Years ago I called out a friend about something she was doing that I felt was stupid: she was paying a neighbor to cut her grass while simultaneously jogging on her treadmill. This hurt her feelings, but in my defense, I wasn’t calling her stupid. I understand, though, that she might have felt attacked or belittled by my assertion that she was doing something stupid. In fact, it seems likely that her feelings would have been fine if what she was doing wasn’t at least somewhat stupid.
The comment was a bigger-picture observation about work, fitness, and life that hinges around the idea that we possess distorted priorities about exercise and our bodies. We believe that exercise is a chore or a punishment for our indulgences. We don’t understand the connection between work and our health. We ride the elevator to the gym on the third floor. We drive four blocks to buy a soda instead of walking four blocks to buy roasted peanuts. We drive two miles to the park to “fitness-walk” one mile.
How, then, Richard, the smartest man in the world, would I go about reversing my clumsy hypocrisies and lazy habits? I thought about this as I washed my car and Abby’s truck last night. I thought about how filthy most cars are, inside and out, and how most people inexplicably accept that as inevitable. I thought about how much more we like our vehicles when they are clean, and how they will last longer and we will enjoy them more when we keep them this way. And I thought about how much I was enjoying the very real workout I was giving myself getting these vehicles clean. (If you think your car is clean, ask yourself this: have I washed it this week?)
So, exercise. I have never liked it for its own sake. I can’t ride a stationary bike. I can’t go to a pilates class. I despise treadmills. But I can grab a camera and walk four miles looking for photos. I can get on a real bike and explore a canyon. I can shovel and till the garden. And I can wash our cars.