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163_0229_K_IMG_0459_crop SM6-05-2012 Matthew Strange

Husband and Life: Mr Clean?

My wife is messy.
No, she’s not get-her-own-reality show- on-TLC kind of messy. But in an already small apartment, her discarded shoes and left-out coffee mugs become larger than they would in even an average-sized house. Let me be perfectly clear, it would probably be more accurate to describe her as mildly messy, since it’s not an issue of constant negligence, but more a short-lived disregard. I want things put away immediately. She’s willing to leave them out for a while. Eventually we both get on the same page.

We all have little things that frustrate us about our loved ones, things that we grumble about under our breath. Mostly, we keep our complaints quiet— when they ask us what we’ve said, we almost always tell them, “Nothing.” That’s because we know that there’s a level of acceptance we have to face in any relationship. But it’s more than acceptance. We’re glad for imperfections. We welcome them. Only a glutton for misery would want to date someone who was perfect. Yuck.

Still, I’m not sure that means we love these faults. You’ve heard people say that sort of thing. It’s rampant in romantic comedies. Characters are always claiming things like, “I love her for her imperfections.” Sounds nice. But I don’t buy it. At least I don’t think it’s that simple. Coming home to a scattered pile of papers left in the middle of the couch is just plain annoying. I don’t love that. But I do love my wife very much. So, does it become an in-spite-of-her-faults sort of thing? No, that’s not it either. I just love her, the complete package. Why do I have to break it down into categories? And, honestly, because her  messiness bugs me… does that automatically make it a shortcoming of hers? I tend to think it does not.

Each of us is built like a child’s precariously balanced block tower. We keep from toppling over only because the parts of our being have been successfully stacked in some strange unplanned harmony. Changing anything, even attempting to correct our weaknesses, can put the structure at risk. We have to carefully revisit those sections that we wish to reinforce, else we might give up something key that has made us and kept us whole. I think that’s why my wife’s casual disregard for the order of things bothers me so much. You see…

I am naturally messy too.

I’ve worked hard for years (and continue to work hard) to keep myself and the spaces I occupy neatly together. And I do a good job. Good enough in fact that it has begun to feel right to be orderly. But the compulsion remains. I think it’s like an addiction. I’ll always be messy. I’ve just learned to control my impulses, to overcome the urge to toss my dirty running socks on the floor. I’m sure when I talk to her about her messiness, or when I mention it to others, I must sound critical, fussy, demanding, picky—all of those things. But the truth is, her relaxed attitude toward organization is a reflection of some part of me that I struggle with. And in many ways, it’s like a beckoning, an invitation— go ahead Matthew, leave those dishes for tomorrow.

I’m not sure she understands it that way, that it calls to me like that. But, I also can’t make her  understand it that way. Every couple has their reoccurring battles. This is ours. And it’s a small one, thankfully. After a little over a year, we’ve gotten to an evenness that suits us. I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea that we can put certain things off. She’s grown more forgiving of my frustrations. If each individual person is assembled of balanced elements, a relationship is some sort of miracle of engineering I’ll never comprehend. And unlike my jacket (which is currently slung over one of the dining room chairs), I’d say we’re both exactly where we belong.


2-04-2013 Matthew Strange

Husband and Life: Marriage from His Perspective

The goal was to be able to sit down. Doesn’t sound like much to most people, I know. But following back surgery last May, sitting down became a nearly impossible task. Of course prior to back surgery, it was a completely impossible task. So, in reality, any time not spent hunched over in horrendous pain was an improvement.

I’m only 30 years old and currently enjoying my second year of marriage. When people ask my wife and I how long we’ve been married, we still get Oos and Aahs about how much fun we must be having. People still tell us to “enjoy the early years of marriage.” And they often find it necessary to explain to us that we should focus on appreciating how “easy” it all is right now. Funny thing is, during our first year of marriage, my wife already had to help feed me, bathe me, and walk me around our tiny apartment. If this has been easy, we can’t wait for the hard times.

Nah, it hasn’t been that bad. In fact, the experience of recovering from major back surgery has done nothing but bring us closer together. And it certainly made me appreciate just how wonderful, strong, and sweet the woman I married really is.

It used to be that my wife would drive with me to R.I.S.E. in Midlothian to watch me play indoor soccer at least once a week. But following surgery, she and I found the level of activity I could handle didn’t stretch far beyond watching a movie on my laptop in bed. And so, instead of scoring goals, I started setting them. I decided I wanted to get to the point (as quickly as possible) where I could take her to do one of our very favorite things again—go to Cinebistro at Stony Point to watch a movie properly. As it so often does, rehab proceeded slowly. Although I was more or less free of pain, I was incredibly weak and inflexible. Being in such a state also made me frustrated and irritable, which led to my being inflexible in a whole other sense of the word.

