One study says coffee is good for you, another says it’s bad.  Sugar, same; salt, yes. In fact, you name it, and there are reports written by sage academics swearing to the validity of their conflicting findings. So what should we believe?  And how do we know?

In 1977 Time magazine put out a cover story headlined Ready, Set, Sweat! focusing on the booming fitness movement rolling through the country.  And off we dashed in our Suzanne Sommers thighs, coughing and wheezing, then aching and complaining, perhaps even throwing up – if we were doing it properly.  In other words, onset running was a lot like onset smoking, and we never made the connection.

Amazing, really, that anyone continued after day one.  But like smoking, if you just stuck with it  you might actually get hooked, because as with any endeavor which requires an investment of puking, running held out before it the potential of a payoff.  The potential, mind you, not the guarantee.  In that one sense, smoking has it over running, cause with smoking you got the guarantee.

But the running payoff was the kind rarely found in a world of instant gratification and material want.  Its dividend at the end of a long initiation period was that of sanguine absent-mindedness, a torpid disregard, and a new male appreciation for the bane of sensitive nipples.

Many times after completing their first race, a person would look back at the entire process and say, “I didn’t think I could do it.  Then I did do it.”  Then ponder, “what’d I win?”  What a magical moment that, one to savor really: endorphin-saturated greed. This was but one of the great benefactions of this most democratic of all sports.  But there were more.

What helped was that running is what they call an undifferentiated activity.  The arms and legs did their thing without thought, while the brain stem took care of the panting and spitting.  This, then, left the higher brain free to roam, to explore hidden passages, and to make previously unrecognized connections – like, was President G.W. Bush wearing a pair of six guns, or did his arms just hang that way naturally when he walked? You see? It’s endless what you could consider.  That’s why so many millions of people worldwide took to running, because it was so very basic and grounding.  Every time out the door you’re allowed to think freely – like Ted Kaczinski.

     Then in 2005 the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics determined that while both underweight and obese individuals had an increased risk of death, there was no increased risk for moderately overweight people.  Really?  Damnit, I knew those Edwardians were on to something.  Of course, the most up-to-date data suggests otherwise, but now I’m confused.  Who’s to know?  So, salads at McDonald’s?  Please, spare me. In fact, boneless spare-RIB me.

I say, look to the children.  Notice that when they play they always stay squat to the ground?  And what protects their tiny, little bones?  Baby fat, that’s what.  And somehow that is supposed to be wrong just because we begin to lose hair on our head while sprouting it anew in our ears?

Look at us.  Grinding out the miles, grim and gritty of face, tightened and gaunt, because running was supposedly weight gain’s mortal enemy.  But now with conflicting studies in hand, it all comes across about as sensibly as “the world is flat”, and not in the metaphoric, Tom Friedman sense, either.

So, what else have we been lied to about, cleanliness next to Godliness?  Next you will tell me that malt whisky prevents cancer.  No.  Stop it.  If you’re kidding about this we can’t be friends any longer.  Malt whiskey prevents cancer??!!!  Well, praise the lord, and pass the Glenlivet.

Oh, it’s all coming out eventually, people, from the benefits of greenhouse gasses, to the ills of flouridation.  The only consoling element is that in another recent study obesity in middle age was said to lead to increase the risk of dementia later in life.  Well, at least by the time you realize what you’ve done, you’re swimming headlong into the calming waters of dementia.  Right now, though, it’s time to go Edwardian and bulk up a bit.  Purely for the sake of my health, you understand.


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