Wednesday, 4 July 2012


There are words which are pleasant both to say and to hear.  Wool is one.  Feisty.  Unenviable.  Flatulent.  Mellifluous.  All a joy to enunciate.  That one's pretty nice too.

Then there are others, which not only are unpleasant to say, but also not pleasing to the ear.  Some people struggle with the first 'r' in February.  Espresso causes grief by dint of it's regular mispronunciation.  There is a minor anxiety experienced at the beginning of each of these, for both speaker and listener, not entirely alleviated by it's successful vocalisation, because what about next time?

This is a round-about way of introducing the idea that there are many reasons I hate 'exercise'.  As a word, it slips and slithers in a most untrustworthy fashion.  'Ex' creates associations with other words meaning 'to want rid of', most obviously exorcise, but also expunge, extinguish, exile, excommunicate, exfoliate, and of course, exes.

'Ex' as a prefix is a warning of a kind, and we should listen to it, most especially in the case of the word 'exercise'.

I myself recently considered becoming involved in a program of exercise.  Having made it to my thirties, looking back on a life of moderate to high (whenever possible) excess (another warning!) I cut down the drink, cut out the smokes, and began reacquainting myself with fruit as a foodstuff rather than table decoration.  Having been single for some time, I'd lost my only form of physical exercise, chasing after partners who'd walk away when we argued.  Surely the perfect accompaniment to this new, healthier living was a regimen of vigorous physical activity?  But what to do?

I thought about running.  Anybody can do that.  There's a park at the end of my road.  I went running.  A few times.  I got shin splints.  I got advice.  Bought running shoes.  Ran in them.  Twice.

The thing is, is that I've always hated running.  It's helluva dull. 
Yes, you can listen to music, as you haul your unwilling self interminably round and round the same scenery, red faced and sweaty, sore kneed, drowning out your gasping for breath but unable to overcome the pounding of blood in your ears.  Or you can listen to music at home.  With a cup of tea.  Not sweating, or red faced, or uncomfortable in any way.  On better audio equipment.

I'm willing to admit that people who tough this initial phase out may actually begin to enjoy the experience (is 'experience' a warning word?  It certainly suggests encounters with adversity, or having weathered mistakes...).  But that leads to another reason I despise running and runners.

As I said, I'm in my thirties.  When I took my initial, exploratory (careful!) steps in the park, I looked like what I was, a middle aged man attempting his first exercise for some years, in old trainers and a band tee-shirt.  There's no getting around the fact that you look faintly ridiculous.  When I bought the running shoes, I also bought some shorts and tees to wear with them.  This makes you look ridiculous in another way.  You have to move with a certain grace, and travel a certain distance, or you risk being judged as having 'all the gear and no idea'.  Especially with a physique like mine.  I've been blessed with a body which, though it changes little, from the age of 24 has the constant appearance of gaining weight and losing hair.  Which is fine, because the next level up, is to actually be good at running, and have a body that reflects the fact that you exercise.  Then, when seen running, you cannot help but appear to be a poser.  At no stage of the running process do you look like anything less than a git.

It didn't take me long to realise that my thoughts and feelings about running could be, and are, equally relevant to other forms of exercise.  Exercise is not activity.  You aren't accomplishing anything other than exercising.  It's pointless and it's vain, and not only vain in a physical sense.  If you exercise for health reasons, to extend your life, how inflated is your sense of self-worth that you think the world won't get along without you in it?  Get over yourself, you preening tit.

And when I say you, I do of course mean me.  And you.  Wouldn't the world be better if we all just gave it up, and indulged in hideous excess until we grew fat enough to merge and become a gestalt, brief lived entity?


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