On This Fitness Life
The ball was thrown directly
at me with the speed of a bullet. Anticipating its direction and velocity, my
body knew instinctively what to do . . . jump, while turning to the right, legs
and arms jutting forward, looking like a giant C. It was as though a puppet
master was quickly pulling the strings of a docile marionette. The ball flashes
by — through this opening — hitting the back wall and bouncing harmlessly away.
The ballet — of kids at play — repeats itself, over and over, until the recess
bell is heard above the shouts of excitement from the playground.
— Dodge ball, Windsor Hills
I guess one could say that my
life of fitness has its roots in
Dodge ball . . . the excitement, the energy, the play for play’s sake; and
those magical moments when the body does the unthinkable.
So, for sixty some-odd years
I have been on a quest, through fitness activities, to find and recapture those
moments of unabandoned play. Along this journey,
there have been lessons learned.
Let Go, Have Fun
Magic happens, on the dance
floor, on the golf course, on the Dodge ball court, when the mind lets go and
allows the body its freedom to fully express itself . . . no interference from
thoughts, self awareness, or self criticism.
In the 1970’s Timothy Gallwey launched the book, The Inner Game of Tennis. This
book, and a later series of books, was a huge success. The message was clear,
there are two games of tennis, golf, music, etc. at play. The outer game, the
physical expression, e.g., hitting a golf ball, and the inner game of the mind
— where anxiety and self doubt are often interfering
Through a series of
exercises, Gallwey guides one in ways to quiet the
mind and to learn to trust oneself. The kids at Windsor Hills Elementary School
knew this lesson early (they would learn self doubt a bit later in life), but
at the time their unspoken motto was: let go, have fun.
While researching for an article
on Jack LaLanne, it became apparent that what kept
Jack going strong all the way up to age of 96, was exercise. Jack paid his
dues, up at 5:00 a.m., seven days a week for a two-hour workout. This exercise
level allowed Jack to do some extraordinary things with his life, including a
book tour at age 96. (Google: Awareness Jack LaLanne
Angel of Fitness)
Last year, I made a
commitment to do the same — exercise seven days a week (when possible). After
all, we sleep seven days a week, eat seven days a week, brush our teeth seven
days a week, it only follows that exercise of some sort should be in the mix.
Up at 5:00 a.m. for a two-hour workout? Nope, not this kid.
The only way this
seven-days-a-week routine can work, is to make exercise fun. Even if it’s out
of the front door, walk fifteen minutes in one direction, turn around and walk
home, it’s exercise, and should be somewhat enjoyable.
These daily exercise routines
— as in my case — would soon become addictive.
Mix it Up
Publilius Syrus, a freed Roman slave turned poet once penned, “No
pleasure endures unseasoned by variety.” Translation: mix it up, add multiple
activities, disciplines or sports to your exercise regime. This approach will
be invaluable if you pull a muscle or sprain an ankle.
Last year I managed to tear a
muscle in the arm area. After purchasing an $8.00 fabric sling, I was into the
pool (with sling on) for aqua aerobics, and long walks along the beach. The
injury healed — probably faster — but more importantly the daily exercising
Consider having a minimum of
four or five exercise activities that are done on a regular basis. Mix it up.
Start Slow and Taper Off
Walt Stack, the famous
octogenarian ultra marathoner, was once asked: “What’s your strategy for this
upcoming race?” Walt responded: “I’m going to start slow and taper off!” The
phrase became so popular, that today San Francisco’s oldest running club, the
Dolphin South End Running Club, has the phrase emblazoned on all of the club’s
Usually around the beginning
of the year, a host of ads appear in magazines and on T.V. for the latest and
greatest exercise equipment, or routine. These ads always involve very trim
people who have lost an enormous amount of weight in a short period of time.
Enticing? Of course.
Before embarking on one of
these routines, one should ask: “Can I do this — this intensity — for the rest of
my life?” If the answer is no, then do those fitness activities that you can do
for your entire life. After all, you’re in it for the long haul, not the quick
fix. So, start slow, taper off, have fun, mix it up. .
. seven days a week.
The Magic of Water
There is something special
about water. When Mark Twain toured Europe and discovered that a bath of spring
water at Aix-les-Bains soothed his rheumatism, he
described the experience as “so enjoyable that if I hadn’t had a disease I
would have borrowed one just to have a pretext to go on.”
Water, our body needs it, but
more important, our soul longs to be immersed in it. There are the obvious
benefits to exercising in water, like very little stress on the joints due to
the water’s buoyancy. But water also taps into a deeper area of our spirits.
Watch kids at play in water, the excitement, the energy, the play for
play’s sake. Kids know.
Take a lesson from the kids
and add water to your exercise mix . . . aqua aerobics, surfing, swimming, or
just moving about in the pool.
Nike captured it all with
their motto, just do it. I might add, just do it, and
. . . enjoy what you’re doing, try and get out daily, take it easy, play in the
water, and have a variety of fitness activities at your beck and call.
My fitness journey continues
. . . I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned.
Oh, if you happen to see this
older guy, with a reddish- colored round ball, the size of a volley ball,
looking longingly at a backboard, it could be this writer, day-dreaming about
the good ol’ days — recess at Windsor Hills
(Writer’s note: if you’re new
to exercise, check with your doctor before embarking on any exercise routine .
. . and follow Walt stack’s motto: ‘start slow and taper off.’)
Robert Ross can be reached by
e-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
2013 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved