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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Apparently sleeping all day does not burn calories. My daily goal is to hit 500 on my Apple watch, which is normally easy to do since I go from yoga to weights to bike to treadmill all day long.

Except today. Today was all about the nap. There was no exercise until sometime around 9pm when I looked at my daily goals, said ugh!, checked to see if I had a fever, said ugh! a little more, took my pulse to see if I was still breathing, sighed loudly, and finally flung myself onto the mat on the floor.

I don’t dislike exercise. I just dislike it when it’s a “have to.” Like it is most days now that I’m a grown up and it’s the price you pay for not falling apart at 53. Like it is every time you eat the pancakes instead of the spinach. Like at 9pm when I don’t want to move off the couch.

Remember when exercise used to be called “going out to play”? Remember when you spent the day riding your bike, not spinning the wheels in front of a screen? Remember playing tag and kickball and calling it “fun”?

Remember Joanie Greggains?

1982. That’s when the album was released that became a staple in my collection. That should give you an idea of how long I’ve been exercising.

We didn’t have yoga mats. We did have leg warmers.

We also had squares of linoleum tiles that we would place on the floor to create a sort of stage where we could get on all fours and do the horse kick, or stand spread-eagle and rock from side to side while doing little arm circles.

We did Up! Waist! Floor! Waist! About six hundred times and thought we were making great progress.

On the plus side, this was still fun. My brother(s) and I would put the record on and do what amounted to a great deal of flailing about, hopping and bending and feeling very important because we knew how to do aerobics.

I graduated to real aerobics in high school when I joined a local gym. My mother even joined with me for a little while and even though it wasn’t exactly fun, it was definitely more fun.

Remember step aerobics?

That was all the rage for a while. You proved your mettle by working your way up to two or even three risers. I didn’t mind step aerobics but I can’t believe anything like that would exist nowadays. Jumping up and down on a plastic step seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. I twisted a few ankles in my day.

Kickboxing was a thing for a while, too. And regular floor aerobics that involved an actual routine that you learned and repeated a billion times.

That seems to be the main downfall of exercise. Repetition. If I’ve done one lunge, I’ve done ten billion lunges.

The only thing I really dislike? Weights. Weight machines and hand weights and floor exercises that make you use your own weight, like pushups and sit ups.

Exercise never feels more like exercise than when I am repeatedly yanking a ten pound dumbbell up to my shoulders or grunting and gasping my way through another crunch.

Remember crunches?

Sit ups fell out of fashion for a while and you were supposed to do crunches instead. But don’t yank on your neck! Elbows out! Back flat on the floor!

So many rules of exercise. So many rules that you weren’t allowed to break until someone decided they were breaking you, and had to change them and give you different rules until the cycle repeated itself. Whatever you did today that was the Thing You Had To Do, was, within a few years, the Thing You Should Never Do.

Before I exercised like it was a word, I remember my mother doing it. Most specifically I remember little arm circles. And side bends. But best of all I remember her sitting on the floor, legs out in front of her, and butt-walking across the carpet with her arms bent at her sides, chugging along. I loved the butt walk. I could exercise all day if that’s what you had to do. Seriously, try it one day. I guarantee you will forget whatever is annoying you or hounding you or hanging over you and you will merely chug yourself along and smile.

In case you need another reason to smile, this crew exercises outside a local park.

Kevin reminded me that we joined the Jefferson Valley Racketball Club for a while. I had forgotten about that. Did we play racketball? I have no idea.

Here is what I remember: someone was showing us how to use the weight machines because this is a thing they always had to show you whenever you joined a gym and then try to get you to pay extra for personal training. I remember having a clipboard that I walked around with, with the name of the machine and the number of reps I was supposed to do. And I remember splitting my nail in half when I hit it on the metal clip at the top. I remember this, because it took about 20 years for my nail to grow normally again, I kid you not. For the next several decades it grew in two pieces and would always split right back down.

That should give you an idea of how much I liked that gym.

Later, Ralph and I had a stint at Planet Fitness. Since he wasn’t about to bop around doing aerobics, we mostly did weights together.

