For the past week I've had what you might call a one-track mind. I have been totally immersed in jog training, which is not to be confused with on-the-job training.
Jog training, as I've experienced, is a preliminary course designed to help those weak of will and ankle (me), to psych themselves up for actually jogging. It is particularly useful, I have found, for those who come out of a strong ethnic heritage - those whose ancestors, for example, spent so many years running from the Cossacks, the English, etc., that when they finally got to America, they looked at each other and sighed, "now at least, we can stop running."
These people pass on such folk wisdom as, "Sit down or you'll have a heart attack" and "What are you running for? Where's the fire?"
Jog training is necessary to help you get over 1) their teaching and 2) our gut feeling that there is essentially no difference between discipline and masochism.
But before I step out into the world on my left heel, rise measurably off my left toe, land on my right heel and get going, I feel compelled to leave behind a small pamphlet that is not available at the Government Printing Office. It's called "How to Jog Train."
The first step, so to speak, in jog training is a full, unrestrained embrace of something technically known in the trade as Self-Hate.
You can experience self-hate in a variety of ways. Taking your blood pressure is useful; so is running upstairs and listening to your shortened life span.
I personally found the cover picture of Farrah Fawcett-Majors in her jogging togs to be most effective, since a detailed investigation of her thighs turned up no - repeat, NO - wrinkles. But the fail-safe method for most people seems to be trying on bathing suits in a dressing room with a three-way mirror under fluorescent lighting.
After that encounter with self-hate, those who haven't done themselves in (there is a slight attrition rate in this course) can move right along to Step 2, otherwise known as Seeking Inspiration.
Inspiration, moral encouragement and other positive reinforcements are available from any number of jogging converts. There is the 130-pound weakling who had sand kicked in his face a scant half-year ago; the insomniac who now sleeps like a baby; and assorted former physical wrecks. My own inspiration has been liberally provided by a friend who quit smoking and started jogging in one week and sounds like an escapee from an Ayd's ad.
The most inspirational thing about jogging books, by the way, is that they were generally written by someone who started off In Worse Shape Than You Are. The one I picked up was by Kathryn Lance, who modestly admitted that she went from "total slob to track star in approximately nine months."
So much then for Self-Hate and Inspiration and visions of the Boston Marathon. The third step is what is known as Economic Motivation, which is to say: Put your money where your mouth is, and maybe your feet will follow. Or something like that.
Economic motivation is a trick I learned three years ago, when I accepted an advance for writing a book and spent it. I then realized that I had to do the book or give the money (long gone) back. This time, after reading the book, I went out and bought $30 running shoes. Despite the fact that these days running shoes are the dress code at the local supermarket, I am sufficiently crummy that I feel compelled now to use them. Someone else might try exorbitant designer shorts. But economic motivation only works if you spend more money than you know you should.
This step leads, of course, to the final moment in jog training known as Making the Commitment. Of course, there are private commitments and public commitments, but in this case, a little publicity never hurt. If you tell everyone, casually, with just the right flair, that you're getting "into jogging," you may not be as likely to fink out. At least that is the theory behind this column.
Now that I know How To, now that I have graduated from Jog Training, I am about to put the picture of Farrah's thighs in my pocket, lace $30 worth of Adidas's profits to my feet, corral one of my Inspirations as a partner, and actually run.
At least, I think I am.