Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Exercise

"Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning." - Thomas Jefferson

"Exercise is bunk. If you are healthy, you don't need it: if you are sick you should not take it." - Henry Ford

"My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is." - Ellen DeGeneres

"I take my only exercise acting as a pallbearer at the funerals of my friends who exercise regularly." - Mark Twain


Zumba: from the Spanish word zumbar, meaning "to watch old fat men die."

Actually, zumbar means "to buzz" in Spanish. Which, I should add, would be just as applicable to the situation, if not as humorously piquant.

It's been both a busy and an exhausting past few weeks. I've nearly finished off that dreadful project called a "dissertation"--ever notice how many perfectly dreadful things begin with that same syllable? Disuse, disease, dismember, to name just a few? Take my normal writing voice (I know, some of you chuckled at the juxtaposition of "normal" and "my writing voice) and remove every ounce of interesting from it. Take it all out. Adverbs begone! Adjectives also, unless they're the dreadful ones that merely name something: in "a quantitative study," for example, quantitative is in fact arguably an adjective. It's a dreadful one, though. You'll never hear it used, say, at a Renaissance Faire or a park. "It's such a nice quantitative day, Dad"--nah.

Academic writing is no fun.

However, I'm almost done! Over the weekend I received full approval from committee, and now I merely await school approval and "format editing" (where someone looks over my droll example of English language usage and verifies that my commas and such are all placed just as the American Psychological Association says they should be) before I can defend it--the proper term for that being "conference call" actually, since the committee has already approved it and so their justification for attacking, thus creating a need for a defense, is rather slim.

So anyway, I'm almost done. In celebration, my wife and I joined a gym this weekend. Sorry--we joined a health club. It is indeed a gym, but there's oh-so-much more to it. Like, um, fitness classes.

Like Zumba.

Zumba is described in what must be an illegal manner on the fitness club's web site--illegal insofar as there must be laws somewhere that prevent Death by Untruthful Disclosure or some such--as "Dance your way to a fitter you! An Aerobic workout using exciting and unique Latin Moves and Rhythms. Also incorporates dance elements from other cultures including Belly Dancing and Hula. All Fitness Levels."

A fitter me! Hey, that's what I want. And I've danced before. Just last Saturday night, Heide and I went out to a dance club at a local hotel. Granted, we picked wrong; this club was full of people who have already earned every senior citizen benefit known to us here in the U.S., and the D.J. seemed intent on playing every disco song that we hadn't heard back in the 70's. Okay, bad choice. We danced anyway, though.

Dancing is fun. Latin Dancing is even more fun! There was this club up in Anchorage called Club Soraya that.... Nah, too many digressions already. But it's fun fun fun! Not sure about Belly Dancing, as I've never done it before, but I figure I've got plenty of the first word to make it good. And Hula? I used to do that, too.

"All Fitness Levels," they said. Ha ha freakin' ha.

Now, I've done aerobics before. At West Point we had to take a PE class every semester, and we got to rank the choices in the order in which we desired them. I figured out the system pretty quickly; whichever one I wanted the most I'd put at the end of the list so that I'd be sure to be assigned to take it. Before I figured it out, though, I found myself one day in an aerobics studio in a class called, simply, "Aerobic Dance." We started calling it Aerobic Death after the first day. The professor was a little Army officer--she couldn't have been more than five feet tall--who could aerobicize entire football squads to death. The only reprieve we got, as I recall, was the one time she played "Don't Worry, Be Happy" as part of the slower "remembering why gravity sucks" portion of the death match, and we all got to sing backup by chirping along to the "coo coo" in the background music to the rhythm of the bounce and the pain.

This wonderful experience plus a couple other classes I took later on taught me such important terms as "grapevine," "step-touch," "v-step," and the like. Granted, we rarely use those terms in anything resembling normal life, but they're used a lot in group exercise classes. I was so happy to already know them, in fact, that I busted right out of the gate flashing my best moves. I shimmied, I shook, and I grapevined with the best of them, imagining all the while my wife and daughter's eyes shining in pride from my side.

The fact, I learned later, was that they were just doing their best to keep up and didn't have much time to look at me.

Did I mention that Zumba is fast, fast, fast? And it gets faster after the warmup, as I learned to my dismay.

Sure enough, about twenty-six minutes in, I was done. Couldn't breathe. Couldn't do much dance except for an awesome head-bobble move I pulled out of somewhere.

"Maybe we should go." - somebody said. Might have been me, but I'm not sure I can claim that much lucidity.

"Yeah." - somebody else said. That was probably me, but I really have no idea.

Ever walked out of a group exercise class not quite half-way through? It's a little embarrassing. Probably not nearly as embarrassing as falling on the floor unable to breathe would've been, though.

Okay, so no more Zumba for me for a while. Not till I find where I stowed my lungs, anyway....



  1. I am laughing so hard. I love your writing. BTW do you have access to a pool?

  2. Zumba is for crazy people with functioning joints and lungs!!

    Can you email me? I need your advice. Or I'm on FB as Jennifer Zarifeh Major.

    1. Agree with you on that one.

      I can't find a Jennifer Zarifeh Major on FB. I need more help, or you can just e-mail me at stephen at theotherstephenking.com.