
I did play a lot of intramural flag football, softball and street hockey in my college years. I was a decent receiver, catcher and goalie for the fraternity team. A was active, but never thought of myself as athletic. The college did have some sweet squash/racketball courts, and that was a great way to burn off some energy, too.
Once I graduated and started working and running, I decided I needed to work on my upper body strength. During long runs, my shoulders would ache, so I knew I had to do more than just run. i purchased a weight set at a local sporting goods store. It was a barbell, two dumbbell bars, and some plates that probably added up to 135 pounds if you put everything on the bar. I owned a trombone (a Bach Stradivarius trombone I bought in high school), and it had a rectangular case. So I used that case as my bench for bench presses. A little weight training helped balance out all the running I was doing.
I left my weights (and my trombone) behind when I went to seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. But the seminary, which had previously been the Concordia Senior College, had an amazing weight room in the gymnasium. Here, I learned how to use the Universal weights, and did a regular circuit two or three times a week.
When I got to my first church in Connecticut, I mostly ran, until we bought a bench and another set of free weights for our house. My wife and I both used those weights for various workouts, but nothing really serious.
At my second church, when we lived in West Des Moines, Iowa, there was a YMCA just up the road from us. Membership was cheap, so I would run a mile to the Y, do a Nautilus circuit (very much in vogue in the 1990’s) and run home. Convenient, cheap and a good workout, too.
We moved to Florida in 1996, and that’s when my fitness story really changes.