We didn’t last long.

The thing about gyms is that you have to go.

It’s a whole project. Get dressed, drive somewhere, get situated, exercise, be gross and sweaty, go home and deal with it. Gyms smell. They are going to play loud and annoying music that is never Mamma Mia. There are people there. Mostly people who don’t look like they need to be at a gym.

I know I’ve joined other gyms but I think I’ve strategically blocked them out.

After that we hired an in-home personal trainer. This was not an inexpensive proposition, but I’ve been desperately fighting my way through six jeans sizes for my entire life so exercise has always been a necessary evil.

Fat baby alert! Now you know why I exercise.

That was motivating for a little bit because instead of making myself yank a ten pound dumbbell up to my shoulders, someone else made me do it and said ONE MORE and KEEP GOING and DON’T STOP.

It may not be easier to do, but it’s harder to stop and have a biscuit when someone is yelling at you to SQUEEZE.

But the cost was a bit much so after a few months we decided to buy our own gym equipment.

I think we have owned just about every piece of consumer gym equipment ever manufactured. A stationary bike. Multiple treadmills. A Bowflex. An elliptical. Another stationary bike. Some half-ball thing that you could either lay on the floor on its flat side and then do exercises while standing on the ball part, or put the ball part on the floor and use it as a rocking platform to do other exercises. It doubled as a decent pillow.

I even had a chair that was a ball on a circular base with wheels, which was supposed to improve your core strength while you sat at your desk.


Oh, and I had a bike pedal thing that went under the desk so you could sit in your chair or even on the couch while you watched TV and pedal away.

Double fail.

Remember the thigh master?

Had one of those, too.

And exercise bands and yoga blocks and more dumbbells than brain cells.

We have a gym here at our apartments. I was very excited to learn about this when we moved in. Treadmills and weights and steppers and bikes. It wasn’t open when we first moved here because they were still building it.

When it did open, it was glorious, for about five whole minutes.

Clean, fresh, shiny.

We went down to the treadmills every day for a while.

Then people showed up, and we had to wait for treadmills to be available. People showed up and it got stinkier, no matter how much fake cinnamon scent they piped in.

We quit that gym, too.

Now we have the Peloton bike and I admittedly enjoy that. I don’t always want to get on it, but when I do, it’s entertaining. Sometimes I do the classes and the instructors make it fun. Sometimes I read or binge watch Survivor.

The only kind of exercise I truly like is the kind that feels more like playing and less like work. Ralph and I used to golf often and I was fairly terrible and didn’t care, because I liked walking around the course for three hours, with an occasional stop to swat at a ball then go dig it out of a tuft of grass somewhere or track it down in the woods. I figured carrying a bag of clubs around on my back counted as lifting weights.

I’d probably enjoy real biking if I had the opportunity, but that would require driving somewhere to bike since any starting point within 10 miles would probably result in my imminent Death By Middle Tennessee Driver. I used to enjoy it, long before I was married, when Kevin and I would bike to the bike trail then bike down the trail then get a diet Snapple then bike home. It was no small feat, since the “bike home” part was primarily up hill, in a way that inevitably forced me to get off and walk a bit.

We called it “pickling.”

Much like the Rules Of Exercise, there were Rules Of Dieting and one of those rules said that you should take chromium picolinate to burn fat. I mean, god bless the 80s.

Somehow, by the Transitive Property Of Things We Constantly Made Up, picolinate turned into pickle, and pickling became biking, an exercise tradition that lasted for a long time and was quite enjoyable.

These days I especially like walking, especially if there are flowers and clouds involved. I like hiking because there is usually a path going up and around and down and through, and you always need to see where it goes.

And I like walking in town with Ralph because there is always the promise of a snack or a cocktail, which may defeat the purpose, but if you’re going to have a snack and a cocktail you may as well burn a few calories first.

It’s a failure of evolution that thinking does not burn calories. Nor does using many, many words. Which may be a good thing because then I might just be invisible.

Photo: hiking in Radnor State Park. Don’t you want to know where it leads??