Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Mind, body and spirit.

Oh dear, it's been a long time since I posted. I'll try and post more regularly.

Anyway, back to the point of this post which is about exercise.  My upbringing was in an arty 60s-70s, family where making art was considered a wholly intellectual way of life. Physical exercise, if there was any, was a secondary by-product of some other intellectual purpose, such as having to climb a big hill to look at the view. Even my youthful cycling with the CTC in the early 80s wasn't about the physical, more about bikes, tea shops, old churches and the, of course, the view. Hills were just annoying because they got you out of breath. I kept cycling joining the mountain biking revolution, still sort of denying that it was also about exercise.

It was only a few years later when a illustrator friend of mine told me he attended a gym that I started to think may be exercise for it's own sake could be cool. I also had a shock when some holiday snaps came back from the developers. I was in my late 20's and I'd developed a bit of paunch and rest of my physique looked far from toned. I started attending the gym and really making sure I got some serious exercise in and started to really enjoy it.

Now in my mid 40s it seems more important than ever. I am becoming aware that even being pretty fit I'm only mitigating against the start of the long slow decline of ageing. I'm definitely going to go down fighting. I remember my father's last 10 years. He would complain to me endlessly about all his illnesses and physical problems. While many were unavoidable so most could have been avoided with even a little exercise. He barely moved, hours reading or watching the box. I was passed the other day by a guy on a road race bike who must have been in his 60s, of not 70s, judging by his face, but not physique. He looked great, strong, fit and healthy clad in garish racing lycra, he powered past me. That's where I want to be.

I was thinking about all this and here's 10 reasons why I keep fit:

#1 Vanity. I admit, this is my no.1 reason. I'm no oil painting but keeping trim is one thing I can do. I see a lot of guys around with fat bellies, and it's not a great look.

#2 Ready. I want to be physically ready for as many eventualities as I can. This may sound daft, but if I need to run, I can, or if I have to spend 6 hours digging a hole, I can, or sawing wood for 3 hours, etc. For some reason I'm impressed by capability, aren't we all? I think keeping your body "ready" and able is one of the tools in life's tool kit.

#3 Bright. There is no doubt that working the body brightens the mind. If for some reason I miss a week or more of exercise I feel my brain gets fuggy. I'm just not as alert, awake and with it. Exercise blows the cobwebs away!

#4 Achievement. Working freelance in a creative industry is full of ups and downs. Your ability to achieve is often out of your control, often in the hands of people with little ability themselves. It can be frustrating and stressful. Exercise and improving things like stamina or strength are all achievable if you work at it. It's such an easy way to achieve!

#5 High. Sheer pleasure. I know this sounds crazy but listen to this. I used to approach hills on my bike with dread. The awful pain of exertion in legs, the gulping for oxygen, and what seems like the total draining of all my energy. Now I search out the biggest hills. I've grown to love the sensation of physical effort.

#6 Whizz. This is most specific to cycling. It is pure schoolboy exhilaration at whizzing about on a bike. Panting up hills to a drummed out tempo then hurtling faster than you dare down them. Even slogging away on my rusty elliptical trainer, when it's too icy to ride, I'm visualising whizzing around on my bike. Just brilliant!

#7 Cool. It kind of goes back to vanity, but there's no doubt it's cool to be fit. Cool people in films, or on stage or whatever, are usually fit. You've got at least one plus with the opposite sex if you are fit.

#8 Alive. Life is so in the screen these days. Exercise, even the pain of it, tells me I'm alive as a whole 3D entity. It tells me I'm not just a (smallish) brain attached to a keyboard.

#9 Respect. I feel gifted by life itself. I know I'm lucky to be alive! I think you have to respect that by looking after your precious body. All of it, right down to the tips of your toes. After all, it's the only one you've got!

#10 ...and the view.