As part of my employer’s benefits package, they offer a wellness program through a third-party company named Redbrick Health. One of the features I’ve been taking advantage of over for the past year and a half is health coaching. For one week out of the month, Redbrick sends a health coach to my office, who then meets with employees to discuss health related topics such as fitness and nutrition, as well as provide encouragement and accountability.
A week or so ago, I’m in a small conference room at work. The one with the round table that has a faux wood top. Sitting across from me is Tara, our company’s assigned health coach. We’ve had variations of this conversation before: I begin to swivel uneasy in my chair as I recount why I didn’t make more progress towards my goals since we last met. Tara is patient and supportive, but I can’t help feeling discouraged and angry with myself as excuse after excuse escapes my lips. I try to hide my negative emotions through self-deprecating jokes, like the one time I recalled eating an entire sleeve of Chips Ahoy cookies in one sitting and being astonished when none were left. I know she doesn’t judge me, but I can’t help but think she sees a fat guy who can’t get his shit together.
As we discuss exercising, she brings up the topic of inspiration. At first, I’m a little bemused: Inspiration? It’s not like I’m going to be representing my country in the Olympics any time soon. However, the more Tara talks, the more I start to understand the point she’s trying to make. What physical activities inspire me? What am I passionate about? I don’t say it aloud, but the 12-year-old in my mind shouts, “SEX!” However, given the spare tire I need to lose, I quickly reconsider, as I can’t legally change my name to Sting at this point. All kidding aside, I had to really think about the question. What are activities that I can do to better my health AND actually stick with as a lifestyle? In middle and high school, I played basketball, football, and ran track. Obviously, team sports aren’t in the cards at this stage of my life. Post-college, I’ve been a dedicated runner and a committed weight lifter. Yet, for the successes I’ve attained and enjoyed, I’ve always seemed to slip back into apathy and laziness. I say I want to run a marathon, but I’m more inclined to a marathon session of Breaking Bad than one pounding the pavement.
I left my meeting with Tara without an answer to her question. This past Tuesday evening, I casually mentioned to the kids that I was going to go running after dinner. My daughter Leia excitedly asked if she could join me. Trying to forget the last time we ran together (honestly, it was more of a “walk/jog” routine, except with lots of tears), I begrudgingly obliged.
We stepped outside the front door. It was dark, save for the lights on the outside of our house. Leia’s shadow danced in the driveway while I turned on my Couch to 5k and Pandora Radio apps. I fired up the Justin Timberlake station and we were off. Leia wanted to run over to the recreation area across from our neighborhood. It’s a popular spot for runners and bikers alike that has a paved seven mile loop trail that meanders around a man-made lake. However, at the time we were out, we’d be more likely to encounter deer rather than another human being.
After a five-minute warm-up, we alternated between running for a minute and walking for a minute and a half. The night air was cool, but not enough to make me wish I brought a jacket. The run was actually enjoyable and to my surprise, no tears were shed. We jogged together in the inky darkness, our footfalls mingling with crickets chirping in the brush and the “who, who” from the owls surveying us from naked branches overhead.
As we headed back towards our house, we finished our last one minute run with Leia charging up a switch back as fast as she can. I hung back ever so slightly and watch her, arms rhythmically driving against the air, as if she was beating a snare drum solo at her sides. I can’t help but smile at the look of determination and joy on her face. She reaches the top ahead of me and turns around triumphantly.
The next time I meet with Tara, I think I’ll have an answer for her.