the Question of Exercise

Being a full-time stay-at-home writer is a wonderful thing, but after nearly a year, I have discovered one area in which it is severely lacking – namely that of exercise.

Back in the days of the Dreaded Day Job, I used to walk to work. Not for the sake of the walk itself, but because the buses were so utterly unreliable. Which was probably just as well, all things considered, because the DDJ was an office job, and the biggest bit of exercise in the day was walking up the stairs in the morning.

Silly Walk Gait

Once I left the DDJ, that was four brisk 3km walks (1.86 miles, imperialists) which disappeared from my week. And did I replace them with several other brisk walks?
I did not. I like to do things efficiently, and it seems rather inefficient to leave the house just to wander around and then come back again. I do go for walks with the Caped Gooseberry, but chronic fatigue and brisk multi-kilometre walks do not go well together.

So here’s the question: what do you do to stay fit? What are your recommendations?

2da Serie femenina

My criteria: simple, local, inexpensive, and preferably enjoyable.
I’m not looking to lose weight (nicely, nicely, thank you) or to develop a six-pack and bulging biceps – I just want to be fitter, and to have abdominal muscles capable of keeping my insides, well, inside. Ideas?

Death to the Common Cold! Three Things that Don't Help and Five that Do

Having had a sort-of-but-not-quite cold for the last, oh, three months, I am about ready to get out there with a flamethrower and start frying some viruses. Are you with me? photo essay 080911-A-8725H-067

Ok, I’m not really planning to let loose with a flamethrower, nor with the weapon of my (literal) dreams: the flamooka. (Flamethrower + bazooka. Yes, this is the kind of thing my subconscious mind comes up with while I sleep.)

Here are some other things that don’t work:

1) Joining the wackos who advise drinking home-made bleach as a cure-all. For one thing, there’s the risk of chemicals exploding in your face; and for another, why drink something you’d hesitate to use on the kitchen floor? Yes, it’ll kill any germs it encounters, but so would a flamooka, and you don’t see me swallowing one of those, do you? No, you don’t.

2) Taking antibiotics. The common cold is a virus. Antibiotics are useless against viruses, and taking them will only wipe out the beneficial bacteria in your system, leaving you open to anything that might stroll in. Not to mention that unnecessary antibiotic-taking is a leading cause of antibiotic resistance, which is how we get lovely things like untreatable necrotizing fasciitis (do not click unless possessed of a strong stomach).

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Bacteria

Don’t take the antibiotics – or me and my flamooka are coming after you. If you want the placebo effect, swallow a tic-tac and tell yourself it’s a cure-all. Or pour a little white meths on a sugar cube and swallow that. It might not help your cold, but rumour has it that it makes you unattractive to bugs, so you’ll at least have one less thing to worry about.

3) Buying a cute, cuddly little model of the cold virus (also comes in pillow size!) and sticking pins into it. A useful way to store your pins, perhaps even some relief to your feelings, but of no proven health benefit (alas).

So, instruments of destructive chaos and cuddliness aside, what’s the plan of attack? How shall we rise up and conquer?

1) Rest. Don’t rise up, and conquer. Rest is good for what ails you, whatever that may be. (Except bed-sores.) This is why people are put in induced comas, although this may be a bit of an overreaction to a common cold.

The London Blitz, 1940 MH26395 2

2) Liquids. Especially hot liquids. Especially hot lemon, honey and ginger. (Nothing like a hot ginger for medicinal purposes!) Chili is another excellent ingredient, I hear, although I am seldom desperate enough to overcome my wussiness in the face of burning tastebuds. Garlic is another healthy additive, but you may find it makes the drink taste odd. Remember there is always water, which is good for you and tastes just as good if you let it get cold.

3) Fresh fruit & vegetables. Preferably not genetically modified to grow legs and dance the tarantella, or whatever it is they get them to do these days; and not covered in any sort of -cide, because -cide means kill, and who needs a killer vegetable when they’re sick?

Grimaldi and Vegetable

4) Fresh air. Preferably with rain, hail and mist not included – getting cold doesn’t give you a cold, but it certainly doesn’t help. Consider: all the air in here has been circulated through your lungs and is thus all germy and yuck. Get rid of it and get in some fresh stuff.

5) Exercise. Can be combined with the acquisition of fresh air, but don’t overdo it. I know, it looks like I’m contradicting #1, but trust me, there is a balance to be found. Obviously, this balance involves a nice big fat rest sitting as close as possible to the fulcrum while a brisk little walk hangs off the far end.

Coincidentally, all these things are good for you the rest of the time too, which will save you going to the trouble of making new habits when you in due course recover.
Of course, there is nothing new in all this: it’s all Just Like Mother Made (except the flamooka – unless you had a very exceptional mother).

Old woman in Kyrgyzstan, 2010

What’s the ancestral wisdom relating to colds in your family? Let’s pool our knowledge – together let us make the cold uncommon!

Disclaimer: Ancestral wisdom is not always smiled upon by medical authorities. Seek medical advice when ill, and don’t request (or accept) antibiotics for a virus.

the Relentless Rhythm

About three or four weeks after your DNA was composed, when you were about the size of a pea (and a very small pea at that), something remarkable happened.

A little tubey squiggle in your pea-sized self started to pulse rhythmically. Not very dramatic, not very noticeable, even, but there it was.

Over time the tubey squiggle got rather more complicated as it developed, but the beat went on.

Fig1 HeBee

It’s carrying on even now, however many years later.

Except for major medical interventions (or situations requiring major medical interventions), that beat won’t stop until the day you die. It might speed up or slow down at various times, but the basic rhythm carries on.

Think back over your life: the ups, the downs, the scares, the joys. Through it all, your heart was beating away – despite what you might have felt at the time – largely unnoticed and generally unappreciated.

So today, why not do something nice for your heart in return? Eat another vegetable, go for a walk, or just take some time to de-stress. Keep your heart happy.

After all, it’s been with you longer than any of your friends (since you were a pea and it was a squiggle, in fact) and it’s probably let you down less often. It’s always there for you, just getting on with the job.

Speaking of which, why not consider donating your heart to someone else when you’ve finished with it? We don’t bury people’s tools with them any more, so why would you bury something as useful as a heart?

There are, sadly, many people whose hearts for one reason or another are not the reliable workhorses most of us enjoy (or more usually, ignore). Why not agree to pass yours on to someone who will really appreciate it?