Thursday night was one of my nights to work out this week. I try to work out every third day. That's way down from what I used to do. When I was healthy and young, I worked out every day. It was easier for me to work out every day then because I was healthy and young, and because I really had no other life to speak of. The days when I worked out every day, jogging 5 or 6 or even 16 miles at a crack, were also the days when I was not seeing anyone, when I wasn't working very much, and when the entire furnishings of my apartment consisted of a lamp, a mattress, a couch, a desk, and a tape player/radio. You can only read and/or listen to "Mad Radio 92.1" for so long before you have to go do something, and so I worked out a lot back then, jogging and biking and even rollerblading until I gave that up because rollerblading isn't as much fun once you've scraped off most of the right side of your body in a luxury subdivision.
I was never a great rollerblader, anyway, but I liked it because it gave the feeling of running while not actually being like running. Rollerblading might have been the first of many, many activities that people tried to trick themselves into thinking were actual exercise when they were not. Everything from the "Abdomenizer" to "Tae Bo" has been passed off as being as good as running, when it's not. But in the exercise department, "as good as" can only mean one thing: as much work as. So if you're doing an exercise that is less physically demanding than some other exercise, then it's not as good as that other exercise.
Nothing in the exercise department is as physically demanding as running. Here's what's as good as running, in the exercise department: running.
Although I ran a lot, I didn't like running all the time -- because it was hard-- so I would occasionally mix in rollerblading because it was "as good as" running. It was hard, even then, for me to understand that claim. Rollerblading was nowhere near the amount of work that running was. One of the general rules of life: nothing with wheels on it is as difficult as something without wheels. On the other hand, rollerblading was 17 million times as terrifying as running, again because of the wheels, so maybe those two were supposed to average out to being as hard as running, because the fright would
People always claimed that rollerblades could be stopped. People lied. Rollerblades were and are unstoppable. I generally dealt with the problem of not being able to stop rollerblades by rollerblading on flat surfaces: the campus of the college I attended, parking lots, the hardwood floors of my apartment, etc. On specific occasions, I dealt with the problem of not being able to stop rollerblades by falling down, not always on purpose.
The fall that led to my quitting rollerblading occurred just a few days before opening night of the play I was in that summer. That was the other thing I did, back then, to kill time: I exercised, and I acted. I got into acting for the same reasons I went to Morocco and became a lawyer: I didn't have much else to do.
"I didn't have much else to do" explains virtually every major accomplishment in my life, as I sit here and look at it. I suppose it's lucky for me that we didn't have cable TV or the Internet when I was a kid or I'd never have gotten out of my parents house (which would be a problem, given that they sold it about 20 years back. But I bet the new people are pretty nice and would have liked me.)
Not having much to do one summer, I decided that I would be an actor and began trying out for parts in local plays. That required me to memorize a Shakespearean monologue, which makes twice in my life that I've had to memorize a Shakespearean monologue. Let's check the stats:
Number of times I have been required by society to memorize a Shakespearean monologue: Two.
Number of times I've been required by society to know how to save someone who's choking or having a heart attack: Zero.
That says something about America. Or me. Or my role in America. I just know it. But I can't say what it says because the only answers I know are found in the various Shakespearean monologues I've memorized.
Here's another thing I've memorized: the book So Big, starring Elmo. So Big is Mr F's favorite book, because he likes to wave "bye bye" when Elmo does and he likes the [SPOILER ALERT!] fact that Elmo "pops up" and is SO BIG at the end of the book. We read So Big about three times a day; sometimes we read it twice in a row, even though you'd think that it wouldn't hold quite such a thrill once you know the ending. We've read it so often that we're on the second copy of the book; the first got torn apart, understandable what with all the excitement of Baby Elmo standing up and Baby Elmo drinking from a cup.
I can recite So Big by heart. That, too, says something. It says something about the general direction my life has headed since college that I used to memorize Shakespeare and now I can just as easily quote Elmo. ("Baby Elmo sings: la la la.)
Then again, I tend to think that Shakespearean monologues and So Big have roughly equivalent market value for lawyers, so I'm probably doing as well as I ever was. And the Babies! don't get as much of a kick out of my Shakespeare quotes. Maybe they would if Shakespeare popped up at the end. (How big is Shakespeare? SO BIG!)(That might make Shakespeare more palatable to almost everyone.)
I had successfully memorized my quote and turned that into a small part in the play Brother Truckers, which ran for four days at a theater nowhere near anybody, and a few days before opening, went out rollerblading because having landed a part I again had nothing really to do; I only had about four lines in the play -- don't look down on me for that. That one old lady got an Oscar for having, like one line and slapping Denzel Washington, didn't she? Didn't she? I'm going to remember it that way anyway, so there you go: I'm right, and there are no small parts, only small actors.
