I have never been a fan of exercise for its own sake. As recorded in this blog, I have taken up swimming—because it’s like flying, because I can do it lying down, because against all odds I’ve become good at it, because there are a dozen ways to play in the water if I don’t feel like logging dutiful laps. I’ve taken up riding horses because I’ve loved horses since I was so high. I’ve taken up roller derby because I have a screw loose.
But pushups? Situps? Planks, leg lifts, jumping jacks, jogging? These are the behaviors of the confirmed ath-a-lete, the sweat monkey, the endorphin junkie. Not yours truly.
Yet I find myself doing some of these things every morning, and once a week I go to derby boot camp and get sweaty and tired doing even worse things. Many’s the time I have said those very words, before, during, and/or after such activities:
You’ve got to be kidding.
There’s no fun involved in situps. Just isn’t. Pushups hurt. Any activity that means dropping my full weight on my feet and ankles repeatedly is so unpleasant that all I can think about is How soon can I stop?
Still, I started doing situps when I realized, early in my horse riding years, that because I had no abdominal muscles, the horse was getting whacked on the most tender part of his back by my big fat fanny, over and over, with every stride. Sometimes he would grunt every time he took the hit. The thought that I was tormenting the poor beast in this way drove me to build some abs.
Some time later, I acquired that jewel in the crown of every writer, a really good chiropractor, and he showed me my X-rays. Eleven kinks in my back, the result of years of keyboard monkeying. He assigned me some heinous physical therapy exercises which I did religiously for four months, after which seven kinks vanished and the remaining four were greatly diminished. I still do leg-lifts, because if I didn’t, especially now that I rollerskate around and around on a small oval track at top speed for hours, I would be shaped like a banana. With back pain.
Since I took up derby, and the pushups that come with derby boot camp, I swim a lot faster. I had wet noodle arms for decades, and now I have pipes.
Short answer, I do the other crazy things because it seems that the stronger I get, the better I can do all the fun exercises. And because I wake up in the morning and stretch, and all those little endorphin bubbles pop in muscles all over me, and I get a full-body rush, mmm, endorphins. And because it lets me wear a two-piece bathing suit, which at my time of life is awesome. And because I can now wear cool shoes occasionally, not just orthopedically sound, butt-ugly foot covers. And so my knees don’t hurt. And so I sleep better. And it lets me eat badly once in a while. And I can dance all night.
In fact, my whole life is better.
There are lots of reasons to do exercises that aren’t fun. But I know my weaselly, lazy, cowardly self. If I didn’t have sports that I’m passionate about, I would not bother with boring, sweaty, repetitive exercises. Carrot and stick.