Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Crank Complaint About a Common American Pastime

This time it's the ubiquitous practice known as "running"; and perhaps more in general, "exercise".

Like the moon-shots, this American obsession with fitness began with that well-known gymnast (at least between the sheets), JFK--who was, as the cognoscenti know, usually in severe pain due to this back, and on a frightening amount of drugs that helped him overcome a debilitating case of Addison's disease, and who was often too sick to get out of bed for weeks at a time. Perhaps it was this personal dichotomy--his severe illness coupled with his at-the-time successful projection of a youthful vitality--that drove him to promote personal vigor and especially exercise as almost a patriotic duty.

What I am almost certain will make my post seem especially perverse is the raw numbers of the obviously unfit in our nation, the one-hundred million-man/woman Army of obesity thundering around our big-box stores (or gliding in self-propelled I'm-too-fat-to-walk buggies).

I am not talking about them. They are, for the most part, beyond the help that even moderate exercise might bring. What they really need to do is just stop stuffing their pie-holes. But that is another post.

I am talking about the so-called "fit" and also the hopefully fit. Let me be clear: I hate running and other forms of exercise. I dislike them because they seem so pointless. Where am I running from/to? Why all the huffing and puffing (I have thought while on an exercise bike--an occurrence I admit is rare as a butterfly at Christmas). I seem to have no purpose other than a purely selfish one: make me thinner (for the record, the writer is somewhat overweight but not, I like to believe, anything like nearly obese).

So here is my complaint and it's more or less one of morals, or of social responsibility at least: if all of the runners and spinners and lifters have so much energy to burn, how about doing something constructive? There are lots of meals to be lifted to the hungry; plots to be dug on weekends for affordable housing; assistance needed for the straw-limbed who really cannot walk; children to be carried at hospices. You get the idea.

Or how about a proposal that would seem to satisfy so many if it could be implemented: why not pass a law (in NYC for example) that all exercise machines, especially those that don't pull electricity, must be hooked up to the electrical grid in order to generate energy. What if a runner could (voluntarily) strap on a belt that would transform the running motion into energy stored in a battery that could then be used at home to recharge cameras, ipods, robot vacuum cleaners and so much more?

Maybe then I would feel that all this running and spinning and in-place-jogging-while-watching-CNBC-while-listening-to the Black Eyed Peas weren't anything more than a madness born of self-absorption, vanity and a nitwit hunger to waste one's energetic years in pointless, repetitive motion.