I hate exercise. When I was a kid, eighty years ago, my brothers and my friends and I wrestled, played baseball and football during recess and after school, and about every other kind of outdoor game country boys can think of.
But that wasn’t exercise.
Later on, after I got out of the Navy, some of the boys and I, that I knew from High School, drove from Mt. Clemens to Detroit to play a game of semi-pro football against the Detroit Lions third… or maybe it was their fourth-string… ballplayers. The night we got to the stadium, and put on somebody’s smelly uniforms and pads, it rained cats and dogs. That didn’t stop anybody. We played in the mud.
Twenty minutes into the game, Bob Brawley, our Center, and the fellow who thought of the whole crazy idea, got his jaw broken. Back then, in 1945, there were no face guards the way they have now. Bob’s broken jaw stopped the game because we didn’t have any substitutes. But that wasn’t exercise. That was a little more grown-up play, but play just the same.
I’ve skin-dived for Abalone, learned a little Karate, ran a few races, hiked and climbed (small) mountains, pitched hundred-pound hay bales into my pickup, but none of that was exercise. I was still just working or playing games. Now I’m too old for that kind of thing… but I still need to exercise.
I’m not as nimble or near as tough and strong as I once was. The old adage of ‘Use it or lose it’ applies. My body froze up…. like an unused machine that collects dust until, after a while, nothing works right. For the last couple of years, I’ve depended on my cane to get from one spot to another. My back-porch gym and my weights were not doing the job.
I realized I had a problem when a friend said, “Gene, straighten up. You walk like a peripatetic spider. You are all hunched over.”
I decided to find a way to exercise that was more enjoyable than pushing iron with nobody to cheer me on… except Cleo, my cat. I went to see Larry, who runs a Gym in Lakeport. His gym is quite a place. Larry knows his beans about exercise. When Larry was an ironworker, he carried three and four hundred chunks of iron like they were toothpicks.
The Chinese have a saying, ‘The longest journey begins with a single step.’ I took that first step, paid my (very reasonable) first month’s fee, and tried out all the interesting machines. Larry’s workout room has every exercise device you can imagine. What’s more, Larry showed me the exercises I need to straighten up my back. He showed me how to breathe when I exercise and the best weight and repetitions. Besides all that, there are other people in the gym. I no longer felt like I was working out in a vacuum.
Larry has a sign on his door. It says, ‘Never say CAN’T. You can do anything if you set your mind to do that thing.’ I agree.
He told me, “Exercise will work wonders… but don’t expect to turn your ninety-year-old body back into what you had when you were twenty-five.”
I disagree with the last part of that statement. I think he’s wrong. Give me time. I intend to run and jump with the best of the twenty-five-year-old kids.
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