Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Joy of Exercise

Since I write mostly about sad or simply controversial things all day--yesterday was devoted to a Facebook ban, Canada's growing euthanasia numbers and the destruction-by-media of a Catholic businessman--I think I will concentrate only on The Happy for this blog.

Early last month, when I was slouched over my desk reporting on The Sad, I suddenly snapped and told Benedict Ambrose that Something Must Change. First I demanded a puppy, and then I rushed off, inwardly gobbling, to an exercise class.

Now I have done 16 bouts of exercise (14 of them in studios), and we will be getting a puppy after we return from a trip to Berlin in July.

The greatest driver of happiness, apparently, are close relationships with other human beings. This is easier said than developed, however, if you move across the ocean from your family in mid-life and don't make any more family. However, exercise and pets are high up on the list of cures for gloom.

Yesterday I took a barre class, which involves ballet exercises, isometric exercises and girly dumbbells. It was great fun and made my quadriceps, already aching from a spin class I took the day before, ache some more. It also made me smile and afterwards to laugh because almost all the other women in the class (and we were all women) were half my age, slimmer, taller and much more beautiful than me.

There were two men, I think, in my spin class, and one or two women older than me. But again for the most part I was at the back of the class marvelling at the elegant spines of beautiful, tall, slim twenty-somethings. It makes me wonder why more men don't take spin class although out of the past I can hear the very slender twenty-something me yell, "Don't encourage men to chat up women in the gym."

I am a world away from the YMCA and the boxing ring in more ways than one, that's for sure. In the 90s and 00s, I almost never took an exercise class because they were still mostly versions of "Aerobics," which meant dance routines too complicated for uncoordinated me.

Instead I ran on the treadmill for half an hour, getting high on endorphins, and then I lifted free weights and pushed on the correct parts of various machines. For a few years I walked two miles and back to a boxing gym up to three nights a week. There I did a circuit of various stations at the gym--heavy bag, speed bag, skipping--while waiting for a trainer or to spar with someone in the scary old ring.

Unsurprisingly, both the weight room at the Y and the boxing gym (especially) were dominated by men. This almost never bothered me although you can bet there were young men aggrieved that I was  in the boxing gym at all. One manifested his displeasure by popping in a tape of the most misogynist rap lyrics I had ever heard, but my coach soon put a stop to that. He was as tough as nails, a Cockney immigrant who put up a shrine to the Cray Twins in his gym, but he was also fair-minded and seemed to divide the world merely into fighters and people who could be fighters.

I very much disliked being chatted up at either the Y or the boxing gym, and this happened rather less often than I (now being in my 40s) would expect regarding a woman in her 20s. It was probably because I had the ice-blue eyes and the forbidding expression of a Wehrmachthelferin.

I was also 117 lbs and fit into a Club Monaco size 2. I don't expect ever to be that slim again, but it will be amusing to find out how fit I can become in middle-life.


  1. Unless you are a total dog lover, don't get a puppy - even Pope Francis says focus on human relationships (he was suggesting kids instead of dogs, but that can include spiritual children, or adoptive kids - I suppose BA's health precludes that?).

    Speaking of which, and the reason I came to read this post - if it is not too cheeky - how is BA doing? Hoping and praying for a cure thru Ven. Margaret Sinclair... Maybe you should drag him to the gym classes?

    Back to the puppy response to the Sad - would it be helpful to spend time helping out at yr local parish? Maybe mentor young adults group? RCIA? Though these may demand more time than you have spare, whereas a puppy is home based time to a large extent.

    Just some thoughts - ignore if they are off track.

    1. Thank you for asking about BA! After a stint of radiation last summer, he is feeling a lot better. He's working full time, and he gets 40 minutes of walking exercise a day. The ole devil tumour has shrunk, and he doesn't have to have a scan for another six months. Thank you very much for your prayers, too!

      Pope Francis was absolutely right about choosing children over dogs!

      It is unlikely we will adopt, unfortunately, and I am at home writing all day, whereas B.A. is out all day, so a home-loving puppy is what we are going to get. We live in the UK, though, so just becoming a dog owner opens up a myriad of social possibilities. As a matter of fact, I now am a part-time volunteer homeschooler, and when the puppy arrives, I will just take him along with me.

      That reminds me, I must make sure my Polish tutor isn't allergic to dogs.

    2. Oh, yay!! I’m so glad to hear that about BA’s tumor, and so happy you are getting a puppy!! Have you decided on a breed?

      Anon, I think it’s really helpful to keep in mind that Pope Francis was addressing a world that uses animals (or ‘furbabies’-ugh!!) to replace/avoid human relationships.
      When properly ordered, the relationship between dogs and men is a unique and enriching one. This blog post does a much better job than I could of reflecting on the right-ordering and uniqueness of this relationship ( . . . but there are a million examples, fictional and real, that I could point to. (Where the Red Fern Grows is one of my personal fictional favorites-there’s something so special about the bond between a young boy and his dog!)

      I speak as someone who is childless-not-by-choice, works from home and owns a dog . . . dogs can and should never replace people, especially children, but the relationship they do offer adds a richness all its own that can make the sad, lonely and hard parts of life easier to bear.

      My husband and I are blessed with a full and rich social life, including many physical and spiritual nieces and nephews and we are under no illusions that our dog is a substitute for a child in any way. (I HATE it when people call me her mom. Ugh!!) But her presence has still added immensely to our lives.

      And personally, I think dogs are God-given, especially for those who, through no fault of their own, are lonely, shut-in, have experienced traumas (Dogs trained to help veterans who experience PTSD is one that springs to mind), etc.

    3. B.A. likes Border Terriers, and I'm partial to Tibetan Spaniels. Dog-ownership is really an important part of classic British culture, so I'm not as nervous about this as I might be. The weird thing is that there are ponies who are less expensive than "purebred" puppies here---and in Edinburgh, papers are indeed a THING. Rarely do you see a boy with an Ol' Yeller type. No. It's either purebred all the way or (massive drop in price) a Labradoodle , or Jack Russel-Pug Cross (Jug), or whatever. I would have got a cat as soon as we moved in, but I have family members who are deathly allergic to cats.

  2. Thanks for the update Mrs Mac! So glad to hear BA is recovering well - will keep praying for his full recovery thru Ven Margaret S (can't have her unemployed in heaven now, can we?)

    The puppy makes more sense after your comments - a cat seemed more appropriate, but allergies are a problematic issue. The border terrier does look nice - you may have to carry the tiny Tibetan Spaniel on long walks! Or get a Scottish Deerhound for the rough bus?!

    We've had a succession of cats. Funny thing is; the more mongrel the lineage, the better the character they have had...

    booklover - I do agree with all you said; I was just a bit ambiguous with my remarks perhaps. Glad your doggo is giving such joy!