Anatomy of a Workout


Run up a hill, walk down, 10 times. In other words:

  1. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  2. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  3. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  4. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  5. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  6. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  7. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  8. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  9. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  10. Run up a hill. Walk down it.



0.  Jog to top of the hill. Walk down it. This is my “warm up”. Who am I kidding, I don’t “warm up”.

1.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:06. Walk down.

2.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:18. Walk down. Notice pain in my knee. That’s different.

3.  Start watch. Start running up the hill. Start cursing. Start feeling the pain. Pass by a bench. Stop running. Stop watch. 1:01. I’m not at the top of the hill. Think, Is this where it ends? Decide, Nope. Walk to the top of the hill. Another 0:46. Walk down. Think about quitting. Think about giving up. Think about just saying fuck it to fitness, to losing weight. To my goals. Why did I Nope?

Think about how much I’ve invested in my life to things like this. Think about elementary school, when my dad made me go running because I was chubby. Think about high school, when I did it on my own so I could lose weight for wrestling. Think about college, when I got up at 4:30 a.m. to ride in a bus for an hour to row for an hour to ride back in a bus for an hour to then go to class. Think about my twenties and running 13.1 miles the very first time. The tenth time. The twentieth time. Think about my thirties and completing triathlons. Think about my forties, and finishing a 69 mile bicycle ride.

Think about the future, when I want to complete an Ironman triathlon. Think about my fifties, and hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Ozark Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail. Think about my sixties, and taking a year-long bicycle ride around the country. Think about giving all those up, just because I can’t get to the top of a stupid hill a few times on a Friday morning? Nope.

4. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:36. Walk down the hill. Notice the pain in my knee is gone. The pain in my feet is still there. It’s always there.

5. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:23. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

6. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench at 1:00, start walking. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:58. Walk down the hill.

7. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench, start walking at 1:06. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:44. Walk down the hill.

Think, Only three more. I can do this. I hate this.

8. Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear a lot. Run almost the whole way. Stop watch. 1:25. Walk down the hill.

9.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear. Run the whole damn way. Stop watch. 1:32. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

10. Start watch. Run up the hill. 1:23. Lay on the ground. Wave to the guy sitting on his porch. Walk home.

Set a goal that some day I’m going to run all 10 reps under 1:06. When I do, it will be time to find a new hill.


Lose Control

During writing practice for today, I lost control. My prompt was “I smell…”

>>I smell potato soup and antiseptic. The soup was in the now-empty bowl on my table, and is now inside my stomach. I smell its remnants as I belch.>>

Simple enough. Just getting started. Not really invested, or passionate. Nothing to write home about, really. 

>> I smell friendship, in the form of multiple people at multiple tables, sitting and sipping coffee, as they pass a few more inconsequential moments of their lives. Once again they have nothing meaningful to occupy their time, so they while away their hours in this deli, bitching about missed opportunities,a bout poor decisions their children and grandchildren are making, about how their soup is a little too spicy today – “>>

I critique the tables of older patrons near me. I criticize their simplicity, their familiarity, their unwillingness to take risks, and I realize I am projecting those fears I currently hold onto them.

And then I start to let go. To lose control. To feel like I’m not writing about them any longer, but I’m writing about myself. I’ve stopped thinking, I’ve stopped being logical. 

>> I smell jealousy and condemnation and judgment rising from my breast as I impute my own failed life goals onto them, twenty years on. Failed – projecting – that’s what I’m doing. If I am still here in that time, will I consider it failure? How could I not?”

After another page of self-pity, I stop concentrating on staying on the lines or in the margins. 

>> What do I lose by staying? Me.

What do I lose by moving on? Moving forward? Stretching myself? Nothing. Nothing. I lose NOTHING.


Here something snaps. Something breaks free, and I loose the bounds controlling my mind, my pen, my heart. And it flows.


Reading back, I cannot tell what was written there. And that is a good thing. That is losing control. That is going for the jugular. That is intensity. That is passion. That is how the best experiences, the most satisfying writing sessions, develop and complete. This is what continues to bring me back time and again, searching for this release, this high, this uncontrollable flow.

In the end, I was completely powerless over what happened. I wrote, but it was not conscious. I was aware of a drawing force, something inside that I had released. A base, animal instinct to pursue, to hunt down this feeling and capture it, that I tapped into. It drew my hand faster and faster across the page, to the bottom and back to the top, three or four or ten times, I don’t remember.

But when I reached the end, I felt a release, an emission, an eruption of energy from from my body, like a sexual climax, like a void-filling expansion, an explosion of power and quarks and nuclear energy, and I dropped my pen, the electricity resonating through my shoulders, my fingers, inside the cavern of my mind, and I gasped, filling my lungs for the first time in what felt like an hour, recovering in just a moment that control I had so willingly given up, consciousness returning, awareness of my surroundings slowly oozing back into my senses.

I stared at my creation, incomprehensible, unfathomable even to myself, and I thought, That, right there, is why I write.