More life

February was all about two things: The Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and my new workout regime at Orangetheory.

Read about my experience reporting my first feature from East Palestine here. I’ve got a few other angles in mind, including one that seems particularly urgent to the citizens of a nearby community, so I do anticipate more reporting and more published features on this topic.

But onto the Orange.

I’ve never had a consistent gym routine. I’ve been a member at various places over the years, and mostly my workouts have involved a generic 30 minutes on the treadmill or the elliptical followed by the random whims that occur to me as a I walk through the weight machine area. I might hit the upper arms or my core, but mostly I’d just aimlessly dick around before wandering toward the sauna. There was no goal, no vision.

On Feb. 2, Bridget and I were driving down the road when we passed an Orangetheory location and I thought out loud: Maybe that would be good for me. I’d never conceived of doing some sort of workout class, but I knew enough about the Orangetheory model to know that it was cardio-heavy and, with a bit of morning dedication, it might be a good fit. I already had the community rec center membership, so, worst-case scenario, I’d just cancel Orangetheory in a few weeks and go back to where I was. But, like I just pointed out, that wasn’t really getting me anywhere.

I could easily continue not working out with any sense of mission, just say fuck it like I have for a very long time, but there are two driving forces that are practically shouting at me in my head these days, saying, “You cannot put this off any longer!”

  1. Last year, my dad had triple bypass heart surgery. (He has recovered very well, and he’s doing great. Back at the gym himself, in fact!) Long story short: The factors that pushed him into that surgery are the same factors that may one day push me into a corner like that. Genetics, plain and simple. My dad has always kept a good gym routine, heavily based in cardio workouts, and his doctors told him that it was all those years of working out that slowed the development of his heart condition and, to be blunt, saved his life. His workouts bought him time, and the surgery really helped. He’s as healthy as can be right now. But without those decades of running and working out, according to the grim implication from his doctors, there’d have been no surgery. There’d have been no more life to save. Heart trouble can bear down on you fast, and any tools to slow its terrible advance are critical to success. Now, as I watch my young daughter grow up day to day, changing so fast I can hardly believe it (nine months, wow!), I feel the blinding beauty of impermanence, and I realize how deeply important it is to protect myself—and thus to protect her and my wife.
  2. If I can improve my strength and mobility, I will play better golf.

And it’s been going great so far! I’m good at a lot of things, but I am not good at self-direction in the gym. We’ve covered that. What’s nice about a place like Orangetheory is that you get an hour to yourself, with nothing else to do but listen to a coach shout out prompts and keep you moving. The experience is similar to meditation. When I think about it like that, it becomes obvious why so many people place a good workout routine close to the center of their lives.

This could quickly turn into an unpaid ad for the place, so I’ll just leave it at this, my main point: Life is a series of choices. And I’ve come to cherish my ability to choose, to hone my sense of agency. This is something I’ll eagerly teach our daughter as she grows up, because I’ll also tell her this: It really helps to have others nudging you in the right direction from time to time as you make those choices. Doctors, coaches, loved ones, they’re all a part of that agency, too.


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