I was used to being an athletic, active, helpful contributor to our relationship. Instead, I couldn’t even help my wife carry or put away the groceries. And anything that I needed done physically, I could no longer do for myself. I tend to be a very particular person, so I had to calm my fastidiousness as best I could to simply ask or direct her to do things in a way that would get the task done but wouldn’t take over her life (since I realized she still had things she wanted and needed to do for herself).

Ironically enough, considering I was lying flat in a bed most of the time, it was a careful balancing act: we did our best to go day by day and allow ourselves the right to get frustrated, but we were also sure to focus on the fact that things would get better. And of course, eventually, they did. At the beginning of August we finally went to see The Dark Knight Rises at Cinebistro. After almost two full months mostly cooped up at home, our only times out of the house together being “dates” with doctors, it felt like we were being treated like royalty. We might only be a little over a year into this adventure, but it doesn’t take long to settle in and forget how important the little things are—like sharing a night together at the movies—and although going through surgery might have been an expensive way to remind ourselves how those moments can refresh your relationship, it certainly made that movie (and the whole night) memorable.

Now, more or less, I’m back to normal. At least in terms of everyday activities. I’m still not back to playing soccer (I might never be able to again), but I don’t need help showering or getting down stairs—my wife and I joke that my “old man days” are done for now… until I’m actually an old man. In the meantime, our young marriage is stronger than ever, and although we still chuckle a bit when people talk about this time in our lives being the “easy part,” I’m fairly certain that with her by my side even the hardest things in life are going to seem pretty simple.


4-05-2012 Matthew Strange

“Your New Training Partner: The Internet”

After getting home from working in front of a computer all day, you’d think the last thing I’d want to do is get back to the keyboard. But that’s exactly what I do almost everyday. My immediate return to the 21st century’s time-wasting answer to the boob-tube has nothing to do with a desire to play Angry Birds or check updates from all my friends though. No, unlike so many people who carve out a nice, comfortable groove on their couch and pick up a smart phone or a tablet, only to check the score from the Squirrel’s Game the night before, or read about that new Children’s Museum location that’s going to open on Hull Street, or to see what’s playing at CineBistro, when I go online it’s so I can plan my get-up-and-go. The Internet can often be a distraction, and since so many of us are now on mobile smart devices, it might seem impossible to ever get away from its supreme ability to draw us in. But there is hope for you to get out of its grasp. At least for some part of the day. And what will help you get away from the Internet … why the Internet of course!

This is a list of my 5 favorite things the Internet offers to help you lose the pounds you gain while surfing the Internet:

1.) www.mapmyrun.com or www.gmap-pedometer.com – Both of these sites do essentially the  same thing. So just go check them out and see which one you like better. Mapmyrun is a little prettier. But I actually prefer the gmaps version because of the fact that its look is a bit sparser. Either way, they’re very useful. If you need to figure out how to go on a 3-mile run without ever having to deal with the traffic on Huguenot or Robious Road, these sites are made for you. Or if you already went for a 20 minute run and you want to know how far you went, then you can trace your route to see the distance you traveled. Both sites also provide estimates for how many calories you burned during your run and tell you your pace per mile.

2.) www.calorieking.com  – Imagine you’ve decided to go on a diet. But then you find yourself with a group for lunch at Frank’s Ristorante & Pizzeria on Stony Point Road and you’re thinking of getting two slices of sausage pizza. Sound like a good choice? Perhaps. It really depends on how many calories you’re looking to take in that day vs. how many you’re looking to burn. How can you be sure? Calorieking will give you an estimate of how many calories are in those slices of pizza … as well as any other kind of food (including most fastfood and chain restaurant establishments). Once you bring the site up on your smart phone, you might choose the salad instead. Calorieking also provides a diet program and recipe suggestions!

3.) www.rrrc.org (Richmond Road Runners) – There’s nothing like running with other people. Of course you can just pull your shoes on and get out on the road by yourself if that’s your thing. But most people do better with a group or at least a partner. And even if you’re still going to run solo, the site has useful info on events and other things running related. No matter why you go to the site it’s nice to know there’s an  organization in the area that can provide you with useful information and support.

4.) Customer Reviews & Message boards – Yes, online reviews are for more than finding out if the Mexican food at Cielito Lindo is good (it is by the way-very good). Before you buy a pair of running shoes. Or a stop watch. Or a  stationary bike. Or … you get the idea. It’s nice to get some real information about it. A review not hand-picked by the company who makes the thing just to make it sound like the greatest piece of merchandise ever invented.

