Are You Limping, Mr. Fitness?

By Dan Dipiro

Sometimes I limp when walking in the office. I’m talking about just a slight, barely perceptible, temporary limp. This most often happens when I’ve been sitting or standing still for a while at my desk and I interrupt my work to walk to the men’s room or the lunch room or somewhere else, and it’s often just a day or two after a particularly hard workout that has left me feeling sore.

The limping usually works itself out after a minute or two of walking and disappears. Sometimes, I’ll take a minute or two to do a little stretch of some sort and get rid of the trouble that way. But enough physiology. I mean to address the sociology of the matter.

coworkers react

Whenever I limp-however slightly or momentarily-in the vicinity of certain office mates, one of them will inevitably descend upon me like a shark that has smelled a drop of blood through 600 meters of ocean water.

“Ooooooo, are you limping, Dan?!” a coworker recently asked me on one such occasion, as she intercepted me along a corridor, an expression of unrestrained glee on her face. “Did you hurt yourself running?!”

“Nah, not really,” I began, “I’m just a little…”

“You look like you’re limping!” she insisted, smiling and looking like she might burst into laughter. “You’re having trouble walking!”

For me, the notable things about this exchange, and other similar exchanges, are:

  • a turning of the tables that has me-normally regarded around the office as a fit, physically capable guy-now regarded as an invalid, and
  • the marked happiness and enthusiasm with which some of my office mates spring to the deed.

I get why

I understand why turning the tables on Dan is probably fun. In the presence of coworkers, I routinely do a bunch of things, throughout the workday, that might make those already feeling bad about their activity levels and fitness feel a bit worse.

While working, I stand, rather than sit, at my desk. While some return from lunch hours spent at restaurants, I return with wet hair and other post-workout signifiers. While driving during lunch hour, colleagues occasionally spot me running on nearby streets.

I decline cake served at office birthday parties. I don’t partake when someone generously brings in a dozen doughnuts to share. Throughout the morning and afternoon, I nibble at fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meat, and whole grains, and I sip water. I don’t eat the chips, cookies, and sugary drinks that come with our catered meeting lunches. And, on the couple of occasions per year when there is company participation in a road race, I finish ahead of my running colleagues, young and old, men and women.

So, when certain coworkers see signs of physical ailment in me-the guy in the office who’s supposed to be so fit and healthy-it apparently feels good for them to ask about it, emphasize it, bring it to the fore, celebrate it.

don’t let a little hitch in my git-along catch you up

As the conversation I’ve recreated above suggests, I’m rarely able to explain to an attacking coworker the nature of my minor and temporary limping in any way that makes me feel heard or understood. Fortunately, however, I own this blog and am now free to respond thoroughly and without interruption…although possibly also without any listener. But here I go:

I never signed up for any “Who’s Doing Well  By Their Health and Fitness Office Contest.” You, dear coworker, seem to think we’re in just such a competition together. Meanwhile, I’m busy training for and competing in road races, and my lunch runs and fueling habits and my standing during work are all part of my training.

I’m an aging athlete trying to make this body of mine run just a little faster while I still can. Muscle soreness comes with the training territory I live in, and a little temporary limping doesn’t indicate that running is harmful, as you seem to want to tell yourself.

Regular running is regular exercise, and regular exercise is exactly what it is widely regarded to be: healthful. If you’re feeling bad about being inactive, don’t waste time or energy defending yourself or attacking me or other active people. Just make a change, get active, and feel better.

If you can’t do that, can you at least restrain yourself enough to leave an old, aching, limping road racer to himself, as he makes his way to the men’s room?

For more great stories, follow Dan regularly on his blog shod foot running, where he writes on his experiences training, racing, and living with Addison’s disease.

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