Last week I learned about a man named Jim Fixx from–of all places–a term life insurance website. Jim Fixx was a runner. He wrote the 1977 bestseller The Complete Book of Running.
From Wikipedia: “. . . he is credited with helping start America’s fitness revolution, popularizing the sport of running and demonstrating the health benefits of regular jogging.”
He wrote that running would extend your life.
Then he had a heart attack and died while running on July 20, 1984 at the age of 52.
On some days I feel like Jim Fixx.
In my last “real” job I worked with a guy everyone called “Bud.” I don’t know if that was his real name, but it fit. He was short and simple. A thin, ugly, gray cubicle wall seperated us. I heard every word out of that guy’s mouth. I heard whispers to his wife. Needless to say, I brought in a solid pair of earphones.
I declared my vegetarianism at that job, towards the end of my stay. Bud scoffed. He said things like, “I could die tomorrow, so I’m going to enjoy myself. I’m going to watch a lot of sports and eat a lot of meat.”
Okay, that’s fine. I would reply that NOT eating meat was enjoyable to me. Me not eating meat was the same as him eating meat. So, Bud–Buddy Boy–I’m doing what you’re doing, see? We’re the same! We’re both doing what’s best for us at this particular point in our lives. Get it? No, he didn’t get it at all. I wanted to pound him. I didn’t like that guy from day one.
That was–wow!–seven years ago. I stuck with it. I dropped meat “cold turkey,” to use an awful cliche. Three years later, I upgraded to veganism. Now I eat mountainous salads. I run. I lift. I make sure I get eight hours of sleep every night. I don’t smoke or drink. If Bud could see my overall lifestyle today, he would–I’m sure–scoff.
“You what? Run? Run to where? Around the block? What for? Well, I could die tomorrow, so I’m going to relax, have a beer and a beef stick and watch football all day.”
What do you say to this, to people like Bud?
I get it, I could die tomorrow too, but running makes me feel good; having ran makes me feel even better. I understand his philosophy though. He’s going to “live life to the fullest” by eating a bunch of meat and watching a bunch of sports or whatever. Pleasure before all else. Many dead philosophers would have agreed.
But, please, Bud-types, don’t think that it works for all. If my lifestyle was a pair of underwear and I made you put them on, you’d go “Eww, gross, get these off me, I can’t stand your underwear right now.” But maybe ten years from now, you’d stop by and say “Hey, remember me? Uh, you wouldn’t by chance still have those underwear, would you?”
When Jim Fixx died, Bud-type people struggled from their recliners, pointed and jabbed their fingers, and screamed “See. See. See. See what happened to Jim Fixx? He dropped dead while running. Why waste all that time? Why put yourself through all that?”
Most people have these thoughts. I do. Exercise is hard. Watching TV is easy. Ice cream tastes better than Broccoli. I know I could croak tomorrow, so why not go “out” the easy way . . . with my head submerged in a giant bowl of chocolate pudding.
For one thing, running didn’t kill Jim Fixx. He didn’t run until he was 35. He was a heavy smoker and he weighed 240 pounds. He also had three other strikes against him: an enlarged heart, heart disease in the family, and a stressful occupation. If I was magic I’d close my eyes and see what would have happened if he had never started running. Maybe “Oh, I’m getting a vision of Jim Fix. Oh my God, he died on his fortieth birthday, eating an elephant ear in a Porta-Potty at the Wampaloo County Fair.”
Who knows, right?
If you’re looking for my motivation, I could tell you in a thousand different ways, but today, at nine in the morning, on the day after Christmas, 2011, I’ll say:
When I’m alone, in silence, I want peace. Among the damning thoughts I fight to ignore–I’m not good enough– I want to feel I’m doing all I can to create the good ones–I’m doing fine–and to work hard to live long enough to figure some of it out–this “human life” business.
Some day I know I’ll be able to relax.