On Exercise

by Kim on April 13, 2012

Here’s the thing about exercise. It’s kinda like brushing your teeth-you have to do it regularly for it to be effective. By the time you finish doing it, it’s only a matter of hours (or days or weeks or, I guess, months, depending on your regimen) before you have to do it again. But imagine if, right after brushing, your teeth were still coated in green film and your breath still tasted like dead cat….and you were supposed to get by on the comforting thought that little cleansing molecules were now at work deep inside each tooth. If you brushed enough, and stayed away from garlic, you’d eventually see some gleaming white peaking out of the film. However, any tiny amount of garlic would set you back about 60 brushings.

Maybe I took that metaphor too far (I know I know), but there’s no question why the average human struggles with the concept of regular exercise, for the sake of exercise. (I’m not talking about huffing up stairs because you need to get to the top of a slide at a waterpark or lifting a heavy couch because you’re moving-that’s exercising out of necessity. A whole different blog post.) When we work hard, anytime we work hard, we want a pat on the back. We want immediate recognition and appreciation for our work. In the case of exercise, we want to see results NOW. And for the average human, “feeling good” doesn’t typically count as a result. We need to LOOK GOOD. NOW.

My experience with exercise goes back to around 6th or 7th grade, when I’d rock Dad’s Nordic Track skiing machine in the basement with Backstreet Boys blaring in my oversized headphones. I quickly came to the conclusion that skiing should be done only on snow, in the winter…trying to do it in one’s basement with strips of wood that scrape together is just unnatural. So I tried aerobics videos-you can’t go wrong with Paula Abdul’s Get Up and Dance (seriously, with those little leotards and poofy bangs?? Yes!). Here’s the thing about some videos, though: the first time you watch them, the instructor makes cheeky little comments and you go “oh, you and your cheeky little comments.” The fifth time, you’re quoting most of them along with her, still chuckling because you think you’re real life friends with her. The 20th time, you’re aiming your uppercuts into the TV and thinking “here’s the part where she makes that dumb comment about ‘double-time'”.

Later, I moved on to running, otherwise known as “huffing and puffing around the neighborhood with my sides exploding”. I would try to make it past 3 driveways in a stretch, determined I was doing something wrong. How could I mess this up? It’s running. The process is: 1. Move forward. 2. Move forward faster. This was supposed to be easy and natural. I asked my mom what I should do about the side pain, and she suggested that I just push through it. Which, by the way, does not come easy when one is being stabbed repeatedly in the kidneys with a steak knife.

In college, my roommate and I did group classes at the university gym. Our favorite instructor was this crazy little Brazilian lady, who got completely jacked up either on caffeine or illegal things before every class. She was notorious for keeping us past her allotted hour, screaming “FIVE more!!! OK, just TEN MORE!!!” while flames shot out of her ears. She was somehow working out 10 times harder than any of the rest of us at any given moment, but she also never stopped talking through the entire workout. Sometimes I wondered if there was someone talking into a mic in a hidden room nearby, while she just moved her lips, secretly panting and sucking air like the rest of us. It took us a long time to figure out her crazy complex choreography, too-we started out hovering in the back, all awkward jerky movements and out-of-sync rhythm, punching left while everyone else punched right. As we got more comfortable, we’d slowly inch closer to the front of the room. Every once in awhile, we’d look over our shoulders at the newbies filing into the back row, flinging their arms and legs around like salad shooters, and we’d think, “Oh, newbies. I remember when I first tried that move. Isn’t that CUTE.”

I also got into treadmills for quite awhile. “Got into” being a loose term that means I forced myself onto them for 30 minutes of suffering, fairly irregularly….

Anyway, a few years later, I’ve checked a marathon off my bucket list. I can’t explain how someone setting 3 driveways as a running goal could later upgrade to 26 miles, but it turns out that marathon running is not as physically impossible as you think. But even after months of training, I could only barely see the white gleaming out through the green film. Sure, I could eat 2 large pizzas a day by myself for awhile there, but other than that, the results were minimal. The results have always been minimal. Because in the end, exercise is just healthy eating’s little sidekick. You can eat a doughnut (which will take you about 1 minute) if you’re willing to then run for 1 hour. Is it worth it? Of course not. Does it stop us? Of course not.

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