4It's Not an All or Nothing Scenario
I'd always thought of exercise as an all or nothing affair. Either you do it, or you don't. If you can't run for an hour, you don't go running. There's no point to it. If you can't do 50 sit-ups, it's not going to do you any good to do 20, so don't bother. I know that idea is, to put it politely, so retarded that it gets special paychecks from the government three times a year, but there are a lot of people operating under the same assumption, even if they don't consciously realize it. And like all things -- from the decline of our economy to cheese being so bad for you even though it's so good -- I blame the public education system. In this case, it was gym class or, as fat young me knew it, "that hour where everybody gets together in an auditorium to look at your pasty legs and judge you."
"STOP BOOING! OH GOD, I DON'T UNDERSTAND HOW THIS IS HELPING MY EDUCATION."
I couldn't do shit as a chubby kid, but that didn't matter to the merciless god of Physical Education: Everybody climbed the same rope, played the same dodgeball and ran the same mile. There was no tiered difficulty system. Either you can do it, or you can't.
It was a fucked, apathetic system: The kids with superior genetics and shoe-money were put right up there against the tubby kid with the cereal bowl-cut, and there was no handicap depending on how much you liked sandwiches and hated baseball. And don't say it wasn't a competition, because everything is a competition to pubescent males. I hadn't run a minute in four years when my Junior High PE teacher first put us on the track and told us all to run. You might as well have asked me to throw away my sheet of Mega Man 4 passwords and deny me a ham sandwich; you were asking the inconceivable. Somewhere around the fifth time Jesse the Freak Gazelle boy lapped me while shouting puns about my man-tits (it was a 1/4 mile track, you son of a bitch, you're doing extra laps just because you still have insults cached?!), I learned that exercising was exclusively for the kids who could already do it comfortably.
"Can I call you oven mitts? Cause you got some hot man-tits there. Yeah, I actually turned around and came back to school for that one."
Then my wife decided to start running. She said that she knew it was going to take her a while to get in shape for it, so she was only going to run for short bursts, then rest in between, shortening the time at rest and lengthening the running time until eventually, she'd be able to do a 5k again.
And what the merciless fuck? You can do that?! My mind was blown. That balding asshole of a PE teacher never once mentioned "working up" to a damn thing. I sat at the bottom of that rope like a wrecking ball of tubby shame, I writhed on that pull-up bar like an unconvincing porn actress, and I walked that mile like a death row inmate. Not once did anybody say, "Hey, try just doing a little bit at first; you'll get there."
Even once the awkward typhoon of puberty passed me by and I dropped all the weight, the damage was done: Exercise was forever cemented in my mind as "that weird thing pretty people do with their limbs sometimes."
3The Clothes Actually Do Something
As somebody that, strictly speaking, does not do "body things," I've always felt it unseemly for a man to be seen in public in anything less than jeans and a T-shirt. I'm like a G.I. Joe action figure: You can add all the peripherals and accessories you want, but if you ever want less than the base uniform, you've got to find a belt sander and an emergency reserve of patience. I do not wear shorts, I do not wear tank tops and I most certainly do not wear "workout clothes."
As such, I was absolutely floored when I finally bit the bullet and first donned some jogging pants, shoes, socks and a T-shirt. My first thought was: Holy shit, is this how human bodies are meant to move? Suddenly I realized that normal clothes are fucking heavy, jeans are severely limiting and non-running-shoes are like clumsy foot prisons.
"I'M GONNA BREAK. I'M GONNA BREAK MY. I'M GONNA BREAK MY RUSTED CAAAAAAGE."
For years I'd been getting Harrison Bergeron'ed up in this bitch, and now, out of uniform, I was discovering whole new ranges of movement: Legs capable of extending beyond 15 degrees, feet that practically bounce off the pavement, and holy shit, have you ever felt running socks? Why do we even have other socks?! Why aren't we, as a people, collectively rising up to cast off our other, inferior foot coverings, and stoning the rotten bastards who've been foisting these subpar stockings on us for untold decades?
The first time I put on running clothes, huge swathes of the world finally began to make sense. For instance, if you had asked me two months ago for a perfect uniform, suitable for all occasions, I would've said "jeans and a T-shirt." Ask me that same question today -- what's a uniform that's good for everything, whether it's dancing to shitty techno music, walking your trophy mistress' Maltese or stabbing a Ukrainian in an alleyway -- and I will tell you without hesitation: "Track pants, running shoes and a T-shirt."
And that's why every Russian looks like that.