Physical Monday

24 Jan

Long time fitness guru, Jack LaLanne has died. He was 96. He once joked, “I can’t afford to die. It would wreck my image.” Jack was a fitness nut back when fitness nuts were considered by most of the general population to be, well, nuts.  Now you can’t throw a stone without hitting a jogger or some other kind of exercise enthusiast. We have more nutritional information available to us than most of us can digest (pun intended). So now, everyone knows what they should do to be fit and healthy. It doesn’t mean we’re all fit and healthy but at least we have the vital information, so we can feel knowledgably guilty about it.

What’s the point? Jack LaLanne maintained a healthy lifestyle and look what happened! He died anyway.

In 1977  Jim Fixx wrote a book called The Complete Book of Running. It was a huge bestseller. Mr. Fixx is credited with helping to start America’s fitness craze and popularizing jogging. In 1984, Jim Fixx dropped dead from a heart attack. He was 52.

A couch potato could find great comfort in the story of Jim Fixx. “See, exercise kills!” Actually, Jim Fixx’s father died of a heart attack at the age of 43.  With a family history like that, you could argue that Jim Fixx prolonged his life by taking up running.

I took up running in 1977 after reading The Complete Book of Running. In retrospect one wonders why you need an entire book on the subject. Human beings have been running since our earliest ancestors figured out they were being chased by something that could kill them or we wouldn’t be here. So, you need a whole book to tell you how to run? Anyway, now I can’t for the life of me figure out what I saw in running. You could say I was just hopping on a trend, but I have never been a terribly trendy person. Now I am kind of vague about how much running I did. I jogged on a track. I jogged on sidewalks. I owned “running shoes”. I wore this cute little pair of shorts. I don’t remember how long this went on. My college roommate and I ran together some. Neither of us was inclined toward athletic endeavor. We’d known each other since we were 12 and had hated gym class together, so in retrospect it is kind of funny we were running track together. When the coach in junior high made us run track for his own sadistic amusement, we hated it. Now we were getting up when it was still dark, of our own accord, to run the track at FSU.

I’m pretty sure that didn’t go on for very long.

I didn’t take up cycling until I was nearly 30. I learned to ride a bike as a kid and rode when I was in school.  Somewhere around high school I stopped riding. One of my cousins gave me a hand me down 10 speed when I went off to FSU and I locked the bike up to a fence near my dorm and never rode it. When I graduated I gave the bike to another cousin. I don’t know why I didn’t ride a bike in college except I think somewhere in my head I had decided bicycles were kid’s stuff.

I don’t remember where the bike came from, but I started riding again when I was between jobs in 1987. It was a bad time in my life, as unemployment frequently is. I’ve always said that cycling saved my life. The endorphins released during my daily spin on the bike helped to counter my darkest moods during a tough time.

All this talk of running and bike riding may be giving the false impression that if you saw me on the street you’d say, “My, he’s a fit fellow”–when in fact you’d be more likely to think, “Look at that fat, old man on a bike. I hope he doesn’t fall and break a hip.” Sometime around the age of 45, my metabolism up and died but I failed to adjust my eating habits accordingly.  Right now I am just trying to lose enough weight just so my “fat pants” will fit comfortably again. Once that milestone has been achieved, we will strive for loftier goals.

That is the editorial “we.” No matter how tight my “fat pants” may feel, there is only one of us in here.

I am back to bicycle commuting to work. Cold, rain, fog and general laziness have kept me off the bike since before Christmas for the most part–except for some weekend riding when the weather wasn’t horrible. This morning I will be back in the saddle because it is a balmy 39 degrees Fahrenheit and that’s warm enough. Really, it sounds crazier than it is. You layer enough, once you start riding it doesn’t feel that cold. And frankly, I am just happiest when I am riding my bike. Even when it’s cold.

I am the same age as Jim Fixx was when he died and, with all due respect, I am not sure I ever want to be as old as Jack LaLanne was when he passed away, but hopefully I can find health and happiness somewhere in between.

Happy Monday

2 Responses to “Physical Monday”

  1. Lisa January 24, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    It struck me as very strange this morning when I stopped to think that I found out that Jack LaLanne – someone I watched on tv as a child – had passed away, on Facebook, from (of all people) one of The Beastie Boys.

    One of the trainers at my gym came up to me a few weeks back and asked me what my fitness goals were. I looked at him like he’d spat on my shoe. All I could come up with was “to not get so fat that I no longer fit in Lilly Pulitzer’s clothes and to stay firm enough to be able to do it with the lights on.” The child looked at me like I had just spat on BOTH his shoes. But he went away and I went back to battling the elliptical machine solo.

  2. Pamela N Red January 24, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Think about it though. Most men from LaLanne’s generation average life span was in their 70’s, he bypassed that by 20 years or better.

    I always loved him. When I was a little girl I watched and exercised with him.

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