Woster: Pumping up the motivation for physical fitness
At my age, fitness is a precious, fleeting thing. If I’d been in charge of organizing life, I’d have made it easiest for old, retired people to stay fit.
After a long stretch of laziness, I worked up the enthusiasm to restart a fitness program, but when I went out to hop on my bicycle for a 10-miler, the tires were flat.
That dampened my spirits so much that I shuffled back into the house, hit the recliner, grabbed my phone and started surfing social-media sites. I was crushed.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Grab a tire pump, jack some air into the tubes and pedal away like a Tour de France competitor.’’ Easy for you to say.
First, I’d have to locate the tire pump. It’s around here somewhere. I have a vague memory of hanging it in the utility room of the garage, but if I did, I hung it somewhere that a thief in the night wouldn’t find it. Yes, I have a small pump attached to the bike frame for emergencies, but I’ve never figured out how to use it. Besides, fitness demands the real tire pump.
Second, after finding both tires flat, my level of enthusiasm was as low as the water in those drought-starved reservoirs on the Colorado River out west. I sat in the recliner trying to pump up some enthusiasm to go pump up a couple of tires. I sat a long while. As I learned from Howard Elrod in physics at Chamberlain High all those years ago, inertia is a powerful thing. Mr. Elrod learned that from a guy named Newton.
At some point, I’ll shame myself into getting after it again. I really should, you know. At my age, fitness is a precious, fleeting thing. If I’d been in charge of organizing life, I’d have made it easiest for old, retired people to stay fit. We’re the ones who have to struggle to maintain any amount of fitness. Young folks? Why, they bounce back like a kid whose shoes are coated with Flubber, that anti-gravity stuff Fred McMurray created in the old Disney movie, “The Absent-Minded Professor.’’
Dejected and as deflated as the tires on my bike, I sat in the recliner that recent day and recalled how easily I stayed in peak condition when I was a farm boy. I never gave physical fitness a thought.
Well, who did in farm country in those days? Pretty much everything a person did on a farm involved strenuous physical activity. I could — and did — stack hay all day long. I never once had the urge to check my biceps in a mirror. I sure never thought there’d come a day when people who pay money to go to fitness gyms to lift weights, ride stationary bicycles and work up a lather on rowing machines and stair-steppers.
The world was different. Many people, and nearly every child, in a small town walked or biked wherever they went. Bicycles weren’t for fitness. They were for getting from one place to another and back again. Gyms were where folks went to watch the local basketball team or where school kids went to get smacked in the face by a dodgeball during PE class.
A couple of guys in my high school class found some free weights (We used to just call them barbells and dumbbells) and started their own unsupervised lifting program. I did enough farm work that the idea of lifting more weights in my free time never appealed to me. I did feel a twinge of jealousy when I saw the way they’d bulked up their arms and shoulders. They were like Charles Atlas. I was the guy on the beach who got sand kicked in his face.
Sometimes when I consider today’s physical fitness, I wonder what my farmer dad would have thought. I mean, fitness is good. He was as physically fit as could be, with huge arms, a big slab of a back and hands the size of a first-baseman’s mitt. He didn’t work at it. He just worked.
I think he’d approve of the idea that people are trying to stay fit. If he were around to talk about my bicycle tires, he’d tell me to go find the pump, use it and get to pedaling.