Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Countdown to More Sweat
Getting started on a job that will likely promote sweat involves a short span of personal contemplation. The upcoming job may be one of short or long duration, but when real sweat is in the offing the job involves a little planning. We all make plans even if we don’t spend much time considering them in a conscious way. Thus, taking on a sweaty job and seeing it to completion usually involves imagining little cues like getting started, next steps, breaking the task into parts, and putting on the finishing touches. The Footloose Forester finally decided to include his views here as part of a chronicle.
Taking on a challenge that makes you sweat isn’t always about work. A vigorous exercise workout leads to the same place and produces the same sweat. And just contemplating getting started is one of the obstacles to overcome. Standing inertia is the first obstacle. And just like a job staring you in the face, exercise routines have beginning moves, intermediate steps, and a completion phase. The sweat comes during the journey.
When you look back on all of your previous jobs and exercise sessions, you might realize that stopping for a break was also part of most episodes, even if breaks were not planned. We listen to our bodies and when our bodies tell us that we are out of breath, we have to stop. When our muscles refuse to push harder or longer, we ease off. And if we injure ourselves, the session quickly comes to an end. We all have our limits and sometimes those limits define themselves. At other times, we can choose the limits and set them as goals.
In regard to setting goals for an exercise routine, we formulate plans in our heads that we don’t have to acknowledge to anybody in advance. As we progress we learn something of our personal limits but also about our expanded goals which should be part of a strengthening strategy. Starting at one rep, the typical routine involves counting upward until the goal is reached. The sweat may pour out unnoticed but was fully expected as part of the package. Getting to 100 push-ups, for example, requires keeping track of the count so that you can proceed to the next exercise with a sense of fulfillment. Never mind the sweat. A break in the action, in the case of a session with multiple routines, is merely a pause in the countdown to more sweat.
Setting intermediate goals while mountain hiking (non-technical climbs) also made use of counting steps until that goal was reached. Most often the goal was 200 steps forward or upward before taking a break, but when he was becoming exhausted, the Footloose Forester listened to his body and reduced the goal to 100, or even 50 steps before stopping. He did that when ascending Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft. or 5895 m) in 1993. He was dead last in the group that reached the summit, but he was determined to finish what he had set out to do. Even at a chilly 20° F, there was sweat enough because there were countdowns enough.
Kilimanjaro is a magical place
Achievement beckons slowly in our brains. Progress is slow but steady in the early stages but grows into more certainty as we huff and puff along. But we weaken as we near our goal and it may be prudent to reduce our goals. Instead of questing for a goal of 100 push-ups, we may be forced to acknowledge that we should stop at 75. Maybe that voice in our head is telling us to ease up, back off, or quit.
Sweat sessions that are associated with mowing our lawn in rural Virginia have many of the same features as rigorous exercise routines. The goal is the attainment of a properly mowed lawn, one fragmented enough to require breaking it into parcels and big enough to require re-filling the small gas tank on the lawn mower. Huffing and puffing are part of the routine, thus sweating on a hot summer day goes without saying. In this case, achievement comes only after the lawn is mowed to a uniform height. Rather than counting upward to that goal, the Footloose Forester has, over the years, used a countdown system to get to the goal line. Six more lines to cut before I’m finished with this section, five more to go, only four now…and the section will be finished. Then I can take a rest before starting on the next section.
Taking a rest is very much-anticipated, the older that the Footloose Forester gets. He welcomes the opportunity to tackle physical challenges like mowing the lawn and to demonstrate to himself that he is physically fit, but he also knows that he will huff and puff, strain and sweat. And that the rest period is a brief interlude pursuant to a countdown to more sweat. The cold beer is never more satisfying than when it is presented to him by his loving wife, the Bengal Tiger, but he also knows that all good things must come to an end. Thus, the purposeful countdown to more sweat begins. He sets the goal of counting slowly backward from 20 to 0. The rest period ticks away from the arbitrary minimum time he thinks that he needs to overcome his inertia. By the time the countdown to more sweat reaches zero, he is resolved to get to his feet and finish the job. Working up a sweat by counting push-ups is one way to attain a goal, and a countdown to more sweat is another way that works.