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Personal Security

Writing about physical fitness is not unlike writing about personal security. I have not yet recovered from the devastating news of the attack on our country nor do I expect to. The range of feelings that rapidly invaded my system has thus flooded yours I am sure: sorrow, anger, disgust, helplessness, vulnerability and fear.

A year ago I took a drive to Colorado Springs to get away from the old backyard, see the sights and restore my rusting perspective. I hadn't left the Golden State before I began to relax and observe the fleeting scenery — and my fleeting gasoline; the gauge read empty. The interstate off ramp offered a selection of fuels and a wide choice of fast food joints. I pulled into an incongruous cafe that boasted home cooking with a twenty-four hour breakfast menu and dared them to ruin a ham and cheese omelet.

A family of four walked slowly in my direction and climbed into the booth next to me. They looked tired, like it was a long hike from the front counter but they made it. The dad was a gentle guy who, after brief negotiations, ordered the food. Mom fussed in her purse and passed what appeared to be recently snapped photos to the kids, a girl and a boy in their middle teens. Comments were made; smiles and reactions filled the table. They were good people and when the food came I was saddened. I saw what was happening and where these sweet folks were headed. They were silent while they devoured their extra large portions of pasta, pizza, burgers, fries and coke. They ordered dessert and I tried not to look.

The parents were not yet forty, retaining remnants of attractive youth and thirty extra pounds each. The kids were shy and cute and innocent and held fifty too many pounds between them. I believe they all knew it and I wanted to cry for the girl. I paid my bill and glanced at the early evening crowd in the restaurant. There were a lot of large people with forks in their hands and mouths busy at work.

It was enlightening. I'd been ensconced on the California coast for ten years and forgot what people outside my zone looked like. The diversion I had originally planned took on another form. I started to keep mental notes of the human condition now set in my mind. The eating habits, the bulk and the lack of muscle tone, the attitude, appearance and the countenance of the men, women, boys and girls around me became my general focus.

I noticed a discomfort within me that I could not define. I was happy yet discouraged. Life was good, roller coaster that it is, yet I was depressed. I strive to be positive amidst the fray and seldom fail. What was wrong?

Shuffling through the mixture of emotions it became evident to me that I was sorry for the condition of the majority of folks around me. They were soft, unconditioned and vulnerable. Reasonably convinced I was not assuming a superior or judgmental position, I continued to probe my observations. We've strayed from physical activity and have served up for ourselves a lifestyle of distractions from reality and oversized platters of greasy and sugary food. We're slipping and I'm afraid and appalled. That was the answer to my question, "What was wrong?"

I'm not a crusader and don't I envision myself fighting crime or the larger wrongs of the world. They're not acceptable but they're inevitable. I leave them to the experts and authorities. However, in the battle against the wrong we do to ourselves physically on a daily basis I take up arms. This is individual, personal and controllable. It's not illogical to say that to the degree that we neglect our health and fitness, we neglect one another. Beware lest we become weak, easy prey to resistance, ineffective and apathetic.

Might I present a suggestion? Start with an hour of exercise this week... ten minutes a day and take Sunday off. Double it by the end of the month and take two days off. Anything goes — Get moving... walk, walk and jog, walk with a weighted pack on your back, carry small hand weights and walk up steep hills or climb stairs wherever they can be found along the way. Push the iron.

Sweep your refrigerator, cupboards and counters of junk food.

It's a matter of personal and national security to exercise and to eat right for good. Secure your own borders and support those around you to do the same. When I run for president on the Fitness First ticket, I promise protein on every table and a gym membership for the whole family. Until that day, friends, let's think muscle and might.

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