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My favorite exercise is running out of excuses

By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2002


Ever feel like the fat police were hot on your trail?

Ever feel like the fat police were hot on your trail?

The latest pronouncement from the official sources who bombard us with an ever-changing plethora of conflicting health tips is that tea may fight cardiovascular disease and people who exercise are less fat than those who do not.

Of course drinkers of green and black tea have fewer heart attacks and strokes. You may have noticed that your tea-drinking friends are usually not from the three-pack-a-day, double-baconburger-for-breakfast set anyhow. But I digress.

I've been battling weight ever since the doctor grunted with exertion while hoisting me for that first whack in the delivery room and have been on just about every regimen there is, and I tend to agree that if I worked out more I would weigh less.

Although, if they would just bring back fen-phen, I would be exercising a lot more, and faster, too. When I was taking that drug combination, I was coming to work at 3 a.m. on Monday and writing three columns -- a week's worth -- before 9 a.m, even if I was beginning to feel like the protagonist in some book with a title like Why Johnny Can't Blink.

I consider voluntary inertia, which some unkind people prefer to call laziness, an art form. I know I feel better when I exercise regularly, and I know I would exercise more regularly if I could nap while doing it.

A few years back a rehab place moved into a space across the hallway from the then-location of our Dade City office, and offered use of its fitness equipment for a modest fee. The problem there was that they had a very limited amount of equipment, about half of which was out of order on any given day, and the whole shebang was run by a computer that hardly ever worked.

So I quit.

Then I joined a private gym halfway between Dade City -- where I live and work -- and Zephyrhills, but eventually found the place too crowded and the drive too far.

The East Pasco Family YMCA opened in Zephyrhills a few miles farther away, with a great gym and the added attraction of a swimming pool, but Zephyrhills traffic can be hellish in the winter . . . and . . . noticing a trend here?

Exactly.

There is no exercise opportunity so convenient that the dedicated sluggard can't find a way to create an excuse for not availing himself or herself of it.

I kept my membership there because the dues are automatically withdrawn from my checking account, and to change that I would have had to walk a block to my bank.

Besides, I saw the dues as a sort of contribution to an excellent organization that provides a variety of services to folks of all ages, including some nifty outings for single seniors that I would be taking if I were single and senior. Okay, if I were single.

But, pool or no pool, I stopped going, much to the dismay of the Zephyrhills Wal-Mart, which had done a land-office business selling me towels, shorts, T-shirts, headbands and whatever else I forgot to put in my gym bag on any given day.

I stopped, but those YMCA folks are persistent.

"You know," said the Kid Who Wants My Job, probably figuring that a combination of my overweight and some over-exertion might hasten his leap into my shoes, er, sandals, "they've opened a YMCA in Dade City.".

"Where?" I asked.

"Half a block from here," he answered.

"I don't know . . . that's kind of far," I said.

"It's downhill," he said.

"Yeah," I said, "but I heard it doesn't have any showers, and I don't want to come back to work smelling funky."

"They just put in showers," he said.

And so, based on the premise that there is little sense in retiring if you don't live long enough to spend what little money you have been able to put away, I started working out again.

The other day, as I read a book and walked on a treadmill, the Kid Who Wants My Job came in, looked hopefully at my flushed sweaty face, and climbed on the machine behind me.

I know I heard footsteps.

But the breath on the back of my neck was probably just my imagination.

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