Hope for your 'get-in-shape' resolution

Remember your New Year's resolution to get in shape? How's that working out for you?

Wait, don't tell me. The first day you got up early and ran 2 miles. The second day you got up and ran 2 miles. The third day you got up, took three steps, and collapsed. The fourth day you ate two chocolate éclairs for breakfast and dropped your new $80 running shoes in the recycle bin.

I know because I've been there, time and time again. My wife kept taking my shoes out of the recycle bin and hiding them in the back of the closet, knowing I'd be looking for them again the next year.

I'd think to myself, "I used to be a pretty good athlete. OK, I used to be an athlete. Therefore, even though I'm now 35 years old (or whatever) and weigh approximately 40 pounds (or whatever) more than I did back in 1979, I can undoubtedly still run 5 miles in under 40 minutes, just like I did in 1979."

Sound logic, of course, but for some reason it never worked out. For two or three days I'd push myself to run farther and faster than I had any business running, then I'd wake up one morning so sore I couldn't get out of bed. And that would be the end of running, at least until my delusions of athleticism returned and I geared up for another cycle.

Meanwhile, my waistline slowly expanded.

Then, about nine years ago, something happened that changed my life: I discovered pants with adjustable waistlines. Just kidding. Actually, I had an epiphany. I realized I was no longer an athlete, if indeed I had ever been one, and that right then I probably couldn't run 5 miles in 40 hours, much less 40 minutes.

But that didn't mean I couldn't get in shape. I read somewhere that 20 minutes of exercise three times a week helps control blood pressure, cholesterol and weight. So I decided to run three times a week instead of every day. (I made a similar decision with regard to showering, but that's beside the point.)

Another key realization was that I didn't necessarily need to run 5 miles - or even 2 - to start. In fact, those first few weeks I ran less than a mile, mostly because that was as far as I could go without dying.

Then, one day, I felt like I could go a little farther. So I ran a mile. Within four months, I was up to 31/2, and there I've pretty much stayed: 31/2 miles, three times a week, rain or shine. (Lately, mostly shine.)

As a result, I feel good, my doctor tells me I'm healthy, and I can still wear pants I bought in 1989 (although not the ones I bought in 1979).

I even have the occasional éclair for breakfast.

Lawrenceville resident Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.