Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fat Lady on a Treadmill - Day Thirty-three

New Year’s Eve, 2009 and I’m at the pit once again, along with half the population of our little valley. Today, like yesterday, saw the influx of persons getting a head start on their New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never seen so many personal trainers running around with their clipboards and out of shape C and C+ clients. Every treadmill is in use, over half running at what I like to call, Mall speed. I’m not sure why these folks bother coming here where the humidity hovers around 100% and the fragrance of choice is eau de body odor, when they could be at the mall window shopping and doing as much good. I’m sure being able to say they went here, before they went there, is the prime motivation.

This day marks more than one milestone for me as I end 2009 at one age and begin 2010 a year older, and I hope, a year wiser. I commend the folks who are here because they’ve resolved to begin a healthier lifestyle, but I have to wonder how many of them will stick it out. I’ve been at this now for over a month and I can’t promise I’ll stick it out, but I’m going to give it a good try.

I can’t help but wonder what history will make of places like this a few centuries from now. Everywhere I look people of all shapes, sizes, and ages are flinging their limbs hither and yon in an effort to negate the effects of their sedentary lifestyles. Never before has there been anything like this place. We have evidence of medieval dungeons and torture chambers, we know of the macabre means to determine if a person was a witch, we know all about the methods employed during the Spanish Inquisition. Militaries around the world have devised means of torture designed to gain valuable information from prisoners, but in the history of mankind there has never been a documented case of self inflicted torture by large masses of people. Sure, there are recorded cases of self flagellation for religious reasons, and of course there are the insane folks who mutilate themselves, but again we’re talking solitary pursuits. The pit is more akin to a cult following, without a leader. As I shuffle my feet and flay my arms in a syncopated rhythm people continue to arrive in droves, presumably of their own free will.

Who will discover the ruins of our quest for physical fitness? For a moment, suppose life as we know it has ceased to exist. There is that asteroid that could hit the planet in 2029, then again the Mayan calendar ends on the winter solstice in 2012, a date claimed by many to be our last. (If I really believed this one I’d quit this insanity right now and eat like I only had two years to live!) I have a friend who argues Global Warming will do us in. Since I’m not a follower of his theories I suggest we think Planet of the Apes, or any number of other post apocalyptic stories. Someone, be it archeologist, or beings from another planet, comes upon the remains of the pit. What are they to make of the place? All these torturous devices lined up in rows suggesting the users did not interact with each other, evidence of willful participation in the torture via plastic membership cards that will survive as surely as plastic bags in a landfill, large video screens they might correctly assume were to placate the users of the equipment and perhaps brain wash them into compliance, all will combine to present a snapshot of our doomed society, much like Pompeii.

Exercise in itself isn’t a new thing. Previous generations accomplished it via what we now refer to as manual labor. Heaven forbid we should have to chop wood, or beat wet clothes against a rock, or walk more than a few steps. Modern conveniences have made us a sedentary society. Back in the day we had to do Jumping Jacks on the playground, much like the ones the C+10 is doing over there under the watchful eye of his personal trainer. Then there was the early television workout show where Jack LaLanne showed us how to stay fit using nothing more than a chair – a piece of equipment we are all too familiar with. The wealthier sector could avail themselves of weight lifting equipment or my favorite, the vibrating belt. You may remember commercials for these miracle machines. You simply wrapped the rubber belt around your gluteus maximus and the machine would shimmy and shake the pounds away.

Then came the 80’s and the advent of ‘ercizes’. This was a suffix attached to any number of nouns and was meant to convince us that exercise was fun. It took a decade or so, helped along by the plethora of Richard Simmons videos, for society to realize that all we really wanted was a body that would look good in the shiny leotard and leg warmers that disguised our fat ankles. Once we figured out that we would never look like Farrah Fawcett in a leotard, and that yoga on a cliff overlooking the beach in Hawaii wasn’t anything like yoga in your living room, and dancing should be dancing and nothing more, those fads, thankfully, went away too.

Perhaps inquisitive futuristic folks will unearth these predecessors which now reside in a few museums. Will our society survive long enough for today’s torture devices to be displayed in a museum, or will they be left for someone in the future, someone we can only imagine, to discover?

Such are my rambling thoughts for this last day of 2009. Tomorrow will begin a new year, a new decade, and I will begin it a year older. I’m going to go turn the calendar page now to a fresh, new one. It’s kind of nice starting each new year of my life in tandem with the new calendar year. I only have to say goodbye to a spent year once where others have to do it twice a year. I’m also saved from making two sets of resolutions as well. I know you all do it, one set on New Year’s Day, another on your birthday. Maybe the birthday ones aren’t as monumental as the New Year’s ones, but still you feel compelled to make the effort. One less problem for me!

Whatever you resolve today I wish you success. May your blessing in 2010 be beyond measure.

Happy New Year.

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