Resolving to get results

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

Crumple, creak, smash, snap, crackle, and pop.

That’s not always the sounds of a breakfast cereal — it is often the sound of New Year’s resolutions quickly breaking, being abandoned and biting the dust.

You be the judge. Which life-changing resolutions are the most common: loss of weight, exercise, stop smoking, eat healthier, spend more time with family and friends? There are statistics on which are the most commonly made and which are quickly broken.

Several years ago, I resolved to start exercising. I planned on jogging – seriously jogging.

I started by running with my son. That was a really bad idea. Josh was a member of the cross-country team at the high school. He was glad to run with me, but he wanted to talk while we ran.

I was more interested in simply breathing.

I could barely muster up the breath to say, “Please, stop talking.” I forced out those few words between gasps for breath. Not Josh. He spoke in long paragraphs.

This all occurred in the mid-1980s. Over the previous few years, I had grown quite a bit heavier. I was determined to do something about it. This was a New Year’s resolution I was determined to keep, so I kept running.

However, I did make Josh stay home. His gleeful chit-chat was demoralizing.

After several weeks of effort, I was finally able to leave our Locust Street house, head east several blocks, turn north on Lincoln Street, run to the entrance to the old drive-in and head home from there.

No matter which route I took on my way home, it ended up being almost exactly 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). I started by alternating between walking and jogging. Eventually, I was able to run the entire distance.

Then I started working on speed. The more often I ran that 5K route, the faster I ran it, the better I felt. I lost weight and increased my endurance. I was feeling much better.

Most runner have heard about the “runner’s high.” Not all of them have experienced it. When running and strenuously exercising muscles, endorphins are released into the blood which cause the runner to experience a feeling of euphoria and extra energy. I always thought it was a myth.

Then one night as I ran, I turned in front of the old drive-in and headed home. Everything felt great that night. There was a dampness in the air – a cool feeling when I breathed in. Instead of feeling tired, I felt full of energy.

I turned north onto Xenia Avenue, but instead of turning left on Spring Street, I kept running north on US 68. The faster I ran, the better and stronger I felt. I left the city limits sign behind.

As I approached Center Road, I decided that running to Xenia was a bad idea, so I turned west. I kept up the pace and the rhythmic breathing. It still felt good, real good.

There was a little rise-and-fall along the route, but nothing major. Then, I turned onto Nelson Road. For the next third of a mile I was running uphill. It wasn’t steep, but it was steep enough.

About 400 yards from the turn, my legs turned to rubber. My breathing wasn’t adequate. I started gasping for breath. I stopped.

I put my hands on my knees and thought to myself, “Oh, great! Now, how am I getting home?”

I had over two-and-half miles to cover before I could rest on my couch. My legs wobbled like I was a new-born calf. It was a chore just to put one foot in front of the other, but I had no choice. My “runner’s high” had left me high-and-dry.

After walking about half a mile, I worked my way up to a very slow, painful trot. It was a few levels below a jog, but I was moving.

That cool, damp night didn’t end my jogging adventures, but it was my last runner’s high – thank goodness. From then on, I kept it to an easy 5K run. I did lose weight and I felt great. It was a New Year’s resolution success; one of the few of my lifetime.

A few years later, I joined a group of friends on a ski trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. On a fairly gentle downhill run, I lost my balance and toppled over. I created my own small, personal blizzard as I flew end-over-end down the hill.

When I stopped tumbling, my left knee was throbbing. My bindings were still intact, but left knee wasn’t.

A few years later, I blew-out my right knee and my orthopedic surgeon strongly recommended that my jogging career should end.

Oh, I’ve made a few resolutions since then, but keeping them hasn’t been a priority.

Maybe this year I can actually shed 25 pounds without jogging.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist