Every time I run I think about being in the seventh grade when we had to do a half mile as part of a physical fitness test in gym class. It was supposed to take 6 minutes and it took me at least twice that long. When I started going to the public gym here, I started forcing myself through a single lap around the track, because the track is there, even though I felt like I would pass out afterwards.
Since last week I’ve been doing twelve minute miles before every workout. (Although today my time might have been a bit longer since I had to stop to cough and spit when a bug hit the back of my throat. ) I, Sara Whatever My Last Name Is That I’m Not Going To Include Here, have an average level of cardiovascular fitness. This is truly unprecedented.
I walk into the weight room, reveling in this amazing fact, when an old man with near perfect English asks me where I am from, where do I teach, and so I hang around Hallim instead of going to the city? I actually have to look at him closely to make sure he isn’t a grizzled old white guy under that hat. “So you are into exercise?” he asks, “well, you are,” he chuckles through and around the word “fat” as though somewhat embarrassed to say it, but not enough to stop him from doing it. “I am very thin,” he points out. Yes sir, that is true, and yet here we both are. Also, uh, your pants seem to be unbuttoned and the fly is down, although you have successfully fastened your belt– how did you manage that?
Why is it that in Korea you can’t go hiking without looking like you walked out of a North Face catalog, but you can work out in a button down shirt and khakis?
I put my headphones back on, crank up the Pixies and don’t bother to look his way as he watches me start my dead lifts. Once you’ve called me fat, I feel released of my obligation to make conversation, however good your English.
At the end of my workout I am loathe to go and add extra ab and oblique work that I usually don’t bother with. Not so much because comments like that impel me to work harder at losing weight, but because I have realized that if I can’t be whatever the standard of beauty is, I can at least be strong and invest my self confidence in that.
And now, run five miles an hour for twelve mintues.
It’s really perplexing, though. I spent four months in India eating gulab jammun, fried samosas, and coconut chutney all the time and lost weight, but I come to the land of soy milk and kimchi and pack it on. I blame meat, actually. Not only was I not eating it at all for two years, but here you can go out for a meal called “five layers of fat pork.”