Working Out With A Cigarette

I hate running. I honestly, seriously, really do. Other than the apparel, I don’t feel good doing it and I hurt like a mofo after. The thing is, I’ve come to an age where I hurt even when I don’t work out. I have no idea what happens when I sleep at night but, lately, my morning now begins in shifts. First there’s the “why am I awake before the alarm clock” thing. Annoying. Then there’s the sitting up. Yep, no more is there the flinging of the blankets to the side as I simultaneously jump out of bed. Nope. Now I pull the blankets off, teeter to the right a bit, sit up, rub my arms, roll my neck back and forth  and then ease my way off the bed just slow enough to remind my legs “it’s time for work, lovies… time to hold me up.”

Because I am a logical person, I figure, if I’m gonna hurt anyway, it may as well be the good kinda hurt. So, I work out.  My goal is not to show-off or sport amazing abs or to reach a personal best. I do it, once again, because if I’m gonna be in pain, it may was well be the good kinda pain. That’s it.

I went running for an hour this morning. And by running, I mean I did this trot/speed walk thing for 20 minutes and then just opted to walk at a brisk pace. Anyway, about 2 minutes into my run, I noticed a heavy set woman walking toward me. She was wearing her pink workout gear, her Ipod was securely clipped to the strap of her sports bra and her hair was pulled back really tight. I can tell she was gonna own today’s workout. As I got closer, I noticed her arm go from her waist up toward her face. That’s when I realized she was smoking a cigarette. My first impulse was to laugh but I didn’t or at least I didn’t dare. But the older man sitting on the bench off to the side of us did. We passed each other just as quickly as it took for her to take a puff of her cig.

About 15 minutes later I saw her, again, a distance away but walking toward me. As we crossed each other’s path I noticed she had a fresh, unlit cigarette in one hand and a pink lighter in the other. She was sweating like crazy and she seemed to be focused on looking straight ahead. I smiled at her but her gaze was straight. From the looks if it, as far as she was concerned, no one was in that park but her at that moment.

20 or so minutes after that, as I contemplated whether I should slow my pace from brisk to a gangsta walk, I noticed her walking my way again. Her pace had slowed a bit and she was drenched in sweat. And, yeah, she still had what was once a perfectly smokable cigarette clenched in her fist.

I didn’t see her again after that. But she got me thinking. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t gonna stop smoking. At least, not today. But it didn’t look like she was gonna stop walking either. I mean, she had the workout outfit with matching sports bra. Obviously an investment had been made. To me and maybe to you, it doesn’t make sense. Who works out with a cigarette? Doesn’t she know how horrible those things are? Doesn’t she know how awful they smell? Doesn’t she know that the cost of a pack of them could put 2 gallons of gas in my car? Doesn’t she know that this workout thing she’s ventured into could go a little smoother if her lungs were a little clearer? I suspect she does know. But it’s her thing. It’s her “thorn”.

I wonder if sometimes we see the cigarette in people’s hands and get so focused on it that we don’t notice that they’re walking. She was walking! She was doing it! Yes, she had to take a puff before and probably during. At first. But then she decided not to light the next one. At least, not while she was walking. But she still had to hold on to it. I don’t know why. Maybe it was symbolic. Though not the healthiest reward, maybe she decided it would be her prize at the end of her work out. Maybe she just needed to hold onto it because it was something she knew. A constant. Healthy or not, it was her safety net. Or maybe she just forgot she was holding it. Who knows? I certainly do not. And what business is it of mine. She was walking! We crossed each other’s paths more than once and wouldn’t it have been a shame if all I ever noticed about her was the cigarette in her hand. Once I got past the cig, I saw someone working out… working ‘it’ out. All the while, with a cigarette in her hand.

I hope she keeps at it. And there’s a part of me that hopes she keeps at it with an unsmoked cigarette in one hand.

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