You know that guy with the meaty pecs, hunched shoulders and John Wayne walk? The guy who “pumps steel” rather than lifts weights, “rips up the gym” rather than works out and particularly likes mentioning how much weight he can bench – or at least used to be able to when he was a young dashing stallion?
He’s first to offer his expert advice when it comes to supplements and regimes, and always manages to manoeuvre the conversation around to athletic performance, super-human achievement and blood-sweat-and-tears glory.
I’m lucky enough to have a stud of this ilk in my office and trust me, when he’s stirring his high-protein L-caratine-infused porridge in the communal kitchen, you want to avoid popping in to top up your water bottle.
“How’s the running Josie?” he asked one day. I’ve seen him eyeing up the battered trainers beneath my desk. “What mileage are you clocking up these days?”
“Oh, you know...” I respond dismissively. “I get out when I can.” That’s all I want to offer him, because if I dared to feed him anything juicier - even the minisculest ion of information - he would pounce on and devour my self-confidence like a ravenous leopard ripping strips of flesh off an ailing zebra until all that remains is a vulture-encircled carcass.
“I did a 10k last night,” I once said. Rookie error never to be repeated, but there was no turning back.
“10k, hey? How long did that take you?” Eyebrows arched, chest puffed, arms slightly angled away from his not-quite chiselled torso.
And then, before even allowing me to utter the semblance of a mumbled response:
“I used to beast 10k in 30 minutes a few years ago. And that was after a five-kilometre swim upstream in the Nile - chased by crocodiles and piranhas – and before jumping on my bike and crossing sub-Saharan Africa with no water, carrying 26 tonnes of shelled peas and curing cancer while riding.”
Ok, I may have made up the last bit, but you know where I’m coming from. Poetic license.
Conversations about injuries are just as morale-exterminating. I once mentioned popping to the physiotherapist.
“ITB pain,” I explained.
In a flash, the all-around expert was on the case: “I had that once. I was in agony. Naturally, I ran through it, bearing the pain. And did I mention that I saved a baby from a burning house that same day?”
But then just today he got into work a few minutes later than usual, puffing and panting, expensive running pack strapped to his back. He loitered in the kitchen much longer than necessary, longing for people to ask him whether he’d run all the way to work.
Not knowing he was there, I popped in to fill up my water bottle, just in time to hear the secretary ask him: “Didn’t you see me wave to you on the bus today? You were sitting at the back, headphones in. You got off one stop early? What were you doing?”
I screwed the top back onto my water bottle, turned around looked him in the eye and tried desperately not to smile.
Good morning oh sweet sweet karma.
(Image courtesy www.alinkamalinka.com)