Why Writers Need To Exercise

This one is easy.  Writers need to exercise because they spend way too much time sitting, usually with bad posture, usually in bad chairs.  At least this writer does.

So after my little chiropractic adventure (see last post) I decided to listen to my brother-in-law, the orthopedic surgeon who seems to think that better exercise could result in a stronger back.  (Desperation can produce strange behavior, including my briefly taking medical advice.  This terrifies me that I might do something entirely crazy when I get really old, but I soldier on.)

I took advantage of living in a university community and went to what is euphemistically called the Recreation Center, to a class titled Total Body Fitness.  The first thing I learned was that I was dressed all wrong, wrong, wrong.  I’d worn a T shirt and lightweight workout pants.  So wrong.  I needed to be in a sports bra and something slightly larger than a thong.  I also needed to be no more than half my chronological age.  Preferably one-third.

I also needed ear plugs.  As the class began, car-sized speakers blasted heavy metal rock and the instructor, doubtless sensing a potential escapee, closed the door just as I was eyeing it.   She wore a blond pony tail, a skimpy yellow top, tight green bike shorts, and was ripped.  According to the schedule she’d already taught two classes before dawn:  spinning and Pilates.   This was probably right after she did her own workout so she doesn’t get out of shape.

Everyone else had already gotten out three sets of hand-weights, a body bar, and a mat.  I was trying to figure out where to put my purse when the instructor shouted, “Body bars on your shoulders and start with squats.  Down!  Go four sets of sixteen, pulse and hold.  Let’s have some effort here.”  Effort, I learned, meant that you needed to sound like Serena Williams on the court.  Okay, well, I could fake that.

I knew I was in trouble when twelve minutes into the class I had consumed my entire twenty-four ounce bottle of water and was wondering if the girl next to me would notice if I stole hers.  She was busy flinging two twenty-pound hand-weights around while I cowered.   Those were her small weights.  We hadn’t started with the medium ones yet.  I hadn’t seen anywhere to sign up for wheelchair service to the parking lot and that had me really worried.

I had carefully picked a spot in the far back row, but in the corner farthest from the exit because it was also the spot farthest from the instructor.  At the time this had seemed a good idea.  It hadn’t occurred to me that people working on their obliques swing body bars with one hand and that I wouldn’t be able to crawl for the door.  Twenty-five minutes into the longest hour in recorded time, I tried to  calculate whether anyone would notice if I just lay on the mat and pretended to be dead.

After another ten minute using the body bar, which I was told I was not allowed to prop on another person, my perspective had changed entirely.  I was no longer thinking about merely pretending to die.  I lay on the mat hoping someone would be alert enough to call an ambulance.

When I got home, Hannah the Lab managed to rouse herself enough to watch me limp into the room.  She was lying on her side on the couch, her head on the good red pillow I’ve told her a thousand times to stay off because she drools.  I nicely asked her to move as the couch would be the most comfortable place to apply multiple ice bags and set up my IV pole.

She gave an amused little snort and stretched out, rolling from her side to her back and taking up the last inch.  Now she was making me mad.  I slid my arms underneath her, determined to fight her for the couch.

You have no idea how heavy a Labrador Retriever can make herself.  I was presented with an existential question:  would it possibly be worth it to go back to Total Body Fitness? not to be able to sit at the computer without getting a backache, but so I can get the couch from my smug, self-satisfied dog?


9 Responses to Why Writers Need To Exercise

  1. This is so funny and shows why one should scope out a class first to see how much lycra is required. Come to 8 AM Yoga/Pilates where we old farts do our own thing and wear t shirts. Besides it is so good for the soul to see some gorgeous undergrad guy not be able to do the stuff and leave in a sweaty huff.

  2. Oh I laughed! I forwarded it to a friend who passed it on to her trainer from hell so “she could get an idea of what we go through”. Walking fast, alone, remains my sole regimen–free (well. except for those shoes!), no getting to the gym procrastination hook. It’s a “just do it” the second it occurs to me I should move–paying attention! With the spark, I’m out the door in whatever I’m wearing, no matter how unfit for “normal” going out and about, no matter the time or weather. An hour later I’m returned feeling like I’ve shed a skin and stepped into a new head. It is startling to remark that I have lost 50 pounds and have stayed there for a year now. The back problems I used to have are a distant memory–though at 57 I do have the over-done things days when I go crazy thinking I can work like an 18 year old moving furniture, maniac cleaning or hacking away at our piece of the New England jungle.

  3. You and I must be on the same wavelength, these days. I’ve ratcheted up my exercise schedule, because as I sit here, I can feel the flab leaking over the edges of my (very comfortable) chair. In spite of the amount of biking we do, it wasn’t enough (I suppose eating has something to do with it). My son insisted I add running to my exercise regimen, which I’ve implemented since June, and amazingly enough, I still have knees! Where I used to only make it two houses down, I’m up to a 5K! It’s persistence, and the unwillingness to admit to my kid that I’m old. What I’ve discovered is how much I love it! Go endorphins.

    I still hate organized classes, though. Those sweaty rooms, smugly smiling instructors who work out for hours on end, their bounciness. We writers are loners for a reason! I recommend exercising outside, all by yourself. It clears your head, and makes space for thinking. It took me a couple of months to be able to think while I ran (most of those months were consumed with thoughts of “breath, damn it!”) but suddenly, amazingly, it has happened. I’m seeing the world again and it isn’t clouded by the sweat dripping into my eyes.

    So, go get ’em!

  4. Dear Lynne —

    (And, Emily, take note ) —

    According to a scientific study reported by NPR just a few days ago, a newly-discovered danger of doing work which requires one to sit all day is that, over time, the gluteous maximus expands to fill the width of the chair.

    Please forgive me for not having anything more enouraging to add. I feel especially guilty about that, seeing as how reading your delightful account did me a world of good. Thanks!

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