Monday, 21 October 2013

Exercise: it's just a gamble

There’s something wonderful about being in a swimming pool at 7:00 in the morning.

At least, I’m assured there is. I haven’t actually found the wonder yet, and I’ve been looking for some weeks now. Compared to an alternative, like say a warm bed, or even a real bath – the kind you don’t have to swim in – the wonderful aspect isn’t always immediately obvious.

Wow. Such a long way. And so wet. Particularly daunting at 7:00.
It leaves you feeling good all day, they tell me. There’s probably some truth in that, though I find it also leaves me smelling of chlorine. I’ve even taken to showering twice but that smell, it just clings.

In any case, what’s the good of saying it feels better afterwards? You think that’s convincing? Isn’t it what they say about banging your head against a brick wall? Feels great when you stop?

There must be something else. It occurs to me that it may just be one of those age-old traditions, practised by flagellant monks or pilgrims whipping themselves on the way to Kerbala: mortifying the flesh to exalt the spirit. It works too: having spent a while in the pool at silly o’clock certainly leaves me filled with that emotion, right up there with the most glorious we enjoy, self-righteousness.

I imagine those monks and pilgrims inflicting pain on themselves feel just the same.

Of course, the reality is that we don’t do this terrible violence to bodies that would far rather be pampered, for the sake of our souls. We do it for the sake of the bodies themselves. I realise that on the face of it, that doesn’t seem to make much sense: you just have to realise it’s a gamble.

The assumption is that we’re in for pain, one way or another.

One option is that we get it now in small doses, out there running across rough country to get to places we’re not interested in reaching; in a gym lifting stupidly heavy weights off the ground only to put them down again (or even worse, driving a rowing machine: it’s bad enough in a boat, but the machines don’t even move, and would sink if you tried to get them to); or indulging in the form of exercise I now seem to have adopted, ploughing up and down a pool, only to reach the other end and discover it looks pretty well the same as the one you’ve just left, and exactly the same as it looked when you were there two lengths ago.

The other option is that we let the old joints and arteries go and get all our pain in a much bigger dose in a few years time.

So the bet is that all the little bits of pain now will add up to less than all the terrible pain we might avoid – or at least push back – later. It’s the gamble I’m taking.

But, I tell you what: if in a few years I find myself dying of some ghastly condition all this exercise should have prevented, I shall be most put out. And thinking, all the way to grave, ‘what the hell! Why didn’t I lie in late a bit more often – and eat more chocolate?’


Awoogamuffin said...

Be self-righteous all you want, nothing is worth doing at 07:00 in the morning. Blech!

Anonymous said...

I wish I had taken better care of my teeth.


Anonymous said...

I seem to have finally got the hang of submitting my comments.


Lydia said...

I'll go with chocolate. Every single time.