Except my part actually was a small part and didn't actually require me to even be at all the rehearsals, so I was rollerblading on a beautiful summer day and, feeling daring, had decided to get out on the road a little bit, just a local actor out enjoying the sun, and I started heading through a rich subdivision where no doubt some day I would live after getting my Oscar or whatever award it is they give to small theater productions, and I was cruising down the road and getting faster and faster because it was on a slope, until I reached the critical velocity where I no longer was enjoying the activity but was devoting most of my energy to figuring out how and when I would stop, when that decision was made for me by a patch of hot asphalt, which caught one rollerblade but not the other, sending me skidding along the road on my left side for a long time and scraping off roughly 100% of my skin.
I don't mean "roughly" as in "approximately." I mean it was scraped off roughly.
If you saw that play I was in -- if you were one of the 20 people-- then I apologize if "The Prosecutor" moved a bit stiffly and did all his accusatorial pointing with his right arm. It was not my first interpretation of that character.
Nowadays, I'm even less likely to want to go through that kind of workout. I know all about "no pain no gain," but I can't think of what it is I gained through that fall, and I know I lost a lot, mostly in the skin department. Plus, with my more hectic life now, I don't have all the time and energy and youthfulness and extra skin I need to keep working out like I used to. So now, I try to work out about every third day or so, which makes it easier to fit in my workouts around my busy schedule of not actually ever doing any work in my office and then complaining about how nothing ever gets done.
Another thing that I've found makes it easier to fit in my workout is changing my workout. I haven't changed my basic attitudes towards exercise: running is still the best exercise and I still sneer at people who try to say that something is as good as running. I'll never change that. Once I form an opinion, it's set. I think that most people waste a lot of time and energy changing their opinions all because someone presented a bunch of "facts" and "logical reasons" why they should change their opinions. If my opinion was right once, why wouldn't it be right forever? You don't see other things that are right being changed, do you? Nobody goes around saying that the law of gravity really ought to be re-examined given what we now know about this or that. (Although if they would re-examine the law of gravity, it might help me get back to rollerblading.) So my opinions about running, like my opinions about what constitutes good music and what foods are edible, have stayed constant for decades. (The opinions are, in order: "it's the best exercise," "the song 'Sit Down' by James," and "Doritos.")
What has changed is my opinion about cross-training. Cross-training is where it's at. Nowadays, it's all about cross-training. To stay in shape, I can't just go running all the time, I've decided; I need to mix in some other activities, activities that may not be as good as running but which are valuable because they "work my body in different ways" and "exercise different muscle groups" and do all that other stuff that the doctor says when I've stopped listening because I'm still fixated on the part where he said I need to lose 40 pounds and I'm wondering if I should point out to him that I had my car keys in my pocket when I was weighed and that probably skewed things a bit.
So I've begun cross-training, taking some days off from running, and I've got to tell you, I love it. I love it mainly because of the different activities I can now count as "exercise" and consider myself a healthy person for doing. Here are the activities I mix in as part of my extremely strict cross-training regimen:
Playing basketball one-on-one against The Boy.
Playing "Police Bees."
Doing some sit-ups while I watch "The Daily Show."
and, most recently,
Taking The Babies! to the health club to play with them for a while because it was raining and I wanted to get out of the house and thought that the club would be pretty empty only it wasn't so we ended up just walking around the track but the boys got antsy and loud so the lady who was teaching a yoga class at that exact time on the area the track went around got on her little yoga-headset and said over the PA that the 'people on the track have to be quiet because we have 10 minutes left' so we gave up and got in the car and went for a drive instead.
That was my workout Thursday night, an integral part of my cross-training regimen. I have to say, I felt great at the end of it. I felt great because it was really a very low-impact workout and also because I hadn't actually heard Yoga Lady yell at us over the PA because to try to quiet down Mr F, I'd taken to swinging him around as I walked to make him laugh, and he was laughing, so I missed the announcement about just how much we were disturbing Yoga Lady; Sweetie had to tell me.
It should be obvious, too, that walking around a track while swinging a 35-pound toddler around is actually a very good workout. You can find out for yourself by buying my new exercise video: Walking Around a Track While Swinging A 35-pound Toddler Around... To The Oldies!.
If you order your copy today, I'll throw in a bonus DVD of me reading So Big! Opening and closing that pop-up at the end is almost as good as running.
Don't tell me you never heard this song! Everything you need to know about my exercise regime is encapsulated in the chorus:
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