When stalking a tiger you would be best advised not to move too quickly, not to surprise the tiger. In the fine balance of risk to reward, approaching from the front is a bad idea. You should never say aloud, “Tiger! I am stalking you now!” The tiger won’t understand you, and your companions will only chortle pityingly as you go to your doom.
At 42, I am neither particularly young, nor particularly old. My body isn’t what it once was, but it is far better than it will be, and so I am inclined, even obligated, to pursue fitness, to stalk it like a tiger in the brush.
Let’s not even consider what guidance might be gleaned from the popular, tiger-stalking media. That’s no way to approach a thing like this, a tiger I mean. Having seen the beast a few times doesn’t make it easier to find once we get older. It requires patience, discipline and sometimes luck. When we were young, we thought we were smart and strong. Now that we’re older, we see how lucky we actually were. We caught the tiger easily then, but not because it is easily caught.
My right calf hurts. I can’t explain this, the asymmetry of it. I met some friends at the Harvard Stadium the other day, to run the stairs, all in pursuit of the tiger, and maybe it’s the case that pushing off on my right foot led directly to the build up of lactic acid in the attached calf, or maybe it’s true that the right cleat on one of my pairs of bike shoes is ever so slightly forward of the left. Or perhaps, the tiger has simply deemed a cyclist’s hubristic galumphing in running shoes a clear breach of tiger stalking etiquette.
When I have rushed the tiger, head on, all full of determination, anger even, I have only been mauled, laid low and chastened. Left to marinate in the pain before dragging myself up off the couch to return to the slow, careful stalk. This the main difference between my body at 32, and the one I occupy now. My younger self could hurl headlong into the hardest workout I could conjure. I could go from zero to hill repeats, recover and ride long the next day. I could ride in the morning, run in the afternoon. Soreness was a soothing companion rather than a harrowing harridan.
Now I know to approach slowly. Building up. Recovering. Budgeting time. Planning ahead. Even if I normally ignore this hard-earned wisdom, leap from my obvious hiding place, and grasp desperately for the tiger’s tail. He strikes a ghoulish, feline smile as he eats me alive.