Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Irrational Fears of an Over-Exerciser

Being in the midst of a waiting period lasting for an undetermined amount of time, I have the time to sit around and worry about all the various unknowns associated with Peace Corps service. The majority of my fears deal with fairly inconsequential issues, such as 'How may pairs of shoes will I be able to jam in my bag?' and 'Should I buy a Kindle so I can bring along a ton of e-books that I probably won't read?' and 'How I am going to survive a ridiculously long airplane ride overseas without gouging my eyes out or punching my neighbor?'. These are very important issues, obviously. I mean, I need a different pair of shoes for every activity: sitting, running, extreme walking (otherwise known as hiking), biking, climbing things, working, kicking a soccer ball and drinking beer. I've also discovered that reading is a great way to quickly put myself to sleep at night, meaning it takes me about a month to read a 300 page book, reading ten pages a night before I totally lose focus and start drooling. As for trips by airplane, my body takes being in a small, enclosed space with a bunch of strangers for an extended period of time as a cue to start manufacturing a massive amount of noxious gases. So when I say I'll have to avoid punching my neighbor on an overseas trip, what I really mean is that I will have to figure out a way to defend myself from a potential onslaught of angry non-mouth-breathers. While I am moderately concerned about these problems, there is one thing in particular I am very concerned with. It is my borderline obsessive compulsive nature of exercising. Yes, exercise.

Being in good shape is something I have gotten used to and put a lot of effort and time into. When you're in good shape year-round, you can register for half marathons a week and a half ahead of time and not stress too badly about passing out in a pool of vomit before the finish line. You can also eat voraciously every few hours and not have a body that screams 'I fucking LOVE Ben and Jerry's Half-Baked ice cream, one whole pint at a time!'. In addition to the eating benefits, you can also drink calorie intensive local and regional micro-brews almost daily, which has the added side effect of transforming you from Keystone Light guzzler to beer snob almost overnight. Being in quality shape also allows you to run around in circles for no real reason during recreation indoor soccer games, other than to prove you have too much time on your hands and spend it working out. Basically, what I'm saying is that being ridiculously active is a major part of my life. And I am not sure how that will fit in with Peace Corps service.

One of the great things about living in the United States, especially the West, is the ample opportunities and resources to live a healthy, active lifestyle. I can go for runs by myself and not worry about being snatched, go biking because I have the income to afford to do so, rock climb because I have the leisure time to spend pursuing it, and hike because I have access to some of the most beautiful mountains on the planet. Am I going to have these sorts of opportunities while overseas? I have absolutely no idea. For all I know, I could be placed in an area where my only exercise options will be doing pull ups from the door jam and running up and down stairs. Don't laugh, I've been very creative on vacations before...yes, I exercise on vacations.

I have a feeling soccer is going to save my ass, literally and figuratively. Soccer is a sport played and loved pretty much all across the globe, so I am almost guaranteed to end up somewhere with pick up games happening daily. Not only will I be able to satisfy my need to run around in circles, I'll also instantly have something in common with my new neighbors. I will obviously be making room in my bag for a pair of cleats. Like I said, I am very concerned with the high maintenance nature of my footwear needs.

I haven't even left for my service yet and I am already learning to appreciate America for what it is. The ability to work out probably isn't at the top of the worry-list for most volunteers; however, for me, it is near the top of the list. Most people have rational fears about Peace Corps service, like communication with family and friends back home, eating weird foods and learning a new language. Nowhere on the Peace Corps FAQ is there a section titled 'What if I am an over-exerciser? Will I be able to go for a run and eat half of the pantry afterward?' Not knowing exactly where I will be placed or what sort of situation I will be in, I can't really begin to prepare myself for what sorts of creative ways to work out I will use to keep myself sane. I do know that I will have to mentally prepare myself to be okay with not being able to pull a half marathon out of my ass. I will have to adjust to a lower level of fitness and activity level. This might be a little rough and I might not like it very much at first, but it's something I will have to deal with. Plus, all of the other rewards of Peace Corps service will make being slightly out of shape seem like a more than fair trade. And I guess I will have to cut back on binge chocolate eating...maybe.

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