I'm so over exercise!

By Kirstin Buick
09 September 2013

Running, cycling, swimming, squash? Why, it's enough to make a grown woman yawn.

It seems you can’t go anywhere without coming across people doing things – training for marathons, campaigning to raise funds for cross-Africa charity jaunts, climbing Kilimanjaro, running the Otter Trail, carbo-loading for bike races, canoeing down swollen rivers . . . It’s enough to make you feel exhausted just watching/listening to them. Just the other day I was at a leisurely breakfast when I overheard a table full of fit-looking people talking about the Two Oceans marathon they’d obviously completed the day before. The conversation was all about pace, stride and time, the food all wholewheat this and hold-the-butter that . . . It was enough to put me off my flapjack stack with crispy bacon and extra syrup (although it didn’t).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against people who dedicate themselves to physical pursuits – they’re nothing if not admirable, whether they’re running/riding/climbing/paddling for charity or their own personal gratification. It’s just that somewhere along the line my own exercise addiction made way for fundamental laziness. And let me hereby declare: I refuse to be bullied into becoming an addict again, no matter how many fanatics I am surrounded by.

In my youth I was as determined as those breakfasting marathon runners. I’d train long, hard hours in the pool in the hope of leaving others in my wake at swimming galas. I’d run myself ragged on the hockey field as, face puce and head pounding, I battled single-mindedly to keep the opposition at bay (even more notable as I never made it out of the third team). Then there was karate and I ichi, ni, san, shi-ed with gusto as I punched and lunged away on the springy blue mat.

As a student I became obsessed with squash and the purple face and pounding head reappeared as I pushed myself to get at that ricocheting little ball.

But as adulthood settled in my enthusiasm for exercise curled up in a box and got stashed away in the top of the wardrobe alongside the sewing kit and those name tags you’d made for the kids’ school clothes but ignored once you realised permanent marker did the job just as well.

Occasionally, like the sewing kit, the exercise box would get dusted off. But, like the sewing, it was never my idea. It was the idea of the children’s father. He would eventually tire of seeing school uniform hems hanging loose (hey, what are staplers for, I’d shoot back) or despair of having a button-deprived work shirt, and get out the needle and thread.

Ditto the tandem bicycle. It would be fun, he said – get us out in the fresh air early on weekend mornings, great scenery, back in time to enjoy the rest of the day. Nah, I said. Come on, he coaxed. Eventually I gave in, but only after he promised frequent breaks for Bar-Ones and doughnuts at morning markets along the route.

We completed two Argus cycle tours and I was proud of myself, although I had to admit if it hadn’t been for my partner pumping machine-like in the front seat I wouldn’t have made it up the first hill, let alone Chappies.

He has gone from strength to strength. Eight more Arguses, four Cape Epics and many other races (which, incidentally, are clearly named by people trying to out-alliterate each other – Sani2C, Ride the Rock, Karoo to Coast, Wines to Whales . . .).

I have been given up on, much to my relief. I read in bed while marathon runners and mountain bikers get their fix. The only addictions that have lingered since youth are an obsession with Lip Ice (it’s a documented addiction, you know) and toothpicks (don’t leave home without one ? you never know).

But exercise? I’ve beaten that one. And I have two Argus medals to prove it.

- Nicola Whitfield

Image: flickr.com/photos/kijken/

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