In the movie Apocalypse Now, there is a scene where Capt. Benjamen Willard (Martin Sheen) is reviewing the file of his target, Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) to try to familiarize himself with who Kurtz is. In the scene, Willard takes notice of the fact that Kurtz went through Army Airborne Jump School in his thirties. In the movie Willard comments about how amazing it was Kurtz survived the training at his age and how he (Willard) went through Jump School in his twenties and how it “damn near” killed him.
In 1980, I stepped onto Fort Benning in Georgia in early August to begin Airborne Jump School at twenty-one. The training was four weeks. The first week was called ground week. Every day in ground week was exactly the same. At 5:00 AM we fell into formation for a 5 mile run before breakfast. After breakfast we fell back into formation again for warm-up exercises and then went on a 2 mile run around the field where the tall towers dropped third week trainees. After a brief rest we started the routine of push-ups, sit ups, leg lifts, deep knee bends, squat thrusts and then we did it all over again. After lunch we formed up and ran in formation three miles to Lawson Field where we sat in a classroom for a two hour orientation on the training we were about to go through. The final event was the run back to the barracks where we were dismissed for dinner – if you felt like eating. For five straight days it was the same thing. We started with 170 trainees but by the end of the week 1/3 had washed out. At the time I thought it was the most physically demanding thing I had ever done and it was. That is, until the following week.
I point this out to illustrate how I felt last week. Of course I didn’t do nearly the extreme physical training as I did in Jump School but I’m not twenty-one either. There was a familiarity about how I felt that week in 1980 and how I felt last week. But last week is past and this is a brand new week. New week, new beginning. My walk-run was enjoyable today. I had my wind, strength and my composure throughout my walk-run. In fact, it was almost all run – nearly two miles. I was able to do more push-ups, sit-ups, and deep knee bends in total and I increased my weights on the circuit. When I was finished I had energy and felt great. It feels really good to have the beginnings of my endurance back.
The scale is also my friend again. I have broken the 260 barrier weighing in at 259. Although the Patriots lost yesterday I maintained my will to steer clear of the little smokies, chips, and beer which are a tradition in my home. Instead, my gorgeous wife made me light dinner of ham, corn, and fruit. This morning I had grapes, cantaloupe, banana and a half of of an avocado. Now, although that may sound uncharacteristic of the great American breakfast, you should try it. Take the avocado meat and add a little salt, lemon juice and then mix in a little Head Country salsa until the avocado is a paste. Then, take a clean slice of cantaloupe and spread the avocado mix on it and bite! I just thought that up this morning and it was amazing. Whole food doesn’t have to be boring.
For the record, the next two weeks of Airborne Jump School training was far more brutal than the first week. We carried 90 pounds of gear (parachute and backpack) most of the day in the Georgia summer heat. In the end only 35 of us had the privilege of making our five qualifying jumps and earning the coveted jump wings. All the rest of the initial 170 washed out. What set us apart from the drop-outs? We all discovered our self imposed limitations were not real and that our real limitations went far beyond what we thought. Unfortunately, most people never discover their true limitations and live fatally ordinary lives. I want to live my life to the limits and not cheat myself of what could have been. Sadly, over the last 30 years I have recreated a new set of false limitations. My new journey is to rediscover my real limitations.
Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states. – Carol Welch
End of Day 7