Drop And Give Me Twenty: Thoughts On The Strange State Of Exercise In America

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I think it’s just a matter of time before we see four horsemen riding in the Western sky. Why so apocalyptic? It’s the strange state of exercise in America. Are we exercising too much, too little, or just the right amount? I haven’t the foggiest idea. All I’m saying is we’re getting fit in weirder and weirder ways.

It started back in the mid-1980s. Why then? Because that’s when baby boomers started turning 40 and finding themselves winded after light aerobic exercise, like listening to their Steely Dan albums. So they started getting in shape. While relics from that era like legwarmers and Jazzercise are largely gone, the stationary bike has enjoyed tremendous staying power. There is no good reason for this. I mean, fine if you live in Winnipeg, or need to keep your hammies warm in Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, but how many people can claim that?

I know what you’re going to say. I live in a city and it’s the only way to exercise during the week. Look, I’ve seen you at the gym. You set the bike to Downhill Coast and get totally engrossed in Love It or List It. You don’t have to be Greg LeMond to know that you’re not pushing the cardio envelope. You don’t even have to be Gregg Allman.

Not that strange, you say? Fair enough. But surely you admit that things have gotten weirder in recent years, specifically around this cult of spinning. Can you imagine John Wayne doing this? I can’t. Besides, nobody can tell me the practical difference between spinning and cycling. I’ve even asked some spinners – Illuminati-types who self-identify with cryptic greetings like flywheel and soul cycle –but I’ve never been allowed into their darkened spin-ritual chamber. Here’s why I’m okay with not knowing. More women wear yoga pants than do yoga. This is not a problem. However, more men wear fitted bicycle shorts than do long distance rides. This is a huge problem.

Still not convinced? Then let’s talk about the office treadmill and his demon seed, the treadmill desk. Surely this abomination tells you the end is near. What strange company he must keep. I imagine the conversation:

Desk Guy (answering phone): Hello?

Car Guy: Larry, I’m surprised I got you. I thought you were exercising this afternoon.

Desk Guy: I am, right now, at my treadmill desk. I thought you were craving Mexican?

Car Guy: I am, right now, in my car. I’m firing up some chalupas in traffic on my dashboard skillet.

It’s just bizarre multi-tasking, to say nothing of bad manners. After all, you don’t see me splayed out on the floor in business attire, going over sales numbers in your Saturday morning hot yoga class. How come you can do this? Here it is, Larry. I don’t care that you were entering the final stage of Widow-Maker: I shouldn’t ever have to hear The Final Countdown coming out of your office. And your issue, not mine, but you’re absolutely destroying your suits. Not since Patrick Ewing made his living in the paint have I seen somebody sweat so profusely in his day job.

You really don’t see the downward trend? This oughta do it: cross-training. Sentient people are paying tidy sums to cross-trainers who in turn watch them do things like bang a massive truck tire with a sledge hammer. Back in the day you didn’t have to pay anyone for this kind of labor opportunity. You just had to rob a bank and get sent to the big house. I suspect that the final frontier in exercise, the last phase before the rapture, will be full embrace of the paleo workout. We already have the caveman diet, so this is the next logical extension. I dread the day I am recruited to join this fitness tribe:

Me: What are you up to this weekend?

Paleo Guy: Paleo workout. We get up at dawn, stand face to face with our training partners and throw rocks at each other’s head.

Me: You mean you simulate the throwing motion?

Paleo: No, I mean we actually throw rocks at each other. Sure, it hurts, but it’s a good hurt. And great for arms, shoulders and core. Afterward we get smoothies. Interested?

Me: I’m good, thanks.

What’s that you say, paleo workouts already exist? Sweet Aunt Irene, I guess it’s time for me to get my affairs in order. If anyone needs me, I am going for a run. Outside.