In any one-on-one contest, My Beloved beats me every which way. Smarter and more attractive, with better genes and the clout of a Harvard degree, she’s got me by the proverbials. But I maintain an edge in one tiny area. And my edge is gaining as we’ve begun checking our rear view mirrors for that era called Middle Age.
I do what fewer than one in ten American manages: I get more than Uncle Sam’s recommended daily hour of exercise by spending my reading and, like now, writing time on an exercycle. My Beloved, on the other hand, buys an annual gym membership and uses it for a couple weeks in spring, angrily trying to beat her body into shape to handle BikeVirginia in June.
“Hey, if you’re not ready to enjoy the bike rides I’ve loved for years,” I say when she returns exhausted from one of the few times she gets her money worth at the gym, “we don’t have to go.” A little guilt can move mountains. But it still can’t do much for cardiovascular survival.
Since My Beloved gets angry when she doesn’t perform to her expectations, I wait until she’s finished her first vodka tonic before I flip to Newseek’s cover story on exercise improving the brain: “‘Dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine – all of these are elevated after a bout of exercise,” I read aloud. “So having a workout will help with focus, calming down, impulsivity – it’s like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”
Her snarl isn’t receptive, but a second vodka tonic a few minutes later provides another opportunity. “Listen to this,” I say. “Regular exercise ‘is not just a matter of slowing down the aging process,’ says Arthur Kramer, a psychologist at the University of Illinois. ‘It’s a matter of reversing it.’”
In any modern novel – since only women buy books – I’d be dead by now. But My Beloved, with her superior brain, knows I’m right. That galls her more than anything.
All the while I’m commenting, I’m demonstrating what I’d love to get My Beloved to start – doing two things at once, one of them being simply moving her body.
Even though we married after we were both looking at AARP applications, it’s my goal to send fifty-year anniversary invitations to the great, great grandchildren we will have not had together.
“It’s not truly multi-tasking,” I tell My Beloved, “when you watch TV or even bang away at the laptop while your legs are spinning off 400 calories an hour. It’s just saving your life, so that I’ll have someone to spoon with while we wait for global warming to eliminate the temptation to snuggle.” She doesn’t laugh.
Like too many Americans today, My Beloved thinks that buying something, like a gym membership, is what it takes. All the ink in Newsweek can’t erase a dozen years of watching Jane Fonda prance around in leg warmers while advocating “carving out a section of time” to go somewhere and spend money to do what grandma did when just living was an active pursuit. But Jane had hours and hours of time not devoted to providing food for the kids. She also had an airbrush artist on retainer. It was, and is, hardly fair marketing.
The key to health, for the vast majority of us, doesn’t lie in sporadically following Jane to the gym. Rather, it lies in learning to enjoy the simple pleasure of using our bodies in ways beyond plopping down on the couch. Learn to make exercise so much a part of your routine that living without it makes you feel naked. (And it’ll keep your mate wanting to feel naked too.)