This weekend I ventured beyond the confines of my living room and took to walking up and down my neighborhood.

Specifically, I walked along the sidewalk of a school close to my home. The entire circuit is about 0.7 miles, and I did three circuits. That was the most this morbidly obese body has moved in more than 10 years.

I always had this sinking feeling that if I went outside to exercise, I would be subject to ridicule and taunting by children. Much like a circus bear riding a t10-speed bicycle, seeing me pounding down the sidewalk, huffing and puffing, I’m sure is a sight to behold.

The first day of my new exercise regiment, I walked in the late morning, with the sun beating down on me. My wife, who was nice enough to join me on my walk, stayed well ahead of me. Though my strides are longer, hers are faster, so being behind me while I walk was frustrating in the beginning.

“You need to drink more water Mauricio, you’re getting dehydrated,” she said.

I had an initial plan to take a big drink after each lap. The problem was, by the middle of lap two, I had essentially stopped sweating. I began to take more sips after that throughout the walk, but I don’t really think I ever caught up with what I had lost. By the middle of lap three that first day, It was tough to keep my eyes open, sometimes I would veer off a little on the sidewalk, and my limbs felt like they were filled with cement. I was also falling further and further behind from my wife.

Gladly, she would take the time to stop and make sure I was still alive. She’s a considerate woman, and I appreciate that.

During that first session, I also tried to listen to my favorite radio show which I downloaded to my phone. So many times, I’ve seen people running around with their “Apple”-something strapped to their arm. I thought it would distract me from the pain, and it did, for awhile.

Eventually I realized my phone was only half charge. That was the end of that.

“I liked this better with my radio on. It took away from the stabbing shin splitting pains I feel in my legs right now,” I told my wife.

Later from a distance, I could here country music coming from my wife’s radio.

On the second day, I was determined to go a little faster, and to drink more water. My wife went to her brother’s house for the afternoon, so it was just me and the pavement. I decided this time to forgo the radio, and stick to the natural sounds of the world around me.

All I heard was my own gasps for air. All the time. It got to the point to where I wished I had a shirt that said “Weezie,” with an accompanying picture of 70’s sitcom actress Isabel Sanford. Sanford played George Jefferson’s wife, Louise “Weezie” Jefferson, on the sitcom, “The Jeffersons.”

What I hadn’t realized before was that there were so many people out and about doing the same thing I was on a Sunday afternoon.

There was the little girl who, when she wasn’t playing on the nearby playground, was passing me up on the sidewalk making me look like a fool.

There was the guy who looked like he was built like a U.S. Marine, except instead of a 6 foot 2 inch Marine, picture a 5 foot six inch Marine. Short, sort of stocky, and muscular. He had the whole running shorts, white socks and mp3 thing going on, sans t-shirt. And he kept lapping me, running past over and over. Making me look like a fool.

Then there was the father and son team who were riding bicycles, in full Tour de France regalia. And, yes, they passed me, and, yes, made me look like a fool.

The whole time all I could here was my wheeze. It echoed in my head. A smoker’s wheeze. More like a four-pack-a-day smoker, just before he reaches the base camp at Mount Everest, and realizes he was a darn fool and can go no further. I should make up some “Weezie” shirts right now. Sanford’s picture could go on the front, and on the back, a large man hunched over gripping his knees and crying.

In reality, though, those other would be neighborhood athletes didn’t make me look foolish. I did. My own sense of worth really has been foolish all these years. Living a sedentary life out of laziness and gluttony, that’s being a fool. Not taking full advantage of the time you have with your wife and kids because you’ve made yourself too overweight to participate in the simple joys of life, that’s being a fool.

Yes, it hurt and, yes it will continue to hurt exercising, probably for some time until my body learns to move again. But, on the second day, I felt it. Just for a few minutes, I felt it. I didn’t just need to be out there, I wanted to be out there. That’s how I know, even though I might stumble on this new path from time to time, there is no going back.

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr. is a reporter with?The Nueces?County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at mauricio.cuellar@recordstar.com.