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Diet, excercise and Mr. Jerkhead

The way to avoid all of these wretched diseases headed our way as we age is to watch your diet and get a little exercise. 

Want to avoid diabetes? Watch your diet and exercise. 

Want to have a healthy heart? Watch your diet and exercise. 

Want to keep cancer away? Watch your diet and exercise. Oh, and choose your parents carefully.

How about a stroke? To keep your blood vessels clean, watch your diet and exercise. 

Depression? Hey! Even the blues can be helped with diet and exercise.

True, the medical profession and drug companies have devised a bunch of ways to attack these problems without diet and exercise. For every malady, there's a remedy in a bottle.

But if you read up about whatever disease you have, it is likely that it can be prevented and even cured with a good diet and a little exercise. 

I am starting to get on board with the diet thing. I quit sugary pop. I drink a little fruit juice. I eat nuts and raisins instead of candy bars. I try to eat my vegetables. 

I no longer feel guilty if I don't eat the last bite on my plate at a restaurant, given how they dole out such gargantuan portions. 

But exercise? 

That has been a problem. 

The issue is psychological, and it goes back to my childhood. 

I was always the smallest in my class. Oh, how I hated physical education class. I was always chosen last for dodgeball. If it was a contact sport, I was doomed. 

Then in about fifth grade, we got a physical education teacher who was allegedly a NFL prospect and could kick the ball into the heavens. 

If memory serves, his name was Mr. Jerkhead. 

Mr. Jerkhead stood at the opposite end of the playground, punted the ball to each of us, and mocked those of us who couldn't catch the thing as it rushed down from the sky.

When my turn came, up went the ball against the blue fall sky until it nearly disappeared. Then it re-entered the atmosphere and descended, growing larger and larger, coming faster and faster. 

If I didn't move, I would be crushed!

So I slid my 42-lb. frame off to the side and let the ball smash to the ground. The crater left by the impact made it obvious that my choice was wise. 

"What a wimp!" yelled Mr. Jerkhead from across the field. "You're never going to amount to anything on the football field if you don't dare catch the ball!"

Mr. Jerkhead assumed that I cared to amount to something on the football field. 

For good measure, Mr. Jerkhead later lined us up against the wall and threw footballs at us. The only way you could leave the line of fire was if you caught one. 

As the natural athletes caught balls and stepped off to the side, Mr. Jerkhead started firing the football like a bullet at the remaining hapless wimps. 

We huddled in the corner like calves in a pen. 

What fun!

Mr. Jerkhead's ego trip might have been harmless fun, except the humiliations of physical education class made me never want to take part in sports again. 

It took me until my mid-thirties to try exercising for health purposes. Even then, any excuse to take a day off sufficed. 

It wasn't until I realized that I no longer needed to compete with my peers or fear ridicule from Mr. Jerkhead that I was able to keep up exercising with any regularity. 

As I grow gray, I want to avoid the pills and the probes. The key, as we know, is diet and exercise. 

But if I am to get off the couch, I have to realize I do not need to compare my times, or my number of minutes, or my number of laps to the accomplishments of anybody else. 

If I walk a mile, it is better than not walking a mile. 

If I run a mile but at a rate of speed similar to the average customer at the International House of Pancakes, so be it. It is better than not running at all. 

If I get on the exercise bike but am tuckered out in five minutes, it is still better than not getting on the exercise bike at all. 

How nice it would have been to have learned those lessons in school.