Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fits with Fitness

Residing in a minimum security prison means that your the meals are the same - curry fajitas every Monday for us - the library is stocked only with books you can buy at truck stops, and there is plenty of time, and incentive, to get in shape.  Superior fitness make walking on the loose gravel, which has been poured everywhere to lessen the muddy mess on the rare ocassion of rain, smooth sailing.  When you perform those walks in 125 degrees with 55lbs of battle armor and a weapon, fitness is a necessity.  I do a lot less of that than, say, the infantry and civil engineers around here, but even the hopelessly slothful see direct gain from a daily run and few push ups in a place where going to work and eating means walking no less than 1 mile per day minimum. 

Exercise is like tobacco abuse.  I am not sure anyone has tried to make this analogy before, but here it goes.  Like smoking, exercise is not pleasant when you start.  Sometimes you do it to look cool, or fit in with everyone else.  Before you know it, you are really liking it, and find it part of your day, using it more and more to quell emotional toil and anxious thoughts.  In essence, it takes more and more of it to feel satisfied.  Then you have a day without it, and you feel incomplete.  You become anxious, and your mind races.  Perhaps, there may even be some nausea; your body just does not feel right without it.  Then, after sometime without it, it is hard to imagine starting it again given the unpleasantness experienced with the first start.  Well, this is problem a description of any addiction, but as I am in another hate phase of my love-hate (bolded as more 40-60% type of balance) relationship with exercise, I liken it most to tobacco: socially pervasive and insidious, bitterly seductive, and ultimately, unforgiving for misgivings. (The analogy totally breaks down here, of course, as exercise is something you would want to start again, and tobacco, ideally, is not.  Not to mention that, though I may be idealistic, I would like to think that a lifelong devotion to physical fitness would lead to agile octagenary, not portable oxygen and lung neoplasm).

There is another aspect of exercise which is particular nasty.  That is, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter what your mental and emotional dedication, the body doesn't cooperate.  This is especially cruel given the direct relationship that exists between injuries, and a general crescendoing recognition of the emotional/psychological devotion to exercise necessary with age, not just to be buff, but to get through the day - no matter the motive.

I continue to my Sisyphusian quest, only venially daunted, always looking for ways to improve efficiency.  And here, with 80% of the population between 18-28 years old, Narcissus need not look far for self-appointed gurus.  There are those who prescribe to the standard lifting programs or daily running/swimming.  We have dozens of spin classes - predominantly attended by women and old farts, not mutually exclusive.  P90x is a video series all loaded up on PCs connected to big screen televisions in the gym - aerobics for the 21st century.  And then there is CrossFit.  Some of the first people I met here - all 8-15 years younger - raved about this, so I gave it a try.  I come to find out that this a little like a cult, at least over here.  But what the hell, I will not fall prey to a cult, and was interested.  The concept of the program is to incorporate aerobic activity with weight lifting with a variety of exercises to create muscle confusion and maximize an intense workout in a short period of time - this was just the get-fit-quick-scheme I was looking for. 

I tried it, I was exhausted.  I walked funny for a couple of weeks, but thought it was as good a way to spend an hour getting fit during the day as any, and was actually starting to feel strongish.  Of course, my soreness relented just in time for me to throw out my back doing a dead lift.  Please don't ask me to explain what this is or why the hell I was doing it.  Needless to say, the 28 year old CrossFit CoolAid dispenser had insisted I do an exercise I hadn't done in 20 years, and I acquiesced.  It hurt.  Perhaps, after a few months of lean living, I will again be ready to give this routine a try.  Until then, I am sticking to water aerobics and watching Oprah while on the recumbent bicycle.  No shame in that, right?


  1. Be careful with that cross fit stuff - especially at our age. Do you really have a swimming pool available? That sounds like a real luxury. Hope you got to enjoy some college B-ball. Talk to you soon. N

  2. There is a pool, courtesy of Saddam, and you are right, this is veritable luxury on the Iraq scale. But it is all relative. Maybe sometime soon, I will write about this place a little more as this place is built upon vestiges of the old regime. The legacy of the Ba'athists is sometimes creepy, and sometimes, in the case of the pool, a bonus.