September 14, 2007

First Person:
By Al Carlos Hernandez

Think you look like the Mayor when you look like Cruz

There comes a time when a workout becomes work. You come to the realization that you now have to work out because you have to, not because you want to, in order to stay healthy and so you don’t look like an old bag or old baguette.

In California most of us guys who look like Cruz Bustamante, want to look like Antonio Villaraigosa end up looking like Don Francisco after a laborious workout.

I’m not sure when it all ended. Even well into our 30s, Los Homies, Cadillac George, Danny D., and the Pajeros and I would go to an urban gym and play 3 on 3 basketball 3 times a week, often 4-5 hours at a time. After the game we would sit outside a small corner store spiting game about how well we did. It didn’t matter much if we won or not, there was consolation in knowing that other cats our age were couch potatoes, and I was losing the street soldier virility.

We worked out because we loved the competition, it was fun, it wasn’t about how we looked, and it felt strong to be at the top of our game. For me getting older and staying in shape isn’t about looks as much as confidence. It’s not that we have to be able to throw down in a fist fight, the older I get the probability of that grows less and less, and given the body politic, should something like that occur, the chances of me fighting fair inconceivable.

It all stopped when George moved away… Well the real truth is, it stopped when George and I got a 3 on 3 beat down by two High Schoolers, and then George moved away.

My wife has a serious regiment, she gets up early goes down stairs and works the Treadmill, Elliptical, Pork O master or whatever, while listening to gospel acts like Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams, and The Sons of Champlain, wait… She doesn’t listen to the Sons, I was still sleeping when I thought I heard them. It’s all I can do to grab a shower, make it into the kitchen for coffee and a bagel the size of an inner tube.

It doesn’t matter who you are, one day a fat roll appears just above the belt line. Getting bigger or rounder for me isn’t a major deal, as long I can still fit into suits I bought 10 years ago. This says two things; my dress up wardrobe is criminally out of style. Two, I’ve cleverly lowered my belt so the spare tire can fold over the top.

Dieting for me is not an option, I’ve spent more than half my life broke, eating traditional foods, and now that I can afford a porterhouse the size of a catchers mitt, I’m not going to graze on a bowl of plants or eat a piece of fish that would satisfy a Geisha girl. The male solution to weight gain is to buy bigger clothes.

Acquiescent to realistic health concerns, pursuant to reasonable belly control measures, I have decided to once again walk a mile a day, a 5 mile walk around a lake on Fridays.

The lake walk is not a cake walk, 5 point something miles in circumference. My wife and I walked it regularly several years ago, but at the end were always so hungry we would go directly to the House of Pancakes slam a gold card on the table and throw down on a stack of flap jacks.

Because of my work schedule, I work out or not, during the day. Like most of you, we have a health club membership that didn’t pay off. It seems I would always find myself in a hot tub or a steam room with really old folks who had nothing else to do and it gave me the creeps. They, assuming that I was out of work, would try to engage in old dude conversation about the benefits of gainful employment, and how their daughters third husband was taking goof ball pills.

Middle age is a good thing, if you consider the alternative. Working out feels good after you do it, but a five mile walk takes a few days to recover from, particularly if, when you walk, you pace yourself in-between a: my wife threw me out of the house and forced me to work out shuffle, and a manic hustle to the nearest bathroom para jog.

Contrary to popular thought, it’s how you feel, it’s not how you look that counts.

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