After reading the title for this chapter, some of you might be thinking, “well done James, you have taken up running,” the reality is that this chapter has nothing to do with running or jogging or any other incredibly boring exercise programme. I know that some of you might now be thinking, “hey, exercise programmes are not boring.” Okay, fair enough. Even I like to exercise. My own exercise programme is very structured. No really. JBR and a structured life in the same sentence. Really. My exercise programme consists of massive amounts of stretching when I wake up, as well as sporadically throughout the day. (This would not be the time to knit-pick about the obvious conflict between the words ‘structured’ and ‘sporadically,’ thank you very much).
The reason I have developed this exercise programme falls into two central categories. The first one is that my body does have a few miles on it, and if I don’t stretch first thing each day, the creaking sound would be deafening. This age thing, for me, is complicated by that little episode I had five or six years ago with the evil Guillaine-Barre Syndrome. Whilst my doctor continues to assure me that the chances of it coming back are about the same as achieving world peace in the next few minutes. But none-the-less, every once in a while, I wake up and my legs and back feel like they did as the GBS began to attack me before. The second reason for my exercise regime is that having Amélie requires that I am a bit more fit than I needed to be when I just sat in front of my computer writing books a few years ago.
This morning, I awoke to the usual alarm. My alarm system consists of a large extremely bright yellow light in the sky. I suppose I could close the persiana’s (large wooden louvered shutters, in Mallorca, usually green) each night on the windows in my bedroom, but that would block the view when I wake up – if this logic seems confusing and a bit contradictory…well, it is. Keep reading. First, after noticing the fact that I am still on the planet and breathing, I began the day’s stretching. To make sure my stretching programme isn’t counter-productive, I did do quite a bit of research about the correct way to stretch. I could have, I suppose, actually put more structure into my exercise regimen by enrolling in Yoga or Pilate’s class, but I am saving those options for when I am seriously old (don’t even think about saying anything right now). After zipping into about a dozen websites and then printing out what I perceived to be the pertinent tips about bending (without breaking) and stretching (without tearing), I thought I had it all sussed. Back to this morning.
So I began my usual routine. 60 of this, 60 of that, followed by another 60 and 60. This is usually followed by a Yoga position that I had discovered that I had been doing for years. This description of this position, the Savasana, probably would appear to be me lying on my back after being run over by a lorry…which is typically how one feels after all this other stretching. I don’t do this ‘oh-my-God-he-looks-dead’ position too long. Actually, just long enough to remember what is next in my highly organised exercise system before I repeat the whole thing over again.
I have looked into several Yoga positions that, according to their online descriptions, and was pleased to find that I had already been doing several of them before I became so highly motivated. It seemed that I was already doing the Sukhasana and the Pavanamuktasana, and off and on, even the Salabhasana and the Ardha Matsyendrasana. I was going to try the Boogity-boogity-boogity-shu, but that one requires me to have Chubby Checker blaring on the radio, and that seems a bit inappropriate in the morning.
I used to have a DVD about Pilates. It was one of those DVD’s that celebrities who no longer have proper jobs seem to gravitate into making, and for a time, I would plug the DVD into the player and stretch out on the cabin sole (this was when I was still living on Angelina) and try to follow the moves. I am not even sure that it did anything for me, but that could have something to do with the lack of excitement when you watch the same movie over and over again. Having said that, I was thinking about getting another Pilate’s instruction DVD, as it has to be a good thing to do (and the names of the positions are in a language that I actually understand). So this morning, after feeling exceptionally well-stretched, I went into the Amazon.com site to look for one that seemed like a logical purchase. Okay, problem one: Amazon has 1,583 DVD’s listed under the search entry of “Pilates.” Problem two: The first 52 offerings had pictures of women on them that either don’t even have the term ‘flab’ in their lexicons, or have been Photoshoped to the nth degree. Offering number 53 was titled “Pilates for Men.” I kept scrolling when I saw this one too, because the bloke on the cover of the video looked like a cross between Superman and Christiano Ronaldo. I am not looking for abs of steel; I am just looking for abs that allow me to see my feet on occasion after a big meal.
Number 72 was called “Rael Pilates: System 27.” Holy shit. The implications that the makers of this video either have 27 different Pilates systems to offer, or that they have just put out 27 versions of someone bending their body into strange positions in order to sell more DVD’s was impressive. But not enough to buy it. By the time I had scrolled through over 125 of these videos, I gave up.
I next went to an actual Pilates website, just to refresh my memory so I could see if I even needed to buy another DVD. I found one that listed quite a few Pilates moves, along with helpful hints about how to do them correctly. I especially liked the “Tips for Rolling Exercises” and “Swan Dive.” Although neither of them mentioned what I believe to be a key tip (don’t do this on the edge of a very tall building), they were helpful…in an Ilsa, She-Wolf-of-the-SS sort of way.
Being fit means more than just being physically fit of course. There is also the mentally fit component that needs some focus. Years ago (and I do mean many years ago…like in the early 1970’s) I learnt how to do Transcendental Meditation. And whilst the whole way that it was taught then was a bit over the top, the basic premise is pretty powerful. My expectations of the classes were pretty high. But when I saw my teacher, whose name was Steve and not Maharishi-something, write ‘cosmic consciousness’ on the flip-chart, I began to wonder a bit.
There are two main key points to doing TM (I was told). One was to devote 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening to meditation. The other key point was remembering the mantra that I was given by my TM ‘teacher’ (and I do use the term ‘teacher’ pretty loosely here). Shortly after being given my instruction (the term ‘given’ doesn’t really apply here as I had to pay for the bloody class), I was pretty good about the whole 20 mins each morning and 20 mins each evening thing, but that degenerated after a month or two. And then there was the day that I forgot my mantra and went into near panic mode. I phoned Steve and was just about to admit my ineptitude, when it suddenly popped back into my head. Since then, I must admit, I don’t do TM every day (much less twice a day), but I have found that it is very good at clearing out my head so I can be more effective at whatever I am doing. I would tell you more about the mantra aspects of TM, but that would probably unleash the anger of some guru on a mountain-top in India, so I think I will pass on it.
Because I already do TM (once in a while), I thought I either get seriously serious about all this healthy exercise stuff and join a class, or just follow the guide to life on a card I received years ago, and still have. The card said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” I like that. I like it a lot. Good sound advice. So, a part of actually following this wisdom, I went out for lunch and had a fab ensalada pasta con pesto (pasta salad smothered in pesto). Hey, doing all this typing burns up a lot of carbohydrates. Doesn’t it? Oh, one more thing that is TM-related….Jai guru dev.
Sir Roger Bannister, showing how running is done
a nice photo of a calita that has nothing to do with the letter
Baba Ram Dev, a serious Master of serious Yoga
that doesn't look too comfortable to me
another Yoga master
what I think is the Pilates "I can't hear you" position
not the best advert for working out I think
the Maharishi near Cosmic Consciousness (or having a kip)
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, James B. Rieley