Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Well, if it's good enough for Jake the Snake...

It's he, it's he. It's DDP.
Jenn and I are training for a marathon. It will be the first long race I have run since the Cardiff Half Marathon debacle of 2007 –– an event so poorly organised it undermined my faith in Britons' ability to do anything on a large scale successfully.

The awesomeness that was the 2012 Olympic Games in London helped eliminate that feeling somewhat (I still don't really trust the Welsh) but I'll admit the fact this marathon is in Dublin was something of a selling point for me. Though, truthfully, my enthusiasm is more to do with the marathon being in Dublin than its not being in Britain. I love that city and many of the people in it.

How Jenn and I got to the point of signing up for the marathon is a meandering and erratic story that begins more or less on New Year's Day, when Jenn and I suddenly realised that in the month and a half previous we had not gone a single day without drinking. We hadn't become alcoholics, just terribly unhealthy. And it was making Jenn feel awful. So, we went off booze for the month of January. She did some sort of 90-day fitness challenge, some time passed and, voilà, marathon. Because that's the obvious progression, yo.

Within that aforementioned passage of time I've been doing my own little things to try to keep fit. First I got into a habit of running down to an "outdoor gym" in Cardiff Bay, where I do pull ups, push ups and other bodyweight exercises in the lonely morning cold –– feeling as if I were Jean Claude van Damme preparing for one. last. mission. But enthusiasm for such a thing wanes easily in a rainy-cold country, so I also got into DDP Yoga.

DDP Yoga sounds like it should be pornographic but, in fact, DDP stands for Diamond Dallas Page –– a professional wrestler whose career peaked in the late 90s. Page was never at the top of my list of favourites (from that era of WCW I preferred Chris Jericho, La Parka and Eddie Guerrero) but I always admired him somewhat because he was so damned enthusiastic.

Truth is a malleable thing in the world of professional wrestling but the version of it most people agree on is that Page, who had gotten into wrestling considerably later in life than most, managed to stay in fighting shape because of yoga. When his wrestling career started to fizzle, he (respectably) chose to move on and teamed up with a dude who calls himself The Yoga Doc and looks like he was the inspiration for Todd Quinlan from "Scrubs." The two of them wrote a yoga book for dudes, then developed what is now DDP Yoga. As best I can tell, DDP Yoga is a more yelly, more energetic version of regular yoga, but without any pseudo-religious aspect.

So, instead of sitting there chanting, "Ommm",and trying to connect with the universe, you flex like Hulk Hogan and shout "Bang!" a lot.

As I say, Page has always been admirably enthusiastic, but because he is a wrestler, and wrestlers are really just glorified carny folk, I had long ignored his yoga DVDs. This despite the fact I was pretty sure I should be doing some sort of yoga/stretchy thing because working out and running often leave me racked with pain. Indeed, that is generally the story of my physical fitness efforts: do something for a while, develop pain in shoulder or back that won't go away, try to work through the pain until it becomes incapacitating, be forced to stop for several weeks, get angry at my sloth, start new physical fitness thing, repeat.

But then Page saved Jake "The Snake" Roberts' life with yoga. Roberts is perhaps most notable for having invented one of the coolest wrestling moves ever: the DDT. When I was a boy, one of my friends would always insist on being Roberts when we'd wrestle. I was usually Kerry von Erich, Randy Savage or Terry Funk. My friend's brother was always Jim Cornette and would perpetually interfere in our matches by beating on us with a tennis racket.

Because of my many bouts with Jake the Snake's doppelgänger I developed a certain respect for the actual man, and always felt sad that Roberts seemed to have a one-way ticket on the train to An Alcohol-And-Drugs-Induced Death That Anyone Could Have Predicted Decades Before It Happened. But now, suddenly, Roberts is sober. Not just sober but lucid and lithe enough you can truly believe he's sober. He gives the credit for this transformation to Page and his exercise regime.

Dozens of other wrestlers –– some of whom are also erstwhile train wrecks and some of whom are just good looking dudes –– also sing the praises of DDP Yoga. And, I don't know, I guess the idea of it just sort of wormed its way into my head. It helps, too, I suppose, that I was back in the United States a few months ago visiting family members, two of whom –– my grandfather and his daughter, my mother –– are struggling with a lot of physical pain at the moment. I thought of my future and wanted to develop ways to work with the cards that genetics will deal.

As of right now I've been doing DDP Yoga for six weeks. I've not experienced any sort of amazing transformation but, then, I wasn't expecting any. I was already healthy, already at the weight I want to be. But I have noticed that my marathon training hurts a lot less than I'd have expected it to. I don't do the old thing of hobbling around like C3-PO on my rest days and struggling to get going on runs.

I think, maybe, the yoga is also helping make my chest and abs look a little better. Enough, at least, that I intend to keep doing it. I am able to tell you all this only because I've been doing it for a while. I've gotten used to the silliness –– having Page shout: "Come on, I can't hear you at home!"

When I first started, though, I found it terribly embarrassing. Almost intolerably so. Firstly because it is yoga, and secondly because it is yoga as delivered by a cheesy ex-wrestler. The first time I did a workout I had to draw the blinds to prevent people seeing me through the window. I'm a little less embarrassed now but I think I'd still rather be caught pooping.

I am this way with exercise; I don't like for anyone to see me doing it. Though, I'm not entirely sure why. I guess because I don't look amazing. I'm not the best ever. I don't have the body of Rick Rude and never will. Of course, he died at the age of 40, so perhaps I don't want the body of Rick Rude. But you get my point.

Meanwhile, the drawback to training for a marathon and doing yoga three or four times a week and cycling 6 miles a day (my commute to work) and whatever else I do is that I am hungry all the time. I mean all the time, y'all. This is despite the fact that I am also generally eating all the time. I eat a meal or snack at 6:30, 8:30, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00, 17:00, 19:00, and 21:00. Yet still I tend to wake up in the night with hunger pain and am struggling to keep weight on.

Ostensibly I do all this stuff to enrich my life, to make myself healthier and live longer. But sometimes I wonder: What sort of life is this? 

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