Simply put, I don’t exercise. And I’m not just talking about lifting weights or doing aerobics or anything fancy like that — I’m not even a big fan of walking. I can safely blame my parents for this one. Growing up on the farm, they frowned upon any sort of frivolous behaviour, including the act of walking just for fun. That would have been considered a pointless waste of time and energy. When I was a teenager, there was nothing cooler than strapping on your Walkman and a pair of velour shorts to go power walking down the main highway with some neighbours. When I would ask my dad if I could go, his response typically didn’t vary from the following:
Dad:“Where are you walking to, exactly?”
Me:“To town and back.” Dad:“What for?”
Me:“To hang out with my friends and get some exercise.”
Dad:“I don’t think that’s a very smart idea.”
Me:“Why not? It’s not like anything’s going to happen to us! It’s just a few miles away, and we’ll be back before dark. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
At this point, my heart would swell with love and gratitude; I was overwhelmed that my dad was so worried about my safety.
Dad:“Oh, I’m not worried about that. What I am worried about is your ability to waste time. If you want to get some exercise, why don’t you strap yourself to the back of that push mower, and power walk your way over to those grain bins out back and clean up that long grass? You didn’t get around to it last week.”
What?Didn’t get around to it? And deliberately miss out on all that fun? Crazy cat. Who in their right mind would pass up the chance to wander perilously through waist-high grass and randomly chop up snakes and mice with a mower blade? Why on earth would Iforgetto do that? You can’t put a dollar on that type of fun.
Actually, come to think of it, there was one day a week where he did encourage walking, and that was on Sundays, after church. On the drive back home, it was all but guaranteed that someone would start acting like an idiot. There would be a few mild threats issued from the front of the car, largely ignored by the eight tyrants occupying the back. Eventually, Dad would pull the car onto the shoulder of the road, come to a full stop, and turn around in his seat to get a good look at who was causing the commotion. The punishment for bad behaviour in these cases was that you had to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way home. It’s fair to say that it was usually one of my brothers. With temporary order restored, Dad would resume cruising speed of approximately five kilometres per hour. This would be the exact same speed as the walking degenerate. (Ironically, the punishment was worse for those of us left in the car. In the afternoon sun, we would roast like rotisserie chickens.) When we started to complain about his lethargic driving, he would launch into an educational vignette about how brakes were only intended for people who miscalculate the distance from their turnoff. A good set of brakes, he told us, could last a very long time if they were looked after properly. And we didn’t need to be scooting around like our pants were on fire when our lane was just up the road.
In hindsight, I’m fairly certain that Dad randomly picked one of us to get out and walk, so that he would have an excuse to driveexcruciatingly slowlyto check the crops on the way home from church. How else can one explain that this level of misbehaving only happened on the way home from church, and not on the way there?
To this day, I blame (well, credit really…) my dad for my lack of a gym membership. After all, who in their right mind would walk, or worse yet, run, just for the hell of it? But regardless of who’s to blame, I have to get used to this fitness thing sooner rather than later. After the birth of my next (and last) child, for the first time in my life I will focus on incorporating exercise into my daily routine. I’m going to start small, find exercise books written for people like me, the exercise impaired. Recently, I found a book that explains things in a great amount of detail; for the one-arm triceps extension, it instructs you to find a sturdy chair (I don’t see why it can’t be a kitchen chair, whilst eating toast… that part was not in the book), put your feet flat on the ground and then hold a dumbbell in one hand over your head with your palm facing in and your elbow and wrist directly above your shoulder. And just when you’re about to lose heart because you’re so confused as to what arm is supposed to be doing what and where the weight should even be, you read on: “… slowly lower the weight behind you,taking care not to hit yourself with it.”Then, just for a moment, you smile and feel good about yourself because yes, there are people who are indeed worse off than you.
Over the years, I have come to see the benefits of exercise and why it’s necessary — it can help protect you from premature heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity and yes, it can even help improve your overall mood, that is, once you get through with it. Yes my friends, I get why it’s important and I will eventually whip myself into shape. Odds are much better that I’ll whip myself into cardiac arrest, but hey, at least I’ll go out trying.
JanitaVandeVeldegrewuponafarmnear Mariapolis,Man.Sheholdsabachelorofscience degreeinagriculturaleconomicsfrom theUniversityofManitoba,andhasworked forafinancialinstitutionsincegraduating. ShelivesinRegina,Sask.,withherhusband RoddyandtheirchildrenJackandIsla.Her firstnovel,PostcardsNeverWritten,was therecipientoftheSaskatchewanReader’s ChoiceAwardandalsolistedbyCBCasone ofthetopfunnybooksin2009.Shedonatesa portionofproceedsfromthesaleofherbook toWorldVisiontohelpthoselessfortunate. Formoreinformation,ortoorderherbook, visitherwebsiteat www.janita.ca.