Before the Internet, that meant finding the right magazine to read about it, or calling a friend of a friend of a friend who bought one a year ago. But now, all you have to do is get online and search through the thousands of customer reviews that are available on www.amazon.com or any number of other sites. You get real information from real people who have really worn those shoes or ridden that bike. So if the pedal is likely to fall off after only 10 minutes: you’ll know that before it happens to you. Also, online message boards (like the one provided by the Richmond Road Runners at www.rrrc.org/forum/) offer valuable real-world advice, not to mention the ability to talk directly to other people from Midlothian or Chesterfied or Bon Air about where to run or how to team up.

5.) www.youtube.com – That’s right. The site that might be more responsible for more wasted hours of mindless fun than any other also has a serious side … a seriously in shape side. So if you just got some great grub down at The Hardshell and then came home and fell asleep on the couch and are feeling a bit … well, like it’s about time you got some blood flowing, why not check out some of the workouts on youtube.

Many of them involve exercises that can be done right in your own living room with no equipment. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy. Trust me. You’ll feel the burn. The best part? Even if you don’t have time to get over to ACAC to work with your personal trainer, you can still be directed by someone who knows what they’re doing. Just press play and start sweating!

2-10-2012 Matthew Strange

“Five Steps to Get you Running from the Couch”

You’re sweating. Each of your labored, wheezing breaths is coming out sounding like the old rusty spring on a pogo stick being repeatedly squeezed under too much weight. It feels like your legs are made from the same dough as that floppy slice of New York Style pizza you ate for lunch. And what’s this thing in your chest? Is that your heart? Is it supposed to work that hard? This is torture. Why are you doing it to yourself? It’s official, you decide, running is the stupidest human hobby ever. Suddenly you start to hallucinate. Is that an oasis up ahead? With a recliner under a palm tree…? You shake the vision out of your head. Must. Keep. Running. But you’ve got to be close to the end of your 20 minutes, right? If you’re feeling this terrible, you’ve got to be mere seconds from being done with your run. You glance down at your watch.


Two minutes and thirty seconds!? Forget this. You stop and walk back home, somewhat ashamed, but mostly feeling completely justified in your decision. You’ll start running next year. But right now, you’re just not ready.

Sound familiar? Did you start 2012 thinking that this year was going to be your year?

You’ve made that promise to yourself before, that this year you’d start running. You imagine yourself all streamlined and smooth in your spandex, hitting the neighborhood at the same time as the other runners. You can just hear yourself talking the talk. “How far you going today? Six miles? Yeah that’s not bad. That was my short day yesterday. Today I’m going to go 13.” But most of all, you want to know you’re doing something good for yourself and your body.

And that’s what I’m here to help you do. These Five Steps will help get you off the couch and ready to run a race in no time (like maybe a certain 10K that occurs every March in Richmond along a certain monument-lined avenue).

1. Set realistic goals. Start with a very short distance (1/8 mile – 1/4 mile) and see how you feel jogging that. If that’s too much, don’t worry. Jog for a bit and then walk. Start slowly and build up. This is not to say you shouldn’t push yourself past a point and expect improvement. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself right away. Walking/running is a great way to get a workout. And something is always better than nothing.

2. Leave your neighborhood. It sounds crazy to start your run by getting in a car, but it helps. Put on your running gear as soon as possible once you’re home from work (or as soon as you wake up, if you’re running in the morning) to avoid letting yourself get comfortable. And then once you’re in your shoes and shorts, drive to a park or to the gym. It’s very easy to come up with excuses not to run when you’re  surrounded by the comforts of your own home, but once you arrive at your destination, it’s a lot less likely you’ll give up and drive all the way back home without at least doing something.

3. Write down a plan. If you’ve written down what you’re going to do for the week, you’re a lot more likely to do it.

4. Get a partner. Having someone to run with makes the experience more fun and gives you someone to talk to about the challenges and rewards of running. Choose someone at your level. And if they happen to not be able to make a scheduled run, don’t let that be an excuse not to run that day.

5. Get the right gear. There is a reason certain shoes are called running shoes. They were designed with a specific purpose in mind, and basketball shoes or tennis shoes won’t do if you want to start running. You need running shoes. Also, some athletic shorts and a good comfortable shirt are a must. This doesn’t  mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on super fancy stuff. But it does mean you should do some reading online or visit a local running store to find out what would be good for you. The wrong equipment could result in injury, and there’s nothing more frustrating than getting a few weeks into a routine only to be sidelined by something that could have been prevented with the right pair of shoes.

My dad always used to say, “People don’t like to run, they like to stop running.” And to a certain extent, he was right. Runners get out there and push themselves because of the rewards that come once a run is finished, once they’ve stopped. They gain a sense of accomplishment, a better body, a healthier lifestyle, more confidence. But to get to all those good things you’ve got to get off the couch. To stop running, at some point you’ve got to start.