July 18, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker
Okay, now that I've distilled twenty years of diet wisdom into nine words in my last post, we'll move on to exercise. I've been an avid exerciser since 17, and also done all kinds of reading on the subject. Not real reading–magazine reading, with lots of pictures and very short articles. The kind of stuff you can read on a treadmill. The kind of stuff that gets left on the magazine rack beside the treadmill because either a) gym people love to read about exercise or b) people took home all the magazines with articles about cake.
There is a kind of advantage to reading those articles while jogging. Reading article after article about the perfect pushups–where to place your hands, how to hold your abdomen, where your toes should be… is surprisingly satisfying. Boring, of course, but you can say to yourself "well, I may be stuck on a treadmill, but at least I'm not doing pushups". Also you can say to yourself "If I ever do try a pushup, I bet I will be really great at it, after all this reading".
The idea behind all these articles was, I think, that if you were going to set aside time for exercise, you're going to want to make sure you spend that time as effectively as humanly possible. "Effectively" being a funny word to apply to spending a bunch of money to run like a hamster on a little machine.
As I get older, I am less concerned with effective. It seems more and more obvious to me that much more important than moving your leg perfectly is moving your leg at all. The idea that one should set aside time for exercise also has become counter-intuitive to me–how many cultures in the history of the world have "set aside time for exercise?". Convenience is becoming my priority–weaving imperfect activity into daily life.
Pivotal to my thought process has been watching Gary decide to get fit. Since Gary hates wasting time more than anyone I know, I figured his fitness regimen would be the most effective one in the Universe, with the most state of the art equipment and advanced techniques.
Turns out, my nine word diet philosophy is exponentially more complex than his fitness regimen, which consists of three words. "Sell the car."
When he bought his Mercedes, they told him he was buying a whole new lifestyle. Not so much–turns out that driving to work in the Mercedes was surprisingly similar to driving to work in the Nissan. But if you really want a new lifestyle? Try biking to work in January in Saskatchewan. Very effective, if you survive it. It's hard to procrastinate about exercise if exercise is how you are getting home.
I, however, cannot use this method. I don't have to travel to get to work. In fact, my work seems to follow me from room to room, saying "Can I put this french fry in your ear?" and "How do you spell gregorian?" and "Okay, please may I put this french fry in your ear?". If I get on my bike and travel twenty minutes, my work is right behind me, pedalling furiously and yelling "I ATE A BUG!!!".
After learning that I had to step up the exercise again or live with back pain, this is exactly the tactic I have taken (Family exercise, not eating bugs). In the morning, the kids bike (and I jog) to the park. It turns out that parks are a veritable rainbow coloured gymnasium of muscle building fun. If you want a five year old to exercise, you have got to make it interesting. Ditto for me. It amazes me how all of those magazines would have all kinds of advice on how to ditch your kids to get to the gym to do the perfect pushups, and not one ever said "Try swinging across those monkey bars without dislocating your shoulder. Good luck with that." It is HARD, people.
Turns out that my kids love "Ninja training". Eric is very physical, and has been working tirelessly on pushups and even sit-ups (which are so cute because the boys' tops are still too heavy relative to their bottoms and so the sit-ups are kind of awkward v-sits that would never meet Treadmill Magazine Standards). Eric monitors his progress and improves steadily. Anthony declares that since his already a Ninja, anything he does is "Ninja training" whether it is climbing, playing tag, building piles out of sticks, or trying to pee behind a tree without getting caught. His favourite exercise of all is yoga, which he tells me he has taken at school and is really really really really really really really really good at. Well, last week, there was a group of women doing yoga in the park, and he began gazing at them with rapt and adoring eyes as they did all their amazing bends and stretches. Ever the extrovert, he would yell helpful relaxing things such as "Hey! I'm really really really really really good at yoga, you know!". They were very understanding of this behaviour, and even asked him to join them. With a joyous bound of delight he raced across the park, skidded into the centre of the group and said "Watch, mom! I am really really good at this!" and assumed the following position:
Oh, that is definitely the Perfect Exercise Plan.