Help! Help! I’m backsliding!

Sometime last summer, I once again started working out on the elliptical trainer in my home office, initially doing about 20 minutes a day.

Then, at the end of August, I discovered that there was an app on my iPhone that had been counting my steps every day for the past two years. I looked, and decided that following Doug Ross’ example of walking 10,000 steps a day was entirely feasible. I started doing it immediately.

Over the months, I built up and up. My morning elliptical workouts went from 20 to 25 to 30 to 35 to 40 to 45 and most recently to 50 minutes (which means I get in more than 6,000 steps before even leaving the house), with an occasional full hour on the weekends. I started adding a walk around downtown in the middle of the afternoon, and another 3,000-5,000 around my neighborhood in the evenings.

My steps-per-day averages climbed:

  1. August (before I started counting) — 5,737 steps
  2. September — 10,510
  3. October — 11,308
  4. November — 11,892
  5. December — 12,988
  6. January — 12,476
  7. February — 15,536
  8. March — 15,294
  9. April — 16,346

For the first eight days of May, I was averaging easily over 17,000. And I was feeling great. In all these months, I had not once felt sick. Various viruses, sore throats, ear infections and the like swept through our family without touching me. I carried on, going from strength to strength.

I felt an abiding sense of achievement.

Then came last Monday.

It was the day I put out my signs for James and Micah. My wife said if I was going to call attention to our yard with political signs, I should mow the grass — or at least mow the weird assortment of green weeds that substitute for grass in our yard. I agreed. And such was my feeling of well-being that I mowed the front yard on a week night. You don’t know what a huge deal that is for me. Normally, mowing our hilly, just-under-an acre property is an ordeal that ruins my whole Saturday, after dreading it all week. But last Tuesday — after having done my allotment of walking for the day, I mowed all the parts of the yard that could be seen from the street like it was nothing.

There was one incident, of which I didn’t think much at the time….

I had had a horrible time starting the mower. This was the first time this year, and nothing would happen when I pulled the cord. I pulled again and again. Nothing. There’s no little bulb to push to prime the engine, so I tried detaching and reattaching the spark plug. Nothing.

Finally, I just started pulling again and again, getting a rhythm going, and on about the 16th pull, it coughed. So I accelerated the rhythm, and finally it started. It wasn’t running great, but it was running.

So, when it came time to empty the bag to dump onto the compost, I was reluctant to stop the engine. So I bent down to detach the bag, and… got a huge cloud of dust, clippings and other debris that hit me in the face just as I was inhaling, going up my nose, into my mouth, down my throat and into my bronchi.

But I continued the mission, and afterwards tried cleaning my breathing passages out with a saline rinse. No big deal, right? Take a shower and forget about it.

Yesterday's pitiful performance.

Yesterday’s pitiful performance.

But over the next few days, I started losing my voice, especially in the evening. I started coughing at bedtime, and had trouble sleeping, despite all the drugs I could think of. I kept up my routine — in fact, on Tuesday I achieved an all-time personal high of 22,158 steps — 8.9 miles!

But each night I felt worse, and Friday evening I was really dragging when I tried to walk the neighborhood. I just barely went 12,000 that day. On Saturday, I had to finish a big project on my deck in the hot sun, and only got in 11,277. Pitiful.

On Sunday, despite all my busy running around and cooking out for Mother’s Day, I only got in 8,479. Yeah. Below the minimum.

And this morning, I felt like total crud, Ferris. Puny, weak, achy. And when, at the start of my morning workout, I had that thought I often have in the morning, “Why not quit!,” I did. I hadn’t done that in I don’t know how many months.

And I still feel pretty cruddy, just kind of low-grade out of sorts. Achy, in all the muscles I used on that deck-reinforcement project Saturday. And I’m wondering if I’ll even get in 10,000 today, or tomorrow for that matter. At 11:38 a.m., I’ve only done 1,768 steps.

So… this is when all of y’all tell me to get off my dead ass and on my dyin’ feet, to drop certain appendages and grab my socks, to acknowledge that the going is tough but, being tough myself, this is the time to keep going…

Although I really don’t feel like it…

17 thoughts on “Help! Help! I’m backsliding!

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Not a bad idea. Although I see that the ones with enough charge to do my whole yard are really expensive…

      It usually takes me about three hours — with stopping to refuel, get some cold water and such. Once last summer I pushed as hard as I could to do it as fast as I could, and it took 2 hours. It’s a big, awkward yard…

      1. Richard

        Where’s Katherine when you need her to explain to Brad why he doesn’t need more yard than a couple pots on the front porch.

  1. Claus2

    When’s the last time you changed the oil, replaced or cleaned the air filter and replaced the spark plug on the mower? If like most people it’s “never” and there’s your problem.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Replaced the spark plug and the oil last summer, but the place where I’d bought the mower, Lowe’s, didn’t have the right air filter. I need to order one from Amazon…

  2. Norm Ivey

    It won’t help with the steps, but our riding mower has an electric start. Starts first time, every time. Worth it for a place of your size.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I had a riding mower, a John Deere. I gave it to a professional lawn guy as barter for x number of free mows, which was great for a while. In retrospect, years later, not a great move on my part…

  3. Doug Ross

    Are you 100% sure it was the lawn mowing? There’s been a bug going around that sounds very similar to the symptoms you described (since I had it). Started losing my voice in Vegas two weeks ago, turned into a cough that kept me awake at night, with one day of fever/aches followed by a couple days of no desire to do anything. The cough lasted about 8-10 days. I’ve seen several co-workers with the same symptoms in the past week.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m NOT sure it was the lawn-mowing.

      In fact, that’s what made me worried enough to mention my backsliding.

      The last couple of days I’ve felt crappier and crappier, and it’s almost like the feeling of having a low fever, only without the fever.

      What worries me is that I could feel even worse TOMORROW, and then where will I be on my workout regimen?

      I really want to stick with this new healthy routine. Which is why I bore y’all with it — I want to create social pressure on myself…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And my brother’s had strep this past week. But I didn’t catch it from him, since he lives in Greenville.

        One theory is that the irritation from the lungful of dust weakened my resistance, and I got a bug…

        1. Doug Ross

          That’s my theory – four hour flight to Vegas with germ infested passengers combined with many hours in the smoky casino (RESEARCH!)…

          Low grade fever – check — I maxed out at 100.1 for one day.

          I found Benydryl to be the only helpful medication.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Here’s a tip: Get yourself some guaifenesin to go with the diphenhydramine. Otherwise, you’ll get too dried out, which can be its own sort of torture.

            Make sure it’s plain guaifenesin, not adulterated with anything like dextromethorphan. That’s nasty stuff. If I really need a cough suppressant, I’ll go to a doctor and get a scrip for benzonatate.

            I generally avoid Benadryl myself. I prefer these little white pills, which you can get generic and over-the-counter at CVS or Walmart or wherever, that contain chlorpheniramine maleate (antihistamine) and phenylephrine HCl (decongestant). They won’t dry you out painfully the way Benadryl can.

            And they go well with the guaifenesin, if you still need it.

            I swear by them…

    2. JesseS

      Yeah, it’s a bad one. It managed to put me in the ER two weeks ago because of dehydration. Haven’t been that sick in decades.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now y’all have me worried…

        I went and did my regular afternoon walk. It was a push, but I did it. It took me a long time to stop sweating.

        There’s always this dilemma at times like this. Should I go ahead and work out as hard as usual, and sweat the bug out? Or will trying to do that make me sicker? I never can decide…


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