HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 8, 2015 – 12:00am
I have a constant conversation going on with my body. It tells me what it needs and I respond to its requests. It has a wisdom of its own that informs me when it is not well, or when it needs to be better cared for.
I thank God that I have been healthy practically all my life, even if as a young man I was not athletic at all. I never got into any sport. The total number of times I played basketball was one. And I was taken off the court by the coach because I could not catch the ball when it was passed to me. Nor could I dribble.
I pretty much resigned myself to the notion that I had little or no skills in the sports department. I liked running, but not competitively. I could run fast but the moment I had to compete with anyone, I would lose interest.
In high school and college, I was in the school band. When asked what sport I played, I used to answer cheekily saying, “Pang romansa lang ang katawan ko.”
My body weight in my teens and 20s was okay. Even without any sport, it was robust enough to ward off illness. I spent many sleepless nights partying but I never got really sick.
As was the fashion then, I took up smoking in college but stopped after a year. What stopped me was the medical condition of my girlfriend’s father. When I was visiting her, I made the terrible mistake of lighting a cigarette in front of a man who was dying of lung cancer. He shouted at me with the little voice he had left, “Have you no respect for a dying man?” I immediately crushed the cigarette out and never lit another stick again.
It was in my early thirties to age 60 that I I became more active and my body started to crank up. It was an awakening of sorts. It was so ready to get active.
I got into jogging big-time then. I would jog two to four times a week, depending on my schedule. I loved the idea of exercising even if at first I hated sweating.
But soon enough, I began to enjoy doing five-mile runs. What used to be so tiring at the start began to be easy for me. I liked running around the Ateneo campus with its open spaces. At one time, I ran 15 kilometers straight without even stopping to drink water. I pretty much amazed myself. I ran for a few years off and on.
At around that time, I also started biking. I bought myself a really good racing bike that was quite expensive. I would spend afternoons just biking around Ateneo, UP and Katipunan Avenue. At the time, there were fewer cars on the streets and the air was much cleaner.
My big adventure with the bike was riding to Tagaytay from Luneta in less than four hours. I even got a certificate for it. It was a big deal for me. To prepare, I did a carb diet for a number of days and a protein meal the night before the race. I followed everything by the book. To make sure I was not going to get dehydrated, I bought a thermos, a couple of muesli bars and two chocolate bars to give me a kick in the event that I was near enough and did not have the energy to continue.
The chocolate boost really worked. I remember when I was on the last seven kilometers from my destination, I was quite exhausted and ready to give up. But eating one chocolate bar really did it for me. I felt a surge of energy that took me to the finish line. It must have been a sugar rush. I completed the 60 kilometers from Luneta to Tagaytay.
My most enjoyable sport is diving. I got into it for a strange reason — I was afraid of the ocean. So I forced myself to face my fear of the sea. I remember I was 45 years old and mid-lifing. I noticed a few years into my midlife crisis that as I was going through my inner journey of introspection, I was also doing a parallel activity in the outside world: I was literaily exploring the depths of the ocean (writing this column and other things). As it was within, so it was without.
Two years ago, I joined a group of senior friends with our wives and we climbed Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. It was a difficult climb but it was well worth the effort since I felt it was a triumph for my 62-year old body.
These days, I go to the gym to lift weights. I can still do 60 pushups uninterrupted. I obey my body by eating good food and stopping right before I feel full. I do not want to tire my kidneys, stomach and liver too much so I eat sensibly. My last blood tests show I have no cholesterol, heart, prostate, kidney or liver problems. I am thankful for that.
I see my body as a sacred temple that houses my soul and I take care of it as best as I can. I do not smoke. I hardly drink. I definitely do not do drugs. And I only started drinking coffee four years ago when I turned 60. I don’t think I have consumed even a hundred cups since then.
These days, my body feels it needs to do back exercises since I am starting to get backaches. And so I do planking and a few back routines to strengthen it.
While I take care of my body by eating healthy, I sometimes indulge in steak, chicharon, et cetera, which may not be that good for me. A writer whose name I can’t remember once wrote that while the body is a temple, sometimes it is okay to treat it like a nightclub and allow unhealthy stuff in. Your body needs some fun, too. After all, it was created with all five senses.
Eduardo Galeano wrote:
The Church says: the body is a sin.
Science says: the body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.
The body’s suggestion in the quote is one good reason to keep it in shape so one can savor the fiesta longer. It’s okay to indulge in some bad stuff. In my case, I can afford it. My numbers are good. And balance is key.
As in all activities in life, everything in moderation.
I think it was James Dean who said, “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.” I have lived a pace of life faster than moderate speed. I missed out on dying young. But at the rate I am going, I will have a decent -looking body if my soul doesn’t wait too long to leave it.