“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.”
Mark Twain was credited as saying that the only way to keep your health is “to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” So this month I decided to start going to the gym. Now, in light of Mr. Clemens’s logic, it’s easy to see that the very reason why I decided to start working out is precisely … that I don’t want to.
Follow me on this one. Being the radical behaviorist I am, I knew that my normal way of thinking would prevent me from ever getting into a reasonable semblance of good shape. And, the truth is that I do want to exercise, I know it’s important…. and more importantly, I do want to feel good.Yet, I usually lack the combination of willpower, stamina, and zealous aptitude to maintain any sort of a health regimen for more than a week or two.
In the past, I’ve tried biking, as I mentioned in a previous post, but with disastrous results; broken elbows do tend to be off putting. I also tried waking each morning and walking along the nearby waterfront. Yes, I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey’s Dr. Oz claim that if we walk 10,000 steps a day, we’ll end up as fine specimens of ‘cardiological’ fitness. Unfortunately there is no guaranteeing craniological fitness, as well – as my feet would most likely agree. Bastards! They are equal accomplices in my body’s Intrasomatic Conspiracy to deprive me of the achieving of physical fitness and the eating of smaller portions. Ok, in all fairness, I can’t blame them for the latter. And anyway, even without their interference, I’m really my own worst enemy in some respects; I’m clumsy and accident prone. I don’t even walk properly! Here’s why:
When I was 15, I fell out of a tree, about 2 or 3 stories high. Now, don’t ask me why I was in that tree but suffice it to say that I was just out on a limb, as usual. And there I was, perched up on high when I heard the “SNAP” of the branch. I felt the air rush up around me and then, as the Irish prayer goes, the road rose up to meet me. I was lucky. I landed on my feet … briefly. My right ankle shattered and ended up somewhere around my knee. I also cracked my left heel upon impact, and for good measure I also fractured my left wrist … after hitting the ground. My tree mates, who climbed down after me, claim they found me sprawled below laughing from the shock. Even with 3 mangled limbs, I still had a sense of humor.
When I was 30, I developed a lower back problem from learning to drive my first car with a manual transmission. Really, that’s what I attribute it to … much more than the 800-inch TV I tried carrying upstairs that sent me into spasms. No, it was the car. I’m from Florida, you see, where everything is flat. There are no hills to clamber up and no mountains to climb. In Miami, people don’t know from stick shifts. Even the rich, who can afford Lamborghinis and Ferraris hire professional drivers to help them jaunt around town. Really, we Floridians just don’t have the legs and backs for these types of automobiles.
Nevertheless, I went out and bought a used 4-wheel ‘snowbird’ that originated in New York, complete with a stick shift and no air conditioning. The result: a herniated disc causing mind splitting sciatica in my left leg. And, mind you, that was my good leg … except for its cracked heel, of course.
A few years ago, at the age of 45, I developed a “straight neck”, or so my orthopedic described it. This was caused by a hernia in my cervical spine… actually I think there were two hernias … or at least one hernia and a half. I wrote that condition off to my learning to play the harmonica overaggressively. Others still tell me, it’s because I sit at the computer all day. My orthopedic told me it’s because I had inflammation.
Anyway, from all the above you can see that going to the gym would not be indicated, at least to someone with my mindset. But the truth is that I live across the street from a gym and am getting pretty tired of feeling like a voyeur as I gaze over at the rolling sea of spandex, lycra and cellulite, all mocking me.
When I went public with my decision, most people were very supportive. Some, however, were not. My mother is never one to miss an opportunity to throw a bit of dour angst into the face of good intention. When I mentioned to her that I started going to a gym, she immediately seized the opportunity to wax fearful, “oh, don’t over do it.” I rasped incredulously “no, you’re supposed to say good for you! You’re supposed to be supportive here, not pusillanimous.” Ok, she’s 85 and even with her hearing aid she only wants to hear what she wants to hear anyway, so I can slip in words like pusillanimous, tremulous and timorous.
My mom has spent her entire life worrying about things. She goes to doctors and covers her ears and shakes her head. She has prescriptions filled and then refuses to take the medicine because she reads the accompanying inserts that warn: if you experience any of the following symptoms (blah, blah, blah ad nauseum), do not take this medication – or – taking this medication may cause (blah, blah, blah ad hominem) – or – .00000001 of research subjects experienced mild (blah, blah, blah ad mortem).
When I was younger, like most people my age, I started jogging after seeing the film Rocky. She quickly became disenfranchised with the idea and expressed her opinion “remember that guy who used to jog around the block every morning back in Westchester ( South Miami, not New York (rolling eyes))? Do you know what happened to him? I heard his spine collapsed from jogging on a hard surface for so many years. You are not supposed to jog on a sidewalk or in the street.” Rebuffing her, I retorted “fine, mom I’ll walk to the beach and jog in the sand along the shoreline.” She comes back swinging “I wouldn’t do that. There’s a lot of broken glass on the beach.”
For someone who was constantly running to doctors and health stores, as well as reading Prevention Magazine back in the 70s, she most likely had other underlying reasons why she was so against my becoming physically fit. In our discussion, her battery of words included such doom and gloom gems such as strain, sprain, twist and pull. Ok, maybe it’s because I was wild, accident prone and on more than one occasion spent some time in hospital emergency rooms. Such was my youth, but still, she has her own issues that I’ll blog about another time. Suffice it to say that our conversation about my going to the gym ended like this:
Mom: What do you need to do THAT for?
Jay: Cause the cardiologist told me my heart was fine, but that I was fat and out of shape.
Mom: You don’t need to over do it.
Jay: Did I say I was overdoing it?
Mom: You should exercise by yourself. What do you need to go there for?
Mom: Don’t overdo it. I believe in moderation. That’s what I say.
Jay: Fine. So you can have your moderate health, as opposed to good health.
I’m going to the gym.
Only time will tell whether or not my new mindset and gym going ‘misdemeanor’ will succeed in quashing the Intrasomatic Conspiracy I’ve been describing. In the meantime, while I await my promised endorphin rush and enjoy the warm trickle of perspiration from a good workout, I am left to wonder: how fast can I walk on the treadmill before I have to run?
PS. Thanks for reading this series. I’ll report on my actual gym experiences in a future post, but in the meantime, here are the questions of the week: Do you go to the gym? Why or why not? Have you experienced an endorphin rush or do you just enjoy sweating? Are you allergic to Spandex? Let me know!
Other ’Intrasomatic Conspiracy’ Posts: