Ten years have gone by since I began my first job as a newspaper reporter.
That’s 10 mostly sedentary, fast-food-fueled, sleep-deprived and deadline-pressure-filled years.
It’s a lifestyle that would take a toll on anybody, but especially if you don’t take time out to take care of yourself.
For me, the parts about being sedentary and mostly fueled by fast food have been largely true. They’re also largely responsible for me becoming, umm, larger.
My clothes started coming in sizes with far too many X’s. Shortness of breath that only used to come after hours of vigorous exercise now came after carrying groceries from my car to my front door — a whopping 20 feet each way. And my doctor wasn’t too pleased, either, finally following through on her “threat” to medicate my rising blood pressure.
So, something needed to be done.
Enter the great outdoors.
Readers will recall my relaunched soccer career. That continues — so, too, does my realization that I am not the second coming of Pele or Lionel Messi. I have one goal in almost four months, and that came because the other team was down a player. But I digress.
One soccer game a week wasn’t going to do it, especially with the late nights and early mornings of a journalist’s schedule wreaking havoc on my diet in between games. I needed something more.
Then, I remembered something: I live in Utah.
There is no shortage of things to do outdoors in this state we call home. There are countless hiking and biking trails leading to lakes, springs or forests where you can find peace and solitude, as well as a good workout getting there and back.
And when you live life one deadline at a time, sometimes the peaceful and tranquil destination is as important as the strenuous, calorie-burning journey.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten together with friends to go on a couple hikes and bike rides. I’ve kept playing soccer. I’ve even dusted off the golf clubs for the first time since I was in high school (with predictably hilarious and hideous results — it’s not a good thing when your golf score resembles your high blood pressure reading, and vice versa).
The benefits? Twenty pounds down. Improved endurance. Generally feeling better about myself physically and psychologically.
The downside? Shin splints hurt — a lot. Post-hike naps cut down on productivity on days off. Having to wake up super early to avoid midday heat.
But the good far outweighs the bad. Those of you who are avid high school football fans may have noticed me pacing the sidelines as I keep my own statistics during games. Last year, I don’t know if I could have pulled that off, as my weight put additional strain on a pre-existing knee injury.
And you better believe that injury reared its ugly head when I first started being more active. It’s hard to keep going despite the pain. The aforementioned shin splints didn’t help, either. But after a few soccer games and a couple hikes, it all started to turn around. Any pain I have now is attributable to my body reminding me I’m not 18 years old anymore, and though I am the same height and weight of some NFL running backs, I don’t have the same physique.
But I’ve been able to do a lot of things that I didn’t think I could. I rode my ancient, suspension-free, too-small mountain bike on the Pipeline Trail near Salt Lake City (my back didn’t appreciate that much). I hiked to the hot springs up Diamond Fork Canyon in Utah County in the dark (my back appreciated that much more). A friend and I hiked up to Dog Lake and back one morning before work (fittingly, our canine companion appreciated it most of all).
Over the past few months, I’ve done my best to undo the effects 10 years of unhealthy choices.
Even if it means 10 years of ice packs to soothe my aching muscles.
Darren Vaughan is the community news editor for the Transcript Bulletin. Email him at email@example.com.