Exercising futility


Ah, Spring in Florida.  The temperatures are swiftly climbing back up to 90, the sun is out every day and with my foot almost entirely healed, it’s time to be heading out to the beach and get started writing Book 2 of Jeremy’s adventures.

That also brings on the annual rite of mania that comes with “swimsuit season”, or the obligatory obsessing over appearance.  Fortunately, I have now come to grips with my inevitable losing of the battle that is waged between discipline and age.

As a card-carrying member of the middle-aged club, I accept the fact that forces beyond my control try to shift the mass of my body into occasionally unflattering areas.  While I am able to deal with that fact, it’s a bit dismaying to realize the disproportionate level of exercise it takes to bring that body back under control.

I’m sure you’re all protesting, “What are you talking about?”  Perhaps you shout indignantly or suspiciously, “All you do is tell us about playing tennis all the time and how you’re waist is so small.  What are you complaining about?”  Or maybe you simply shake your heads and laugh as you say “Don’t be silly, you look terrific!”  Aw, gee, you’re all too kind.  Thanks.

The difference is the latter half of the “fit and trim” description.  I’m good with my fitness; while I may breathe hard early in the day playing tennis, I catch my wind quickly enough to handle the several hours in the hot sun.  But getting a body to tighten up is a lot more difficult than getting it to handle endurance.  At least it is for me.  And I should know, for all the years I’ve tried.  But mine is not a problem of exercise of weight as it is an exercise of will.

Years ago, I decided to add a Bowflex to my home in an (at that time) eager attempt to reshape my body to a youthful trim.  With both commitment and conviction, I attacked the various workouts, combined with other exercises for limberness or muscle tone.  The effects, though not particularly noteworthy, were noticeable.  And then, for some reason I can’t recall now, I had a gap in the workouts.  When I returned, I was appalled how far my body had “fallen” from the previous point.

Rededicating myself to the workout program I got fairly close to where I was before…and then I had another gap.  The next time I returned to working out, I wasn’t quite as motivated and generally kept to a more sporadic workout routine.  Part of that de-motivation came from noticing that the exercises seemed tougher than ever after the layoff, as if my body was fighting me to stay in a more relaxed (read:  less trim) shape.  I didn’t think it was wise to argue with my body.  I realize now, that my body had snuck into my brain and planted that thought there (and suggested I grab a Coke and watch TV).

When I finally decided I was going to write my novel on the beach, two things occurred to me immediately.  One, I was the poster boy for farmer’s tan (for those of you unfamiliar with the expression, it’s the look of tanned arms all the way up to wear your short sleeves start and a white upper arms and torso).  Two, my body had done a lot more shifting than I had paid attention to.  To the contrary of what you might think, this is more noticeable when you are slim than otherwise.

A crash course on the Bowflex and exercising brought that body to heel, but the effort it took was disproportionately tougher than before (read:  old person now).  In a quirky way, though, that reapplication of discipline served me well during the process of writing my book.

Vanity is as cheesy a motivation as any for getting into shape, but it’s hardly an “evil” motivation, so I considered any motive for returning to an exercise program to be a positive one.  It’s important to understand the spillover benefits of that decision.  In order to make a workout/exercise program effective, I had to also commit to better eating habits as well.  Gone were bags of chips and other snack items (although, whenever it went on sale, the ice cream always found its way to my freezer).  Down dropped the intake of sugary drinks.  It would have been pointless to spend all that energy trying to reshape the body and then sit down and have spare ribs, fries, a Coke and dessert.

The last year has seen me slip away from the regular exercising again, only to finally get started about two months ago…just before the foot issue knocked me back off the plan.  It’s amazing how much your feet have to do with weight exercises, even if they’re related to upper body.

The last few days, the foot has been good enough that I’ve been able to start up again on the machine and the exercises.  Still can’t do some of the leg or standing arm exercises, but I expect those will be back on the menu by next week.  Sadly, the damage is done and I’m back to “Body Square One”.  And that little chattering voice is still in my head telling me how tasty a cold Coke would be right now.

Caught between vanity and laziness.  Fortunately, I want to know how things turn out for Jeremy and gang, so I think vanity will win out.  Who knew that writing would be this good for my health?

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