Reading and Exercise – A Weighty Subject

October 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 10 Comments

It’s the ultimate taboo:  talking about body fat.  Am I fat?  Are you fat?  Is she fat?  Have we been gaining weight lately?  Well, I’m going to go there.  My name is Jessica, I read a lot, and in the last two years I’ve gained back 17 of the 28 pounds I had successfully kept off for two years.  (125 to 142).  Was “a book a day” worth it?  I sat on my butt too much.  There, I’ve said it.

This came up because a couple of cheerleaders exhibited surprise that I read on the treadmill during the read-a-thon.  It never occurred to me that this was unusual.  I’m going to tell you more.

I have a treadmill I bought “new out of the box” at an athletic consignment store.  I paid $300 (birthday money).  It folds up when not in use.  I keep it smack in the middle of the family room, right under the ceiling fan.  There is no way on earth I could bear using it without something to read!  Usually I hold a book in one hand and switch back and forth.  The Recognitions was too big, so I rested it on the ledge that’s built into the machine.

I also have a mini stair stepper that I bought new for $50.  I wanted to use it at work, as I had seen another employee do, but that was nixed by our safety officer, so it went home.  This device is literally just pedals connected to a little computer a little larger than a digital wristwatch.  I don’t have the batteries in it, though – I just step up and down, and my hands are free to hold my book.

I’ve also just joined a gym – Anytime Fitness.  I like the elliptical trainer.  It’s a little trickier to read on the elliptical because you’re rocking side to side more.  I will also read while doing my stretches; I find I do a longer, deeper stretch when I have something to distract me.  Let’s face it – exercise is almost terminally boring!  Unless you’re my husband, who has been a jock since age 4.

Here’s what happened to me.  I worked out for 18 months, burned off 25 pounds, and kept it off for two years.  I moved and quit my gym membership, but was biking to work.  I moved again, shortly after deciding to try to read a book a day.  (I finished at 409 for the year).  Then this year I decided to try for 500.  Notice that during this time I was still not going to the gym; then I also quit riding my bike because it cut into my reading time too much.  I used my treadmill maybe once a month and the stairstepper maybe 15 minutes at a time once every several weeks.  I’ve been walking 3 miles per day – trying for 1000 miles this year – but it’s clearly not enough to keep my weight down.  Evidently reading makes a person fat.

Carrying extra weight is not something I do well.  Fat hurts.  It makes me tired and breathless, and I’m not even big.  I’m technically two pounds over the healthy BMI for my height, but for me that feels like ten pounds too much.  If I had it to do over again, and you had told me what I would sacrifice in terms of my fitness level, I would not have tried to read all those books.  No question.

Cosmetic details aren’t terribly interesting to me.  I think most people are good looking.  I find fashion beyond uninteresting, I refuse to wear uncomfortable shoes, and I won’t spend more than five minutes fussing with my hair unless it’s, well, my wedding day.  I think there’s a common thread among readers and intellectuals that separates “smart” from “attractive” and would rather be clearly identifiable as “smart.”  (I’m in Mensa and the Society for Creative Anachronism, and frankly, both groups appear to have a preponderance of morbidly obese members).  To be concerned with things like one’s weight is a little trivial and shallow, perhaps.  “I have more important things to think about, thank you very much.”  When it comes down to it, though, it’s really a health issue, isn’t it?

[Whew, heavy topic today].

So, yeah!  Treadmills!  How ’bout them treadmills!

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