Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Birthday Workout

I don’t know if other people are the same, but I put quite a bit of effort into planning my Birthday Workout.

This ritualistic homage to my own birth started when I was a high school runner. I decided that, since I was born at 6:33 p.m., I needed to be running at that exact moment every year on my birthday. And for many years I did just that -- until one day in my early 30s when I suffered a terrible realization. For all those years of birth-moment running, I had been living in the Eastern U.S. time zone – but I had been born in the Pacific U.S. time zone, which meant I had been running three hours too early every year. I should have been running at 9:33 p.m.

I don’t know why it took me so long to figure this out. As anyone who knows me will tell you, details like that don’t usually escape me because my brain is a graveyard for minutiae. Need to know the N.Y. Yankees’ starting lineup for the 1978 World Series? It’s in there. The middle names and birth dates of all my grade school classmates? Yup, they’re still in there, too, taking up space that could be better devoted to remembering when I last changed the oil in the car.

And yet, this detail had eluded me and that irked me to no end. My slavish devotion to the moment of my birth was tainted by operational error.

Well, you say, just wait til 9:33 p.m. Look, I don’t know about you, but by 9:33 on the balmy summer anniversary of my birth, I prefer to be digesting a filet mignon, a twice-baked cheesy potato and a spinach salad with sliced strawberries and Catalina dressing. And I’d rather have a snappy little Shiraz, and not a cocktail of adrenalin and lactic acid, coursing through my veins. In other words, a 9:33 p.m. workout is not an option.

So it was back to the drawing board for the Birthday Workout. Over the course of the next few years, I expanded my workout repertoire to include yoga and swimming. With the Heavy Heart of The Deeply Disillusioned, I continued to do some kind of “special” workout on my birthdays, but I wasn’t feeling the love...until I hit 40 and stumbled onto a new Birthday Workout strategy.

Inspired by my husband’s triathloning, I decided to create my own Birthday Triathlon. That first year, it was 40 minutes of yoga, 40 laps of swimming and 4.0 kilometers of running. Each year, I’d add another minute, length or repetition of whatever I decided to do.

It was after my 44th birthday, two years ago, when I made the swimming segment 44 50s that I realized I had a potential problem. 44 50s wasn’t a problem now, but thinking ahead to, let’s say, my 95th birthday, it might be. I could just see it now: The EMT squad would show up to fish my corpse out of the pool. What would they write for “cause of death” on the official report? “Stupidity.”

So I thought, well, what if I keep adding minutes and repetitions til I get to 50 and then start subtracting them until I zero out on my 100th birthday (when you figure it’ll take the whole day anyway for my 104-year-old husband to serve me my Birthday Dinner)? But that felt too Countdown-ish to Death, so I quickly nixed that idea.

So that leaves me back where I started – working out at the anniversary moment of my birth.

I only have to make one slight modification: We’ll have to move to Hawaii.

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