Brett Younger: My Month of Living Dangerously

"Let's begin by going around the circle and saying why we're here."

"I'm training for a triathlon and thought this would be a good way to get started."

"I'm going to the beach in a month and want to fit into my bathing suit from high school."

"My normal workout is swimming in frigid waters, running through fire, and crossing an electric field while soaking wet, but I want to challenge myself."

When it was my turn I said, "I'm here because of a lack of judgment." No one laughed. I should have gone with, "I'm here on an AARP scholarship."

I began to have second thoughts. Did it make sense for a person who has never voluntarily done a pushup to sign up for "Operation Boot Camp"? Should someone for whom tying his shoes feels like an aerobic exercise be paying money to take orders from the cast of American Gladiators?

We began by signing a waiver that gave the instructors permission to kill me. We ran up hills, steps, and heart rates. We squatted, jumped, and lunged. We ran with rubber bands around our ankles holding plastic plates over our heads.

We did stretching exercises: "Bend over and touch your elbows to the ground. Keep your back straight and your butt down. Put your left foot behind your head while pulling your right knee to your chest in a figure four that moves into a figure eight."

They had cute little names for the exercises-burpees, robots, dead bugs, bear crawls, frog legs, cat vomit, fire hydrants, and scorpion push-ups. I began to think of the exercises by other names-leg breaker, arm twister, hip displacer, Tylenol, Extra Strength Tylenol, and Braveheart-for that scene where they torture Mel Gibson.

When I signed up for boot camp I pictured Sergeant Carter shouting at Gomer Pyle, "Move it, move it, move it," but my instructors were encouraging:

"Brett, c'mon. You can catch up."

"Brett, move both feet at the same time."

"Brett, try to breathe."

Changing your diet is a crucial part of boot camp. They gave us a diary in which to list everything we ate. I was encouraged to eat granola, yogurt, lentils, bulgur, walnuts, melons, edamame, Icelandic polenta, and quinoa (which is the opposite of bacon; it makes everything less tasty). I was gently reprimanded for eating brisket, chicken pot pie, chocolate pie, mac and cheese (who would have guessed that's not healthy?), and grape jelly (which I mistakenly counted for a fruit).

I was almost completely honest. I shortened "apple pie" to "apple" and "orange sherbet" to "orange," but the only drive through I've driven through in the last month is at the pharmacy.

Each day we wrote about how we felt after the workout. I see now that my answers correspond to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's "Stages of Grief."

Anger: "Who can I blame for this?"

Denial: "It's probably a good thing that I can't feel my legs."

Bargaining: "If I live through this I'm going to Waffle House."

Depression: "If I roll behind those trees they won't find me."

Acceptance: "How much older can I feel?"

The program promises to "push you to work just outside your comfort zone." Apparently my comfort zone is on the couch eating pizza. The brochure says Operation Boot Camp will "change the way you look and feel." I look creaky, sore, and sleep-deprived. I feel a step closer to hip replacement surgery. I find it hard to get out of bed- not in the sense of "hard to get motivated," but as in "hard to move my legs."

Near the end my left calf decided it had enough and would not participate any more. The physical therapist said, "This is what happens when men your age start working out."

At the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame said, "When I run I feel God's pleasure."

When I run I feel God's pity. Sometimes I hear God chuckling. God may be pleased when I run, but I am growing in my belief that God must be okay when I sit, too.

Before Boot Camp, Overweight and out of shape


After Boot Camp, trim and fit

Taken with permission from Brett's blog, "Peculiar Preacher."